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The library of essays of Proakatemia

International women’s day workshop

Kirjoittanut: Seungyeon Shin - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

Reading the Room
David Kantor
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

Gender inequality issues have been something that I am keen to study more about and learn how to tackle them. If I may give a personal background here, I guess it started with me working at the “feminism café” where the owner is a feminist, an author, and a political activist, but probably the question of gender inequality deeply started when I witnessed the struggles and unfairness that my mother had to bear for a promotion at her work. So, I assume, in the beginning, it was natural for me to feel rage like: “Why do women have to experience…”. But ever since I attended a SHE conference and heard a keynote speaking of Helene Banner, which I already made an essay about, my focus has shifted to tackling gender inequality smartly and including both women and men.  But how?


When I got a chance to hold an event on international women’s day on behalf of HUBS, I was initially thinking to have panel guests and them talking about a topic like “Women in entrepreneurship”. But it sounded so boring and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. In fact, I wanted to actively include men. Make an event where it doesn’t imply or give the impression that it is only for women, but men are feeling safe enough to come and join. Hence, I decided to have a practical workshop on the topic: Stereotypes of Feminine & Masculine acts in leadership/Business and how to tackle them. More specifically, how to tackle misunderstandings or conflicts that might be coming from gender stereotypes, whether you are at a workplace or in group work in student life.


In this essay, I would like to explain the main theory/tool “Structural Dynamics” from Reading the room which will be used in the workshop.


Kantor explains the Structural Dynamics theory to understand the nature of face-to-face human communication. Structural implies the idea that there are underlying structures in all human verbal exchange that affects the outcome of a conversation. And Dynamic implies the idea that ongoing patterns are ingrained in all talk. And the dysfunctional ones are coming from people who bring different structures into a conversation. Oftentimes, Problems in face-to-face conversation are coming from the invisible influence of structure. So, what is this “structure” and how to make it visible?


The structure can be explained by the Four Levels of Structure that describe a speech act.


In Structural Dynamics, speech, in other words, a personal utterance, is considered an act. When you say an opinion, one person agrees with it and another disagrees, this combination of speech acts is called sequences, and when it happens repeatedly, they are patterns. And the speech acts can be made visible through structural levels of communication. To be clear, out of the Four Levels of Structure, three: Action Stances, Communication Domains, and Operating Systems can be visible, and the Childhood Stories remain invisible. (Kantor 7-8)


Level 1 is Action Stances. There is a four-player model consisting of “move, follow, oppose, and bystand”, and all speech acts can be seen in one of these four stances. Let’s give an example where people are about to start a meeting. A person who takes Move mode initiates an action or proposes a direction, saying “Let’s start the meeting, shall we?” or “We should celebrate the marketing development for getting 50 more users.” Likewise, a Move stance invites others to react and respond. (Kantor 23)


A Follow supports a stance that someone else has taken by validating and completing an action, for example, “I’m ready to start also.” Whereas Oppose challenges and corrects the action by saying “Wait, where is the CEO, we need him to proceed.” A Bystand observes how people interact with each other and provides a perspective on the overall interaction. A bystander gives an expression of reflection without agreeing or disagreeing.  For example, in this situation a bystander would say “It is a known fact that he tends to be late, maybe we should give him feedback?” (Kantor 9)


PICTURE 1. Action Stances: Four-player model


Level 2 is communication domains, and they show the focus and the direction of a speech. Every action stance that is mentioned above is made in one of three communication domains: Affect, Power, and Meaning. But, It is interesting to note that the same stance can happen very differently in different action domains.


Firstly, the affection domain concerns feelings and relates them to an individual. The language of affect domain is intimacy, nurturance, and being connected with others. It is the language of emotion, caring, and connection.


For instance, people are working on group work, and they agreed on a certain meeting time, but one person keeps being late. A person in the affection domain would say “it seems like he doesn’t respect my time and doesn’t care how it affects me.” (Kantor 52-54)However, in the power domain, it focuses on completion and achievement. It is the language of effectiveness, efficacy, and the sense of competency that shows the basic purpose of communication. So in the same situation, a person in the power domain would say “Although he keeps being late, we still have to do the things that we can do.” (Kantor 55)


Lastly, the meaning domain attends to ideas and ways of understanding. It is the language of ideas, meaning/purpose, truth, and correct understanding of information. In other words, in the meaning domain, people test their identities, try out new theories, gather more information, and learn from others (Kantor 50) In the business world, topics such as vision, strategy, and purpose lie in the domain of meaning. (Kantor 58)


PICTURE 2. Communication domains.


Level 4 is childhood stories. Unlike action stances and communication domains, it is not systematic nor speech-by-speech. Stories that we create from experiences are central to our identity. We gather stories from the age of the first time when we can observe ourselves and others, and from that, we make and strengthen our identities. Therefore, it can be much deeper than the other two levels of the structure, which makes it hard to enter but still very important as the way how we communicate is highly affected by identities. (Kantor 11-12)


The purpose of the workshop is for participants to learn about their own action stances and also understand how does it feel to see others’ stances. While they are put in different communication domains, they learn about their own stereotypes of feminine and masculine acts in leadership, and that will be the main point of this workshop. In the following reflection essay, I will more specifically go thorough the process of the workshop, and also the learning outcome.



Reference list

  • Kantor, David, et el. Reading the Room : Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2012. 


Soonie from Entre.

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