Rewriting The Boys Club Leadership Style With Psychedelics


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Artwork @morysetta

We’ve all heard about it – the boys club. This is not an aged myth but a well-lived truth from law firms, down to design studios, and all the way into the psychedelic space.


It is more than the gender gap, but is a sole fact that men still largely make more money working the same jobs that women do, and that men have more of a voice in politics and the media. Indeed, so I learned partaking in one of many projects at my last agency in London, “60% of bylines belong to men—and that figure jumps to nearly 70% if you look specifically at breaking news” writes Mark Wilson for the article on FastCompany. But this phenomenon is mostly invisible. It is not only that most men are forming our global opinion, but it is also that the global workforce has been built by men for men predominately. The UN Women writes that “at the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years”.


In fact, we should not forget that male ideas about moral behaviour set the parameters for women's lives. Women faced extraordinary difficulties, and access to education, apprenticeship, and work was limited to non-existent. As old as this conversation feels, it is still relevant. I went to psychedelic conferences to witness gender stereotypes in the industry. Speaking to women founders who honestly mentioned their thoughts to join forces with male cofounders just to have it a little easier and a smoother ride. Nobody blames them. The game has been set up by men and therefore it is just a logical move to have a man on your team and advisory board.


Research on leadership styles suggests that women are generally more cooperative, sensitive, intuitive and empathetic as leaders than men. They show a more transformational leadership style whereas men tend to show a transactional leadership style. Psychologically, this sex difference is mediated by empathy.


Yuval Noah Harari writes in Sapiens: “Sapiens are relatively weak animals, whose advantage rests in their ability to cooperate in large numbers. If so, we should expect that dependent women, even if they are dependent on men, would use their superior social skills to cooperate among themselves, while outmaneuvering and manipulating the aggressive, autonomous and self-centred men. How did it happen that in the one species whose success depends above all on cooperation, individuals who are supposedly less cooperative (men) control individuals who are supposedly more cooperative (women)? At present, we have no good answer.”


Research in cognitive and behavioural science has demonstrated that our biases often blind us to objective reality. Our experiences, environment, and expectations constrain our view of the world. Psychedelics as unspecific amplifiers show the potential to impact some dimensions of personality traits, such as openness and increased emotional empathy. Maybe they can positively impact healing now, to nurture the future leaders of future societies – and maybe only in 130 years – but we are en route to easing the boys club dynamics.


About the Author: A design researcher/strategist, creative mind. Alexandra Plesner is currently studying MSc Applied Psychology with her thesis focusing on the intersection between psychedelics and VR, IRL/URL. She is passionate about design philosophies, research areas, and scientific approaches that explore better futures through creative processes. She believes that when different disciplines collide and experiment, the results can be extraordinary. She is advocating for creative women and is excited to learn more about and contribute positively to the mindful use of psychedelics through design.


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