I don’t go for these same-sex work partnerships

Having decided it was time, after 10 years, for me to leave The Jackson (TN) Sun, I started putting out feelers in the spring of 1985.

Just before I flew out to Wichita to interview for a job I would eventually take, I got a call from an editor at The Charlotte News, who wanted me to come there before making up my mind. By the end of the conversation, we had made travel arrangements for right after the Kansas trip. (But then days later, the editor called me back to cancel. The hiring freeze word had just gone out; the afternoon paper would close later that year.)

It was a fairly lengthy call. When I got off the phone, my wife asked who I’d been talking to.

“An editor in Charlotte who wants me to go there instead of Wichita.”

“Was it a woman?” she asked.

“Yeah… how could you tell?”

“You were enjoying yourself,” she said.

She knows me very well. Most of my career, my closest working relationships — certainly most of the really enjoyable ones — have been with women. (One of my best friends at the Jackson paper once referred to herself as one of “Brad’s women.” Some might have misunderstood that, but all within hearing knew what she meant.) I don’t know why. Nothing against guys. I’ve had a great working partnership with plenty of guys, such as Robert Ariail, as I described back here. But who’s to say? — maybe if we’d also had a cartoonist who was a woman, I might have an even closer partnership with her. Or not. I never set out to work more closely with women. It just keeps happening.

Earlier today I mentioned the Power Failure project. While I worked with people from across the newsroom off and on during that year, there was a core group of three women, from start to finish, without whom I couldn’t have gotten it done. One of them was assigned to the project mainly to keep me on track, to make sure that all my theories and plans and ideas were actually translated into articles and graphics and photos, on time. She was essential to the project becoming something that you could hold in your hand.

And anyone who had occasion to observe the portion of my career spent at The State knows how important was the partnership I had with Cindi Scoppe, from when I first supervised her as a 23-year-old reporter in the late ’80s through those last 12 years on the editorial board.

Anyway, I share all this to explain why I thought this piece in The Wall Street Journal today was such a crock:

Picking Someone for a Project? Chances Are, He’ll Look Like You

Here’s at least one instance of parity among the sexes: Men and women are equally biased when it comes to choosing work partners, a new study suggests.

When selecting colleagues to collaborate with on a daily basis, males and females are both significantly more likely to choose someone of their own gender, according to an analysis by Innovisor, a Copenhagen-based management consulting firm…

“We prefer to collaborate with people who look just like us,” says Jeppe Hansgaard, a managing partner at Innovisor. “That’s a management issue, because you want your employees to collaborate with the right people, not just people who look like them.”…

Maybe the piece set me off particularly because I’d just read (part of) this distressing report telling me that the Obama campaign plans to stress Identity Politics more in this election. But every time I read anything about  how people choose to associate with “people like them,” it ticks me off. I like to think people are broader than that.

13 thoughts on “I don’t go for these same-sex work partnerships

  1. susanincola

    I like working with anyone who’s competent, no-drama and doesn’t like to waste a lot of time talking about things not related to getting the job done. Since I was very technical for much of my career, I generally worked with men (not a lot of techy women out there). My most enduring business relationships have been with two men, one black, one white. Lots of long-time relationships with various Asian folks too. It wasn’t about whether they looked like me — it was about whether they thought like me.

  2. Gary Karr

    Cindi is still pretty close to 23, right? Since we started covering the Statehouse at around the same time, I refuse to believe I’ve gotten much older. Therefore, neither has she.

  3. `Kathryn Braun

    I work equally well with men and women, with the exception that the exceptional women who became lawyers in the early 70s and before are not noted for working and playing well with others. Then again, many of the male lawyers who became successful at that time don’t, either.

  4. tavis micklash

    I saw a show on the Cuban Missile Crisis once. Apparently JFK intentionally didn’t show for all meetings. This allowed the security brain trust to come up with ideas independent of his.

    Diversity encourages a free flow of ideas.

    I worked in one of the last all boys clubs in the military, the submarine force. It was freeing to be able to just go to work and not have to worry about what you looked like or office romance. There was a certain draw to that.

    Now of course I work in a mixed male female work place. I find that the all male environment was a crutch. I don’t mind working with women but I have problems being alone with them. 99% of a time that is not an issue of course but any job I have that is only 2 people I prefer to work with a male. Women are perfectly competent its more of an avoiding situations that could in anyway be viewed as inappropriate.

    Also due to the all boys canoe club if you get too many ex Navy together you can almost go in “underway mode”. People say and do things in the navy with no women around that would get me fired on the spot post military. Its easy to just start swearing and doing things that completely inappropriate if your surrounded by sub guys.

    I don’t want to make it look like I’m a male pig. I’m a work in progress though. I had to relearn how to work with women again after leaving the service.

    As far as race if your in business and you care about the bottom line then race shouldn’t be an issue. Get the best people and it will work out. Limiting your options is just hamstringing yourself.

  5. Silence

    1) Brad, did you hire Mike Miller? “Chances are he’ll look like you.”

    2) President Obama had plenty of supporters at the Eau Claire Ribs & Rennaisance Festival this weekend. There were three separate tables of groups supporting him, and another one of people trying to register and get out the vote. Also plenty of T-shirts and framed portaits with him and the first family on them. Also a lot of “Trayvon” shirts, but I digress. It was identity politics at its finest.

    3) @ susanincola – Bow-chicka-bow-wow!

  6. `Kathryn Braun

    @Silence–it isn’t necessarily “identity politics” for black people to support President Obama or to decry the Trayvon death–Identity politics is supporting the President BECAUSE he is black like you are and believeing Trayvon’s killing was unwarranted because he is black like you are (see OJ Simpson verdict). Plenty of white people support the President and think Trayvon’s killing was unjustified.

    I think Hillary Clinton is an excellent Secretary of State, not because she is a woman, but because she just is. I didn’t care for Condi Rice, another woman.

  7. `Kathryn Braun

    Okay, the most loathesome politician ever was Sarah Palin. Not fond of Nikki Haley, either, but she’s Indian-American. Michelle Bachmann is pretty close to me demographically, and…

    Well, there’s a F^&*, marry, kill for you–Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Nikki Haley….

  8. Doug Ross


    I spent WAY too much time pondering that trio and could not come up with an answer.

    Here’s your challenge:

    Jim DeMint, Andre Bauer, Mark Sanford

  9. `Kathryn Braun

    That’s tough. I figure, in general, you marry the least offensive, and kill the most, so….Jim Demint would make me insane, so he must die. Mark Sanford would be the least offenive, and would be off digging holes most of the time, so I’d marry him…and I want a 5% partnership for the other one.

  10. Silence

    @ ‘Kathryn – Hypothetically – It has to go this way:
    F*** – Nikki Haley – join the club!
    Marry – Sarah Palin – she takes good care of herself and enjoys outdoorsy sports, also probably knows her way around a kitchen. Can likely clean and butcher game. She also seems to be making some $$$, which is a plus. It’d be hard to get over the silly accent.
    Kill – Michelle Bachman – no further explanation needed.

    @ Doug – F*** – Jim Demint – just grit your teeth and get through it.
    Kill – Andre Bauer – nobody’d miss him and taking him off of the road would likely save lives.
    Marry – Mark Sanford – He seems like a skilled and gentle lover. He’d probably want to spend most of his time working down on the farm, so you wouldn’t have to see him much. Also, with that suntan, he’s likely to die young, probably of melanoma.

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