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Recently, several articles have come out on Millennials and women but neither were enough to fill an entire post—so we’re combining them into a single post so that we do not miss passing on the information.

“Psychologically scarred” Millennials are “killing industries”

This article is almost funny but they are blaming Boomers (the parents of the Millennials) for the “industry-killing” habits of the Millennials. They quote Millennials who say this is “just some more millennial-blaming BS” and apparently, headlines saying Millennials have “killed off” another corporation or even industries are very common.

The buying habits of Millennials are very different from their parents’ habits. They do not, according to this article in the Business Insider, buy napkins, play golf, buy homes or cars, nor do they want to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings or Applebee’s. They have also been accused of damaging industries like retail in general, movies, Home Depot, the love of running, McDonald’s, wine, classiness (this is pretty funny although it is hardly an ‘industry’), the diamond industry, the crowdfunding industry, and the credit industry.

Naysayers say it isn’t the Millennial Generations fault—no, no, no! It is the fault of their Boomer parents who created the environment that has “restricted their income and shaped their financial perspective”. An analyst at Morgan Stanley (whom, we are sure, has no financial interest in this generation at all) says the Millennials have “a very significant psychological scar” from the great recession. They want to avoid risk and they enjoy independent restaurants more than chain restaurants.

“Aspirational banking” and the Millennial

Recently, my 20-something daughter related a story to me about a friend who banked with a well-known bank and was concerned about their ethical failings widely reported in recent times. She told him she had been happy with her (also well-known) bank and he reacted dramatically, “The man who founded that bank had very poor ethics and so I could never bank there”. She thought it was amusing that while her friend’s bank was in current ethical issues — he would dismiss her bank due to the founder (who died in 1913).

Later when I saw this article from JWT Intelligence, I sent it to her. It is likely related to the “industry-killing” habits described earlier in this post but explains in detail how the financial industry is attempting to adapt and survive by appealing to Millennial’s spending practices. The Millennial wish to have their values reflected in the organizations they support appears to be resulting in banks working on online platforms and apps while simultaneously attempting to be transparent and honest.

Every entrepreneur responds to opportunities and this situation is no different. There’s an app for that. The American bank, Aspiration, has launched a new feature on their app to allow customers to see how their spending decisions line up with their personal values. The app is called The Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM). In response to the belief that Millennials are not just concerned but feel an obligation to the planet, other companies are launching apps to measure the carbon footprint of your purchases as well as sustainable investment options.

Who’s smarter? Men or women? Answers vary across the life cycle

When we are five years old, boys think boys are smarter and girls think girls are smarter. Not long after (about age 6 according to Sociological Images), gender stereotypes kick in and girls agree with boys—boys are smarter (and boys agree). The author (a sociologist) thinks much of this is passed down from parents (who are more likely to ask Google if their son is a genius and more likely to ask Google if their daughter is attractive). Sigh.

Let’s fast forward to college when most of these folks leave home. Again, the trend continues. Males overestimate male achievement in the sciences and underestimate female achievement in the sciences. Need facts? In a 2016 study, male students with a 3.0 GPA were estimated as “equally smart” to female students with a 3.75 GPA. It continues after college when “More so than women, men go into and succeed in fields that are believed to require raw, innate brilliance, while women more so than men go into and succeed in fields that are believed to require only hard work.”

Reading the rest of this post does not get better. There are many studies showing the diminishment of women’s intelligence and mercifully, only a few are documented here. But it is enough to know we still have a long way to go (baby).

The gender gap in criminal offending and heart rate

Recently we published a post on the gender differences in committing homicide and this is a follow-up piece of information that is odd at best. To clarify, this study is not about homicide but about criminal behavior in general. The researchers conclude that the lower resting heart rate of men “partly explains the higher rate of criminal offending”. We encourage you to read the rest of this press release since there is limited gender comparison in the literature on criminal offending.

“Researchers examined data from a longitudinal study that measured the heart rate of participants at age 11 and found that heart rate partly explains gender differences in both violent and nonviolent crime assessed at age 23.”

Is taking maternity leave a bad thing for women?

According to new work with participants from both the US and the UK—women are “damned either way” on maternity leave. The authors summarize these findings as follows:

Women who choose to take maternity leave are seen as less competent at work and less worthy of organizational rewards.

Women who choose not to take maternity leave are seen as worse parents and less desirable partners.

Reading information like this is disheartening. But then, on the other hand, we have programs like the one highlighted in this article on my niece who recently had a baby. There are good things happening. And we have a way to go.

An update on Andrea Yates who drowned her five children to “protect them from Satan”

This book chapter (also available at SSRN) updates us on the original trial facts and the eventual retrial and finding of not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite the fact that this case educated the world on postpartum depression and psychosis, according to the author, no real changes have been made in Texas’ insanity law.

This chapter explains how the states definition of insanity “influenced the first trial and both constrained and confused how the jury could view Yates’ actions”.

Deborah W. Denno. (2017). Andrea Yates: A Continuing Story About Insanity. In The Insanity Defense: Multidisciplinary Views on Its History, Trends, and Controversies, p. 367- 416 (Mark D. White, Ed. 2017) (Cal.: Praeger) Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2909041. On SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2909041.

Thekla Morgenroth, Madeline E. Heilman. (2017)  Should I stay or should I go? Implications of maternity leave choice for perceptions of working mothers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 72, p 53-56.

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If you are young(er) you likely know precisely what vocal fry means and if you are old(er)—probably not so much. It is a cultural phenomenon seen primarily (but not only) in young(er) women as described at the Mental Floss website:

“Vocal fry describes a specific sound quality caused by the movement of the vocal folds. In regular speaking mode, the vocal folds rapidly vibrate between a more open and more closed position as the air passes through. In vocal fry, the vocal folds are shortened and slack so they close together completely and pop back open, with a little jitter, as the air comes through. That popping, jittery effect gives it a characteristic sizzling or frying sound.”

While it is nice to have a specific definition, it is also nice to hear examples of ‘what’ vocal fry actually sounds like so you can know it when you hear it. Vocal fry is the subject of intense scrutiny by bloggers covering linguistic changes, is seen as yet another entry in the endless complaints on women who have the temerity to speak in public, and as something that bugs older, white men in particular. Vocal fry has been likened to what used to be called “valley girl speak”, is used by almost 2/3 of college students, and is a characteristic which spreads as described in the video below.

You can hear a few more examples of vocal fry and what to do about it here, here, and here. Singers use vocal fry (sometimes artificially lowering their voices to enhance the ‘fry’) and researchers are looking into how vocal fry enhances emotionality in songs. Some say the denigration of vocal fry in women is just one more way in which women are criticized and maybe that is just how their voice sounds. (It is a parallel argument to what we saw in our recent post on resting bitch face [RBF]).

Yet, vocal fry annoyed one man so much he took his significant other to a speech therapist to cure her of her annoying style of speaking (and naturally wrote an article about the experience to make her even more self-conscious than did the speech therapist). Others justify their criticism of vocal fry use by saying it will hurt your chances of getting a job (but only if you are a woman—not if you are a man) and this one is apparently backed up by actual research!

“Young adult female voices exhibiting vocal fry are perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive, and less hirable. The negative perceptions of women who use vocal fry are stronger when the listener is also a woman. Collectively, these results suggest young American women should avoid vocal fry in order to maximize labor market perceptions, particularly when being interviewed by another woman.”

While the use of vocal fry is often attributed to women only, men apparently do a lot of vocal fry(ing) also and you can listen to this audio link of famous males using vocal fry as they speak. Apparently, radio shows, podcasts, and even television shows get multiple complaints from viewers about the annoying female vocal fry but they receive few if any complaints when male reporters use vocal fry. Hmmmm.

Here’s a thought from a 2013 Slate article (which also echoes the idea that older men in positions of authority find vocal fry particularly annoying):

As women gain status and power in the professional world, young women may not be forced to carefully modify totally benign aspects of their behavior in order to be heard. Our speech may not yet be considered professional, but it’s on its way there.

Once, an anxious parent wrote into Liberman’s blog to complain that a Ph.D. daughter populates her speech with uptalks (i.e., raising vocal inflection at the end of sentences), as do her doctor/lawyer peers. Could Liberman point to any research proving the “negative effects” of this feminine affectation?

“You’re certainly entitled to your crotchets and irks, just as your adult daughter is entitled to her prosodic preferences,” Liberman responded. “But in order for the two of you to get along, something’s going to have to give. And realistically, it’s you.”

In other words, listeners may want to get over it. But what does that mean from a litigation perspective? One of the key concerns for any public speaker (including lawyers, witnesses, and everyone else), is credibility. Styles of speech can appear sincere, frivolous, knowledgeable, or phony. As one who finds this style of speech an affectation, it reflects something about the values, priorities, and preferences of the speaker.

The speaker is working on making an impression, rather than coming across as authentic and persuasive. If a person wants to appear genuine and authoritative, examining the factors (including speech and accent) that guide impressions is worthwhile. This is one of those cases where you may want to consider pretrial research and getting mock juror reactions to a witness’ speech patterns. If they find the witnesses style of speaking “annoying”—it may be worth doing some preparation to modify speech patterns for testifying. The witness would still say the same things—they might just say them a bit differently.

It reminds me of a mock trial we did in East Texas where the attorney was concerned about how an actual jury would react to the speech of a man with vocal fry as an artifact of a chronic disease. We decided to test the younger male witness and did so by simply questioning him about his illness and how his voice related to that illness. Upon hearing that explanation, jurors embraced his testimony warmly.

But for witnesses with vocal fry unrelated to any medical condition, you cannot say, “I am younger, and people my age and most of my friends talk this way” and expect to be embraced. Instead, you may have to work on your speaking voice and intonation to see if it can be modified for courtroom testimony. While it will likely be irritating to the individual witness (particularly if they understand that men are not described as annoying when they use vocal fry)—it is likely to be more irritating to be dismissed by your audience in the courtroom as lacking in credibility.

Anderson RC, Klofstad CA, Mayew WJ, & Venkatachalam M (2014). Vocal fry may undermine the success of young women in the labor market. PLoS ONE, 9 (5) PMID: 24870387.

You can also find the full-text here: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0097506

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One of the most common internet searches that brings people to our blog is “women who stalk” and we intermittently receive emails from men who say they have been belittled by the police for reporting a female stalker. They wonder if we can somehow help them. (No. We cannot. We typically refer them back to law enforcement in their area.)

Dangerous women are apparently intensely interesting and intensely frightening, as we’ve seen by the number of visits to our posts on women who murder or commit other violent crimes.

Female cannibals “frighten and fascinate”

We will start with the most attention-grabbing headline in our stack of recent articles all about women. Female cannibals. Can it get scarier than that? The Atlantic has an article written by a woman who has been studying female cannibals for the past five years. And yes, she knows that is an odd subject in which to immerse oneself, (i.e., not a good dinner date). The article focuses on how much female cannibals are making their way into popular culture via Netflix and popular (and current) movies. If you would like to sample this fare, you may want to read this article but if you choose to view the films or Netflix shows described therein, please do so with your doors locked and in well-lit rooms. Don’t say we did not warn you.

Babies born to “older mothers” (35-39 years of age) are doing better intellectually

This is a study comparing data from moms of babies born 40 years ago and is research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR). These turn of the century (circa 2001) newer “older mothers” are more educated, less likely to smoke, and are established in professional occupations. These tend to be women who were actively engaged in careers before motherhood, which naturally is different from women who gave birth as teenagers or young adults. The children are likely to receive more resources and attention from parents than children born to women of this age range 40 years ago. You can learn more at Science Daily.

Video games influence sexist attitudes

The debate used to be over whether video games caused violent behavior off-line but this article says that video games are encouraging adolescents to be more sexist. The researchers studied more than 13,000 adolescents (aged 11 to 19) who spent about 3 hours a day watching TV and almost 2 hours a day playing video games. (We are not told how much time they spent doing their homework.) Instead of measuring how sexist the content of the games played were, the researchers asked a simple question and asked the gamers to say how much they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

“A woman is made mainly for making and raising children.”

Those adolescents who spent more time playing video games were more likely to agree with this statement. Before you go wrench the controller from your adolescent’s hand, we think you should also know that other video game research suggests that people remain calm as the world ends, so at least we have that.

Is this black woman the next Steve Jobs? Venture capitalists are withholding funding

This is a story worth reading. Here is a woman (who happens to be black) with credentials, accolades, and a free financial literacy product that is badly needed and yet having trouble getting funding. Why? Maybe because she is a black woman.

“Steve Jobs revolutionized the computer industry, the way we listen to music, and how we make phone calls. Angel Rich wants to revolutionize financial literacy education and level the playing field between those who have money and those who don’t. But she’s playing on an uneven field. Jobs was a white man and Rich is a black woman.”

Mindfulness meditation helps women with negative emotions more than it helps men

Usually these “hard to be a woman” posts are filled with things not so uplifting (if you are a woman) but here’s a nice finding for women (and some recommendations on how it might be made more helpful for men). If you have not heard of mindfulness meditation, you are quite unusual, but here’s a Brown University report showing that mindfulness meditation has stronger self-reported benefits for women in “reducing the intensity of negative emotions” than it does for men. A more detailed summary of the study is posted over at PSMag.

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Resting Bitch Face’ is, in case you missed it, the condition of having a neutral facial expression that people perceive as sour, unpleasant, and generally bitchy. Long before was RBF was a thing, a woman in my graduate school class told me that professors often thought she was angry because her face carried a flat expression when she was thinking. “It’s just how my face is!” she protested. Years later, allegedly not until 2013 (although it hit the Urban Dictionary in 2011), the phrase went viral.

It is a “real thing” say scientists, is seen in the famous and the not-famous, has caused some to become depressed, is mostly attributed to women but also seen in men, and some say it reflects contemptuousness. There is support for RBF from social media (sort of), it inspires creativity and career advice, and constant social directives to ‘smile’ or ‘be kind’. There have also been multiple (tenure-seeking) scientific studies on first impressions (which includes the impressions made about RBF particularly in women). RBF even resulted in a video parodying all those direct-to-consumer medical ads.

The term has many detractors who do not think it is at all funny (for the most part) and they wonder why women are expected be always smiling and inviting. They say it is a variation on the “Smile honey!catcalls from men congregated in groups as the woman walks by. As the name would suggest, it is a sexist distinction. There are slide shows designed to show multiple other meanings for expressions deemed to be RBF. Detractors also have career advice, decry the constant focus on women expending energy to appear pleasant to everyone, have created posters, have published articles on the costs of RBF at work, and made angry comments about health professionals giving advice on avoiding the RBF expression as you mature.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we actually rely on first impressions when doing pretrial research with mock jurors and have blogged about the importance of the first impression and strategies for being more likable a lot here. But the concept of RBF is not something we’ve discussed, and frankly, it is a dilemma. Gravity and age give all of us a more RBF facial expression. We need to disconnect the initial negative impression some jurors may have formed due to RBF. Some good advice comes from, of all places, the Business Insider:

“I’ve heard people with resting bitch face sometimes tell me that they’ll contextualize it verbally for other people. That they’ll say, “I’m not unhappy with you. I’m not displeased with the situation. I just look this way.” And that’s a really honest way to talk about this facial expression that they’re giving, because facial expressions are so critical to how we perceive what other people are telling us.”

This is just part of the video transcript on the website (with the author publicizing his new book) and this may be a good way to talk to witnesses, or parties, or yourself (if you have RBF). The message is so similar to what my friend in graduate school said to me as we first met, “That’s just how my face is”. Humanizing the party/witness with the RBF can help jurors (many of whom will have RBF themselves) reshape their first impressions of him or her.

What is instructive is that the speaker on the video has a constant grin on his face (perhaps Resting Happy Face) that makes his spoken message much less empowering than the written transcript provided under the video.

When you are testifying in court, interposing a laugh, or learning to ‘force’ a slight lift to the corners of your mouth can negate the ‘resting’ expression that may look a bit sour or unhappy.

Perhaps the best advice to give to someone who is concerned about being observed (and judged for having RBF) is just this:

So listen to me. You do not have Resting Bitch Face. You just have a face. There’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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We have written a lot about how women are treated unequally (which can, sometimes, make it hard to be a woman). Initially, we illustrated these posts with various photos of Tammy Wynette but we decided to stop picking on her for one song (“Stand By Your Man”). So this post illustrates a rough truth (that still exists today) and we are illustrating it with an ironic cross-stitch project.

Researchers wondered if being agreeable (aka ‘nice’) versus being disagreeable (aka ‘nasty’) would make a difference in salary treatment for either men or women. (You know how this works out already.) We should note that the study (using 375 men and women randomly drawn from 1,390 employees) only sampled one company. So, it may not be entirely generalizable. Mmm-hmm—we’ve blogged about this issue before and that study had the same results.

For those that want to know these things, the researchers looked at both objective (e.g., tenure, education, performance reviews) and subjective (e.g., how the individual perceived the fit between their education, experience and performance with their income and professional rank). They also used several research measures for dominance and agreeableness. The researchers compared the objective and subjective data with actual income and promotion statistics within the company.

Let’s just cut to the chase (and you may hum Tammy’s musical lament as you read) and spell this out for you courtesy of a nice summary over at Science Daily.

Dominant and assertive woman (aka nasty) who clearly express their expectations and do not retreat from their demands, are compensated better than their more accommodating (aka nice) female peers.

The same goes for dominant men versus their more conciliatory male counterparts — (wait for it) but even dominant women earn far less than all of their male colleagues, dominant or otherwise.

So, be a dominant and assertive female (aka ‘nasty’ among other things) and you will earn more than your less assertive female colleagues, but the most milquetoast of men will still out-earn you based on nothing but gender. The researchers said something else that was somewhat shocking:

The nice women we polled in our study even believed they were earning more than they deserved. This blew our minds. The data show that they earn the least, far less than what they deserve. And they rationalize the situation, making it less likely that they will make appropriate demands for equal pay. [In comparison, nearly everyone else—nasty women, nice men, and nasty men reported they felt dissatisfied with their compensation.]

From a law office management perspective, this research has much to say about equity, understanding gender bias and gender differences, and how to evaluate, compensate, motivate and retain attorney-associates. The researchers suggest organizational management strategies (thankfully) as follows:

Design evaluation and compensation systems so they are structured and based on objective data (and less dependent on negotiation skills). This may actually help you retain and motivate employees of both genders with varying levels of experience.

Consider being more transparent about compensation so that employees (the nice, the nasty, the male, the female) know what will need to be done to progress in status and compensation within your organization.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this article is that ‘nasty’ women who complain they are not being treated fairly may very well be accurately assessing their situation. There have been many articles on the exodus of female attorneys from law firms. The ABA Journal, Law Practice Today, law.com, the Washington Post, researchers from Stanford University, and countless blogs have written about the issues. The two recommendations from these researchers (indented above) may well help you staunch that (out)flow when it comes to your individual organization.

Biron, M., De Reuver, R., & Toker, S. (2015). All employees are equal, but some are more equal than others: dominance, agreeableness, and status inconsistency among men and women European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 25 (3), 430-446 DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2015.1111338

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