Men are condescending and women are pushy…
Recently we blogged about a new study on women and leadership saying women are no longer punished for “acting like a leader” as long as they are not seen as aggressive in their leadership behavior. Here are four different, easy-to-read articles on the leadership gender gap that will give you a good sense of both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the issues.
Many of us have read about Sheryl Sandberg’s stories of being called “bossy” in her book Leaning In and recent stories characterize Jill Abramson (former NYT Executive Editor) as “pushy”. So, a linguistics doctoral student at Georgia State looked at a “random sample of 200 to 300 occurrences” of the following words: brusque, condescending, pushy, and stubborn, in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Women were only mentioned 37% of the time, so he checked to see if the adjective was used significantly more than 37% of the time to test for gender differences. He found “brusque” and “stubborn” were words equally applied to men and women but men were more often labeled “condescending” and women were more often labeled “pushy”. We may not like either trait, but we are quicker to attribute it one gender or the other. Read the entire article to see more about this language issue.
Another interesting article “The self-assurance imbalance in the workplace” was recently featured in the Washington Post. This brief article speaks to the self-doubt rampant among working women and mentions several recent books discussing how to minimize self-doubt. She ends with the following memorable quote:
“Rather than advocating that an entire class of people start faking it ‘til they make it, maybe we should be coaching voters, students, bosses, and viewers at home how to be a bit more skeptical of the loudest guy (or gal) in the room.”
The longest article was featured over at the Atlantic: The Confidence Gap. Written by the authors of the book, The Confidence Code, this article is an easy, albeit long, read. If you are interested in the challenges women face as leaders, this is an interesting spin on the questions we have all asked over and over again. The short version is that men have self-doubt just like women do, but perhaps due to socialization, they have the confidence to step up and ask to do tasks in which they might fail. Confidence matters as much as competence when it comes to success. The bottom line to the message in this book may be the famous Nike advertising slogan: “Just Do It”. Women need to stop thinking so much and just take action (like men do). With practice, acting will become more natural than obsessing over the possible pitfalls. These authors also end with a lovely closing paragraph:
“Almost daily, new evidence emerges of just how much our brains can change over the course of our lives, in response to shifting thought patterns and behavior. If we keep at it, if we channel our talent for hard work, we can make our brains more confidence-prone. What the neuroscientists call plasticity, we call hope.”
And finally, Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist who does research on confidence and judgment. We’ve written about her work on power poses here before. You might find them useful for job interviews, in the courtroom, and for persuasion in general, although sometimes posing has to vary by gender. Perhaps though, today you feel more like watching a 20 minute video than reading additional blog posts. Cuddy’s talk is for people in general–both men and women. It just seemed to fit well with the other three articles in this post.
Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk message is that “tiny tweaks can make big life changes”. She also says “don’t just fake it until you make it”, but instead, “fake it until you become it”.
Changing small behaviors can, according to Cuddy, change your life. Her twenty-minute TED Talk is well worth your time (and truly deserves a blog post of its own).