Tired of sexist jokes in Tech? learn how to lead with humour

Tired of sexist jokes in Tech? learn how to lead with humour

Dr Vanessa Marcié Founder & CEO Leading with Humour Aug 29, 2019 8 min

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Hello ! My name is Dr. Vanessa Marcie, I’m the CEO and founder of “Leading With Humour”, a change management consultancy company. I have an MBA from Cambridge Judge Business School where I lead workshops and I  did a research on the impact of humour in leadership. That research has been picked up by the Financial Times and published in 2018. With the success of this research, people started to ask me to lead workshops in their company. So I’ve left my job for the City of London in order to dedicate my time to help leaders all over the world to use humour to their advantage and to change companies’ DNA with humour. 

I work a lot with financial industries and in tech. Why? Because it’s male-dominated. I have entrepreneurs in my workshop who share stories about how difficult it is for women to be in a male-dominated environment and to support everyday male humour. For example, a web developer in one of my workshops shared that in his company it’s mainly male and the only woman is the HR. And the HR actually left the company because she was tired to hear everyday jokes about the fact that she was a woman. For example, one day she was in the kitchen and one of the guys told her: ” Oh, you found your spot ! A woman should always be in the kitchen”. So examples like that, that’s what people are sharing with me during the workshop.

And what I tell them, I give them 5 tips to use humour. 

First of all, you have to know your audience. That’s something that nobody really does, when they are talking to people, especially when they are using humour. We all have been in a presentation where the boss or the colleague is using like a funny image and it’s falling completely flat because nobody is laughing because it’s not targeted to the right public. If you do public speaking, you know that. But you have to be mindful of who you have in front of you. You have to take information about the people before using humour in order to not hurt anybody who is in your audience.

You have to laugh at yourself. So, I know I said that self defeating humour is an aggressive type of humour. But the higher you are in the hierarchy, the best you can use laughing at yourself because it’s making you human, it’s making you approachable. That’s something that women often use but they use it in the wrong situation. They often try to cover up a tiny mistake using self-defeating humour. For example, I’ve done a presentation or I’m sorry I’m blond or whatever, you know, you are trying to cover up something that men would never spot anyway. So you are making a big fuss of something and you are putting yourself down in front of your peers and your hierarchy when you shouldn’t do that you should just move on.

Be mindful of others. As I said, humour should be kind, humour should be positive, humour should be about gathering people around a subject you can all laugh about together, not laughing at people.

Appear in control. When there is a crisis, the first thing that goes away usually is your sense of humour. So think about it, if you use humour in a difficult situation, that actually shows that you are in control of the situation. 

And be ready, which is the most important thing when you are a woman. You have to be ready, you have to have a ready comeback in your pocket that you can use in a difficult situation. We all have been victims or we all have examples of a difficult situation and usually it’s the same joke, the same thing that is coming back over and over again. So you can be prepared, you can actually look online for comedians that have covered the subject and comedians all over the world have covered every possible subject. And you can use one of their jokes, you can adapt it, you can learn it by heart. And you can use it in a situation which is coming back to you.


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