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“My nostrils? My nostrils are virile…”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
posted by Rita Handrich

virile nostrilsOh, the things men say. Well, in truth, no real man said this. It’s featured in a parody of the viral Dove video where a forensic artist draws pictures of women as they describe themselves and then as they are described by a stranger. In the real ad, the women describe themselves as less attractive than the stranger describes them. In the parodies, the men describe themselves with swagger and perhaps even with total and ridiculous inaccuracy. It is very funny.

It is also an anecdotally well-documented difference between men and women. But not just anecdotal. It’s supported by actual data as well. Women doubt themselves. Men praise themselves. While there is self-doubt among members of both genders, it’s more prevalent in women. Much more.

Sheryl Sandberg talks about this concept in her book, Leaning In. Women don’t praise themselves. They give credit to others. They don’t, as Sandberg says, “keep their hands up”. Instead they sit back and let others (read men) take the spotlight. And women often leave the workforce when they have children–especially if their workplaces are male-dominated. Oddly, it happens less when their workplaces are gender-balanced or female-dominated. Here’s a 2013 summary of what happens when jobs require 50 hours or more per week:

“In male-dominated occupations, overwork was more likely than in balanced fields or female-dominated fields.

Mothers in male-dominated occupations were more discouraged despite the fact that the women who survived in those more masculine fields may on average be more committed to work than overworking women in other jobs.

Higher education levels make it more likely that women stay in their jobs, but not enough to overcome the discouraging effect of being an overworking mother.

Meanwhile, men (whether fathers or not) and women without children were not more likely to leave their jobs in overworking fields.

When mothers left their jobs, some moved to less male-dominated professions; others entirely left the labor force.”

In short, women in male-dominated fields do not seem to have the support or “voice” they have in gender-balanced or female-dominated workforces. Why this is happening and how to make it stop is a long-standing debate in the field of law. Jordan Furlong has an unusual take on women leaving BigLaw behind with an often intense comment section. All of the links in this post are worth a read if you are concerned about workplace segregation (by gender or other demographic labels). Is it a problem? Some say yes and loudly. Is it a part of an eventual solution? Voices can heard to that effect as well–although some have been saying it for a really long time already.

Cha, Y. (2013). Overwork and the Persistence of Gender Segregation in Occupations Gender & Society, 27 (2), 158-184 DOI: 10.1177/0891243212470510

Institute of Leadership and Management. (2011) Ambition and gender at work. London, England.


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