Myers-Briggs, Women in Business and the World at Large

It's no secret that I am an INFJ. It is also not a real secret that I felt a basic discomfort I felt while at business school.

Recently, I read something that explained the former in terms of the latter with a clarity that felt like turning on a light. Less than 1% of all women fall into the Myers-Briggs type ENTJ. Yet, that is the dominant personality type at the business school I attended, enormously disproportionately represented in the class. I know this because we all had to take the test, and the results were shared widely and clearly, and it was said over and over again that ENTJ was "the type" that had long succeeded at the school and, perhaps more germanely, in the business world. When we were given a handout with the percentage of students over 50 years who fell into each of the 16 MBTI types, I saw that my type represented exactly 0%. A-ha.

I sort of can't believe I hadn't known this about women and ENTJ-ness, which seems to encapsulate so much of the dissonance that many women I know feel in today's business world. I am not sharing this to point fingers or to complain. Not at all. I think there is much to be said difference and for forging a new path in a well-mapped and crowded terrain. But this data point does help me understand myself and the world better, much the same way reading Susan Cain's Quiet did.

It makes me wonder how it is I wound up in an environment where I was (and am) so different. I'm an introvert in an extrovert's world. Why did I seek out a place where I did not fit, where I felt so other? The truth is, though, that circumstances matter less than our internal wiring. I have always felt somewhat "other." I have almost always felt as though I was watching the world through a thin pane of glass, close to but essentially apart from the action.

And maybe some subconscious part of me knew that aspects of me did fit in this world. l am both an introvert and a connector, and I do genuinely love the significant part of my life that occurs in the business world. Maybe there isn't one single place I fit, after all. I have more than once described the contradictions that exist in every cell of my body.

I think it's notable, though, that at least one business school the dominant personality type is one that is so minutely represented in women. This can't be separate from the passionate response to Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece about having it all. That response interested me because it was twofold. Yes, there was the assertion -- and I agree with this -- that traditional models of professional success are often incompatible with a hands-on approach to parenting small children. But even more, I observed many, many women, myself included, writing whole-heartedly about how "having it all" meant many, many different things to different people.

I wish I had a clearly defined thesis, or any kind of neat conclusion to this topic. I've been thinking over this tangled mess of themes and questions for a long time now, and a clean answer eludes me. I am certain that there is value in continuing to expand the notion of success in the world. I also think that recognizing the norms of the situations in which we find ourselves is crucial, because it helps explain why we may feel dissonant inside them. I suppose that is the conclusion, after all: there is power in understanding, even if all we understand is that there are no neat solutions or tidy resolutions. Life frustrates clean categories. I keep running into this inescapable, confounding truth. The best we can do is continue to try to understand ourselves and the environment in which we live.

Tell me, what is your Myers-Briggs type?

This post appeared first on Lindsey's blog, A Design So Vast.

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