On the female PM debate

I read Marty Cagan’s article on why women make the best Product Managers with utmost interest. I agree that to some extent the qualities society rewards in women are beneficial to the role of Product Manager — such as emotional intelligence and humility. On the other hand, qualities associated with masculinity may be not be as beneficial. However I have a separate argument as to why he found such outstanding female PMs — that of ‘natural selection’.

The female PMs Marty has met are in fact better than average because they have had to face more adversity than their male counterparts. And in that sense, I think this argument also applies to PMs of ethnic minorities.

Structural barriers against under-represented minorities and women mean that they get promoted and hired less in an industry dominated by white men. It means that non-white and non-male PMs will probably have to compensate , by being extra-persuasive, extra-knowledgeable and extra-skilled than her male white counterparts.

It relates to the stories told by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘David and Goliath’, where major disadvantages force underdogs to find workarounds and get better at specific aspects so that they not only make it but exceed all expectations. The adversity experienced by non-white non-male PMs means that they have had to work harder and better than their white male counterparts. They have been naturally selected for being tenacious, experts at leading with influence and always ready to do the legwork — all skills hugely important to the role of Product Manager.


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