Dynamite with a laser beam *


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I just followed a link to this blog post, and I kind of wish I hadn’t. It’s a useful discussion of whether women in business are doing themselves any favours by trying to act like men, and at the same time resurrects the rather tiresome ‘we girls are naturally fluffy so we should kitten up and use our natural assets‘ argument. I’m not remotely fluffy, and I hate kittens. In particular, the use of the phrase ‘women who leverage their “radar capabilities”’ makes me want to run out and set fire to something.

The post describes typically male traits as ‘laser’ skills, and female ones as ‘radar’. Women poll before making decisions, apparently, and men just jolly well derring-do it. Ok, well, I don’t know much about radar technology but (thanks to my eclectic career path) I do know a thing or two about lasers. Brace yourself, here comes the science bit.

Lasers eventually produce a narrow beam that doesn’t diverge or converge (much). But they have to be stimulated to do so – hence the acronym, standing for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. And to do that they have to build up a critical threshold of energy, achieved by photons milling about in a sort of indecisive panic in the laser’s quantum well until they have stimulated into being enough new photons to break out and shine.

If you think that’s cool, there’s a device called the interferometer** … Anyway. The moral? Even lasers need a nudge to get started, and to feel like they have plenty of back up before they risk shining.

Ok, the real moral is … you achieve things by playing to your strengths, not pretending to be someone else. It’s ok to have ‘masculine’ behaviours and traits if that’s who you are. If you’re a laser you’re a laser, even if you’re a girl.

* The title quote is a line from “Killer Queen” by Queen. I swear, sometimes these analogies write themselves.

** Seriously. I can still draw the diagrams that explain how that works, if anyone’s interested – buy me a drink and hand me a pen and I’ll go through it for you.

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About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
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