I’ve written before that I am an INFJ. And I’ve also described the basic discomfort I felt while at business school. Recently, Penelope Trunk wrote about something that explains the latter in terms of the former with a clarity that was like turning on a light.
I probably ought not have been as surprised as I was by the data Penelope Trunk shares that 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.
I sort of can’t believe I have never known this single piece of information, 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. Why did I seek out a place where I did not fit, where I felt so other? Maybe, however, circumstances matter less than our internal wiring, because the truth is when I think about it I have almost 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 post. I’ve been thinking over this tangled mess of themes and questions for a long time now, and a clean answer eludes me. I think there is value in continuing to expand the notion of success in the world. I also think that recognizing the norms of situations we find ourselves in is powerful, 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 it that knowledge does not offer neat solutions and tidy resolutions. Life eludes clean categories, I’ve found. 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? I am endlessly fascinated by this.
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