Names in organization development

Which of these groups of names sound more familiar to you?

Group 1: Chris Arygris, Herbert Shepard, Warner Burke, Larry Greiner, Harry Kolb, Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt, Ralph White, Richard Beckhard, Warren Bennis, Robert Blake, Paul Lawrence, Jay Lorsch, Douglas McGregor, Edgar Schein, Fred Emery, Reg Revans, Eric Trist, Elliott Jaques, Abraham Maslow, B. F. Skinner, Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli,

Group 2:Margaret Mead, Karen Horney, Mary Parker Follett, Mary Gilson, Jane Addams, Jane Mouton, Margaret Wheatley, Edie Seashore, Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Isabel Menzies Lyth.

I've just been writing a chapter of a book on organization development and one of my reviewers pointed out in relation to my section headed 'founding fathers' of OD that there were, in fact, some women founders of the field, and I had not mentioned any of them.

This was a useful comment, causing me to a) do some research, and b) wonder what it was/is that makes women less noticeable than men in many fields. It echoed the point made just last week about the technology field by one of the participants at the event I was speaking at. She was addressing her question to Jaron Lanier, a technologist (and father of a 4.5 year old daughter). His response was that women were often the 'side-kicks' to the men, the women did the heavy lifting in many instances, but lacked the self-publicist bent of men partly, in his view, because women were socialized into being less public about their endeavors.

At the same time I was reading Cathedrals of Science: the Personalities and Rivalries that Made Modern Chemistry, by Patrick Coffey. Guess what? Virtually no women. Marie Curie peers out of a sea of male faces in one photograph. Other women mentioned are shadowy lab assistants or else long suffering wives (some in both categories) sacrificing their own potential careers for that of the male chemist in their lives.

It's no surprise that women are over-shadowed by men in the early history of behavioral sciences, and chemistry – the social mores and legal infrastructures of the time made it almost impossible for women to receive an equal education and/or similarl career opportunities as men. For example at Oxford University, "women could attend lectures from about 1880 but it was only in 1920 that Oxford awarded degrees to female students for the first time. Oxford appointed its first female professor in 1948."

What's odd is that because now organization development is associated with HR departments – which are women dominated – the courses that I teach are heavily stacked with women participants. You might expect to see women 'names' in the field. Yet you don't. There are very few big-name women 'gurus' in OD. Would Mary Jo Hatch qualify, or Linda Gratton, or ….? (I've blanked out on further women at this point!)

Why is it that so few women, even now, are well-known or eminent in the field of organisation development (or indeed in the field of management generally). I wonder what differences might a more diverse group of theorists and practitioners in the early days of OD have made to the workforce today?

Just in case you want to know more about some of the women mentioned in Group 2 above, here is a sentence on each (in alphabetical order of given/first names).

Edie Seashore: She has been consulting in the OD field for over forty years, and has been President of the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, and founded the American University/NTL Masters Program in Organizational Development.

Elizabeth Bott Spillius: An anthropologist who joined the London School of Economics from the US in the late 1940s, moving a few years later to the Tavistock Institute. Author of (among other books) Family and Social Network.

Isabel Menzies Lyth: Described in her obituary in the Independent as "that rare combination, a distinguished psychoanalyst and social scientist, and a pioneering figure among the founding group of the Tavistock Institute.

Jane Addams: the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize noted as a "public philosopher" with "an unwavering commitment to social improvement through co-operative effort".

Jane Mouton: maybe you've heard of her as the other half as in "Blake and Mouton" . Wikipedia's sentence says it all "Blake became famous and Mouton was seemingly allowed to ride on his coat-tails" (note the statement that the Managerial Grid was "composed of Mouton's creation and Blake's name").

Karen Horney: "A pioneering theorist in personality, psychoanalysis, and feminine psychology"

Margaret Mead: A cultural anthropologist and probably one of those you have heard of if only because of her phrase now on fridge magnets everywhere: "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Margaret Wheatley speaker, consultant and writer since 1973.

Mary Gilson: An economist at the University of Chicago, and a specialist in industrial relations.

Mary Parker Follett: "A visionary and pioneering individual in the field of human relations"

So now you know. Would a book on women in OD be worth writing? Would you be more likely to read it if it were by Naomi Stanford or by Stan Ford?

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