Sauder School of Business scholar Jennifer Berdahl has presented a provocative hypothesis to explain why Arvind Gupta is no longer president of UBC.
"I believe that part of this outcome is that Arvind Gupta lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC, as most women and minorities do at institutions dominated by white men," Berdahl wrote on her blog.
Berhdal is UBC's Montalbano professor of leadership studies: gender and diversity.
She pointed out that Gupta, a computer scientist, was "the first brown man" to become president of UBC.
Based on her conversations with him, she's concluded that Gupta is "convinced of the need to bring and keep all forms of talent into the Canadian workplace, no matter its size, style, or packaging".
"He isn't tall or physically imposing," she noted. "He advocates for women and visible minorities in leadership—a stance that has been empirically demonstrated to hurt men at work."
She recalled that when she was on an executive search committee with Gupta, he "expressed uncertainty when he was uncertain and he sought expertise from experts".
"He encouraged the less powerful to speak first and the more powerful to speak last," Berdahl added. "He did not share his own leanings and thoughts until it was time to make a decision, so as not to encourage others to 'fall in line'."
She pointed out that when work is a "masculinity contest", the leadership "does not earnestly seek expert input, self-doubt, or empower low-status voices".
"Instead, those who rise to positions of leadership have won the contest of who can seem most certain and overrule or ignore divergent opinions," Berdahl wrote. "Risk-taking, harassment, and bullying are common."
It can lead those who govern in a less hierarchical manner to be derided as wimps or "not man enough".
On her blog, she stated that "UBC either failed in selecting, or in supporting, him as president".
"President Arvind Gupta was about excellence," Berdahl concluded. "I wish him the best in finding it in his next endeavours."