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Archive for the ‘It’s hard to be a woman’ Category

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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timely-tidbits-logoYou are not seeing double. Over the last month we’ve kept reading and reading and reading but many of the articles we read for the blog were fun but just not substantive enough for a full blog post. So. Think of this as the director’s cut version of the blog—full of things you wish we’d blogged on but that are included here for your pleasure and edification.

Women just need to ask for a raise, right? It is 2016, after all!

It is 2016. And yet, managers treat some women differently than they treat men who ask for raises. Women do ask for raises. They just don’t get them—according to a new study summarized over at Pacific Standard Magazine and looking at Australian salaries in 2013–14. The large survey—it features responses from 4,600 workers at 840 workplaces, just over half of them female — asks specific questions about pay raises, of both the requested and granted variety.

Women are 25% less likely than men to receive the raises they request and there is no evidence women do not ask because they are afraid their relationship with their manager will be compromised. It is not that women need to be more assertive. We will leave it to you to think of what this really represents.

Keep yourself from designing in discrimination

Remember that Snapchat filter that got pulled because users said it was racist and mimicked a ‘yellowface’ caricature of an Asian face? Snapchat said it meant to evoke anime characters and removed the filter within hours of uploading it due to negative feedback. Lena Groeger (also writing at PacificStandard) says this is what happens when you don’t have a diverse team working on your products and services—it makes you blind to design decisions that are hurtful or discriminatory to your customers. This is a thought-provoking and easy-to-read article on how we make choices that bring indignity and discomfort to others.

More hairy information

We’ve written about beards, baldness, lumbersexuals, and more on hair that we’ve likely forgotten—but we cannot avoid this study (and we know you would not want us to miss pointing you toward it). Women (says a new study and since it is research it must not be wrong) prefer men with beards when they are looking for long-term relationships. The researchers showed women pictures of men who were either: clean-shaven, had light stubble, heavy stubble, or full beards. Stubble was rated most attractive overall but only for short-term relationships. Full beards were the most attractive when considering longer relationships. The researchers say this is likely because hirsuteness in the form of a full beard “is a signal of formidability among males and the potential to provide direct benefits, such as enhanced fertility and survival, to females”.

Oh man. They were doing so well. Then they gave themselves away as evolutionary psychologists. Admittedly, this blog has a long-standing tradition of poking those psychologists. Sometimes they hit on stereotypes we all apply (like in the “wide-faced men are thugs” research on how we stereotype by appearance) but more often they do ridiculous things like saying men are attracted to women shaped like Barbie dolls and other things our readers just know are totally untrue. For a rundown of the posts we’ve done on the work of evolutionary psychologists see this—and don’t count on the accuracy of women choosing bearded men for their virility and survival skills.

Helpfulness is just exhausting

We’re here to tell you. Being helpful to others is just very tiring. But don’t take our word for it—new research agrees. People who are helpful (on a daily basis) in the workplace are less productive and get burned out. The authors (one of whom summarized their work at Harvard Business Review) offer take-aways for both helpers and help-seekers. We think their recommendations are also useful for managers and human resource personnel as they are concrete, practical, and easy to implement.

Lanaj K, Johnson RE, & Wang M (2016). When lending a hand depletes the will: The daily costs and benefits of helping. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 101 (8), 1097-110 PMID: 27149605

Dixson BJ, Sulikowski D, Gouda-Vossos A, Rantala MJ, & Brooks RC (2016). The masculinity paradox: facial masculinity and beardedness interact to determine women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 29 (11), 2311-2320 PMID: 27488414

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murder-method-by-genderWhile it may be 2016, there are still some judges who view women and men differently even when they commit the same offense. When it comes to killing your spouse—apparently, the difference lies in the gender of the defendant.

Australian researchers looked at the sentencing remarks from nine different judges from trials involving men killing their spouses, and they looked at five trials with women killing their spouses. Sentencing remarks are those statements made by the judge to explain sentences assigned to the defendants who had been convicted of murdering their spouse. The researchers do not identify the gender of the judges but as our fellow bloggers over at BPS Research Digest comment—“the accounts include plenty of references to “His Honor” but none to “Her Honor”.

Ultimately, with male defendants, judges often talked about the man’s character and testimony from employers or community members. They emphasized the man’s suffering and emotional state, and referred to (in those cases where relevant) the anguish, distress, and depression the man suffered when his spouse left him. In one case, the judge blamed the spouse-victim for the conflict (as in, “she started it”)—while the male defendant ended the conflict permanently and violently.

Conversely, with female defendants, judges focused on negative references to the woman’s character (such as being indebted and unable to meet expenses, or being uncaring as to the effect of her actions on her children). Such character concerns were not raised when the defendant was male. Further, some judges described the victim-husband as being a “good provider” or being “honest and hard-working”. In 3 of the 5 cases with a female defendant, the sentencing judge used the word “wickedness” (e.g., “your wickedness knew no bounds”; it is hard to think of a more callous, heartless, wicked person”; “you chose a horrendous method indeed to carry out this wicked crime”).

The researchers comment that these judges see “good men” who kill because of their (now dead) spouses being conflict-initiators (provocateurs) while women who kill their spouses are “wickedly calculating” and sentencing should send a message to prevent other women from getting the same idea. In other words, these things happen when it comes to good men murdering their difficult wives (who likely brought their demise upon themselves). However, when the defendant is female, it is unthinkably wicked, and the sentencing must be harsh to keep other women from getting the same idea.

The authors conclude with this comment, “Females received substantially longer sentences in these cases than their male counterparts. This study also demonstrated that judges expressed more exculpatory remarks for the male offenders while making damning, indeed vilifying statements about the female offenders.”

Obviously, this is an anecdotal study with a small sample size, and no statistical conclusions can be drawn from it. With that said, from a litigation advocacy perspective, it is clear (especially if you are in Australia) that we need continued focus on gender issues in sentencing and on how bias (whether we are attorney, party, defendant, juror or judge) creeps into our thoughts about the crime committed and the gender of the defendant.

Hall, G., Whittle, M., & Field, C. (2015). Themes in Judges’ Sentencing Remarks for Male and Female Domestic Murderers. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 23 (3), 395-412 DOI: 10.1080/13218719.2015.1080142

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this-n-thatHere are a few articles that did not act as a catalyst to stimulate an entire post but that tweaked our fancy enough that we wanted to share them with you. Think of them as “rescue items” if you have social anxiety and want to seem scintillating….or something like that.

So have you seen this in the last second?

Here’s an interesting memory study where the researchers found that if participants didn’t know they were going to be tested on things they’d seen repeatedly, they would have no idea when asked to identify if they’d seen a specific item before. Specifically, they asked participants to do a simple memory test to replicate memory for different kinds of information (e.g., numbers. letters or colors). For example, participants would be shown four characters on a screen that were arranged in a square. They would be asked to report which corner the letter was in (when the other characters were either numbers or colors). The researchers repeated this task many, many times and the participants rarely made mistakes. But then (because researchers cannot leave well enough alone) the researchers asked the participants to respond to an unexpected question. Specifically, the participants were asked which of the four letters appearing on their computer screen had appeared on the previous screen. Only 25% responded correctly (which is random chance of accuracy). The question was asked again after the following task but this time it wasn’t a surprise and participants gave correct answers between 65% and 95% of the time. The researchers call this effect “attribute amnesia” and say it happens when you use a piece of information to perform a task but are then unable to report what that information was as little as a single second later.

Remember that post on uninterrupted eye contact causing hallucinations?

We wrote about it in one of these ‘tidbit’ posts back in 2015 and even included a very awkward video from a Steve Martin/Tina Fey movie. This time researchers were looking for the optimal length of uninterrupted eye contact that would be experienced positively by the most people. Think of this as a potential answer to the question witnesses often have about how long to maintain eye contact with individual jurors or just use this as a guide for comfortable eye contact with strangers at Starbucks. On average, the close to 500 participants were most comfortable with eye contact that lasted slightly over three seconds. The majority preferred a duration of eye contact between two and five seconds and no one liked eye contact of less than a second or longer than nine seconds. We conclude that less than a second is too furtive, and longer than 9 seconds is intolerably intrusive. One problem with the study was that it used filmed clips rather than actual live interactions but it is an approximate guide to “normal” eye contact versus “creepy” eye contact.

Oh no! There may be a problem with all those fMRI studies!!!

A new article published in the journal PNAS tells us there is a fMRI software error that could result in the invalidation of 15 years (and more than 40,000 papers) of fMRI research. We know you are likely thinking of the article on that poor dead salmon who still showed brain activity. This article was cited all over the internet in July of 2016 as proof that all the work done on fMRI machines was likely flawed. Even though the bug was corrected in 2015, it was undetected for more than a decade and the researchers thought perhaps every study should be replicated to ensure accuracy in the literature upon which we rely. The fMRI software error and the resulting shambles of the literature was seen as a devastating bombshell with headlines like this one from Forbes suggesting “tens of thousands of fMRI brain studies may be flawed”. Fortunately, hysteria like this is likely why the Neuroskeptic was born and certainly why the Neuroskeptic blog makes such a contribution to knowledge in this field. Is this software glitch really serious? Yes, says the Neuroskeptic. It is a serious problem but it is not invalidating years of fMRI research. In fact, in an update posted to Neuroskeptic blog on July 15, 2016, the author of the paper in PNAS had requested some corrections to the publication to avoid these sensationalist headlines but PNAS refused so he put the updates onto another accessible site. Visit the Neuroskeptic’s excellent blog to read a common-sense and rational explanation of what the fMRI software bug really means and how those familiar with the fMRI work have known about this for some time now.

Yes, Virginia—women are still harassed for choosing STEM careers even though it is 2016

You’ve likely heard the lament that there are too few women in STEM careers and that we need to fix the problem. The Atlantic has published a very well-done article on how women are pushed out of STEM careers and that as many as 2 out of 3 women science professors reported being sexually harassed. And those are just the ones who made it through to graduation. The stories of those still in training having photos taken of their breasts, being harassed at conferences, or being hand-fed ice cream by male professors are disturbing. There is also “pregnancy harassment” and stories of PIs (principal investigators on grants who are typically faculty members) insisting pregnant postdocs return to the lab weeks after giving birth and then harassing the postdoc for having “baby brain” and questioning their experimental results. It is well worth your time to read.

Chen H, & Wyble B (2015). Amnesia for object attributes: failure to report attended information that had just reached conscious awareness. Psychological Science, 26 (2), 203-10 PMID: 25564523

Binetti, N., Harrison, C., Coutrot, A., Johnston, A., & Mareschal, I. (2016). Pupil dilation as an index of preferred mutual gaze duration Royal Society Open Science, 3 (7) DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160086

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he-man voiceAlmost five years ago, we wrote about research saying men with deep voices were more persuasive. Science has moved forward though and now, women can also be more persuasive when using a deeper voice. Some call it a “sultry voice”. New work tells us your voice doesn’t have be a deep and resonant baritone to be persuasive—you simply have to lower your speech pitch over the course of your interactions with others to be more persuasive. And—it works for both genders! If you don’t want to read the article itself, Scientific American has a nice summary that you can either listen to as a podcast or just read the full transcript.

Basically what the researchers did is recorded 191 undergraduate students (Canadian subjects, ranging in age from 17 to 52 years, 54% male) who debated in small groups about the equipment most useful after a disaster on the moon. [This is an old team-building exercise found on the internet under many different names but officially called “Lost on the Moon”] You are told you have crash landed on the moon and need to identify what items present in the spaceship will be most useful. The recorded discussions for the first study were held in same sex groups ranging in size from four to seven participants.

Researchers also did a second study online with 274 participants (ranging in age from 15 to 61 years and 60.58% female)—181 were recruited from a “large Canadian university and the remaining 93 participants were recruited from an online database of research volunteers. The reason for the second experiment being online was so they could be sure there were not visual factors interfering with persuasion by lowered voice pitch.

Results from both studies (that is, in person or online where the voice was heard but the person’s appearance was not seen) were consistent. Those participants, both male and female, who lowered their voice pitch during the negotiations required to rank 15 items in order of importance for survival on the moon were seen as more persuasive and given a higher “social ranking” in the group than those who kept their voice pitch the same or raised it.

It is a victory for women. You do not have to have a deep baritone voice in order to be persuasive. It is more a matter of shifting tonal ranges for effect—just go into negotiations or discussion with your ‘regular’ voice and then, over the course of discussion, lower your voice. Of course, it’s hard to recreate this finding in the real world since you are rarely negotiating in single-sex groups. On the other hand, it’s an interesting strategy to try. Does lowering your voice during day-to-day decision-making make you more persuasive? If it does, you might try it in lower stakes situations at work and if it still works try it out in other situations as well!

Note: If at any point during your practice, you are challenged about “faking” a deeper voice—you may need a bit more practice! It can also be thought to connote silly dramatics when overdone.

Cheng JT, Tracy JL, Ho S, & Henrich J (2016). Listen, follow me: Dynamic vocal signals of dominance predict emergent social rank in humans. Journal of Experimental Psychology, General, 145 (5), 536-47 PMID: 27019023

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