Who’s smarter, an attorney or a welder? I was at a dinner last week where this question came up and most answered the attorney. I’m a former attorney and I immediately thought the welder.
What was interesting about what emerged in our discussion is how deeply we believe in labels. Labels that are the results of filters. Labels that seem to assign a value. I felt the comparison wasn’t really about pure intellectual or emotional horsepower, but a difference in language. Both professions require that the participants understand the language of her field. If the welder doesn’t understand legalese does that make the attorney smarter? If a Spanish speaker doesn’t understand English, does that make the English speaker smarter?
Labels seem to reflect certain beliefs and it’s interesting what these beliefs reveal about us and how limiting they can be.
I discovered that in spades at Consorte Media when hiring. Some of my best employees were women who had previously been employed as nannies. They were fluent Spanish speakers from top universities in Mexico, but because employers here in the U.S. did not recognize their alma maters and also I suspect because these women spoke with accents, they had a difficult time finding jobs.
Because my belief system doesn’t hold any ideas about people with accents or university names, I was able to see past resumes and find the women in front of me. They were on time, well-groomed, they asked good questions, they were motivated. They didn’t know a thing about advertising but when I posed case questions in the interview they were able to pick up and run with the answers.
Are we quick to label because it’s just easier to navigate the world that way? It’s time consuming to do the filtering ourselves. So we rely on standard filters: SATs, certain university names, professions.
But when do our beliefs in labels stop us from seeing the world in a new way? I’m not saying that labels, filters, a way of measuring the world aren’t helpful, but I am advocating stepping back and thinking through if those labels, filters or beliefs are working for us. I, for one, don’t know how we’re going to change the world around us, much less our education system, if we don’t start challenging some of these beliefs.
To see the world in a new way, visit www.aliciamorga.com