Archive for the ‘It’s hard to be a woman’ Category
We’ve written before about salary negotiations and the discrepancy in pay for men and women. One of the issues consistently identified in the research is that men ask for more money and women often don’t. So researchers wondered (they are always so very curious) if women could begin to narrow the gender gap in salary by simply asking for more money. Pretty straightforward, right?
As it happens, women can increase their salaries by asking but they have to be much more careful than men about just how they go about asking for more money. So consider this post to be a CLE on salary negotiation when you are female.
Here’s the short version of the prior research:
Men can ask for more money directly. No one sees this as worthy of punishment or “social backlash” as the researchers call it. But when women ask directly for a higher salary they are seen as “less nice and more demanding” than women who did not negotiate, and the interviewer was “disinclined” to work with those women asking for higher salaries. Women are sensitive to this consequence for negotiating and so are less likely than men to negotiate for a higher salary.
Quite a ‘Catch-22’. The current researchers wanted to see if there were ways for women to request a higher salary that did not result in a “social backlash”. They were able to find a strategy but it requires you to negotiate very differently than you would if you were a man. While more effective, it would reasonably feel annoying to women to have to tip-toe through the process while men can breeze through the negotiations with far less concern. Regardless, it is a strategy that works. Here’s what they found:
Men are able to negotiate directly because it is expected they will negotiate directly. They are not penalized for doing what we expect them to do in an interview setting. Women, however, have to pay attention to the social outcomes (“I care about my relationships with others in this organization”) and the negotiation outcomes (“I would like more money”). If a woman just attends to the “social outcomes”, she doesn’t ruffle feathers, but the price of being “nicer” is that she gets a lower salary. If a woman just attends to the “negotiation outcomes”, she is viewed negatively and she faces an uphill battle to be liked, and is at risk of being ostracized to some degree.
So, the researchers recommend a strategy for women that includes both social and negotiation outcomes. In their study, the employee (represented on the video as either a male or a female) had been promoted to a higher level managerial position and was negotiating a higher salary. The research subjects saw the male and female interviewees use one of three scripts. Subjects (224 college educated Americans with work experience, ages 21 years to 75 years with a median age of 38, 91 women and 86 men) viewed the videos and then reacted to the interviewee’s requests and filled out questionnaires as to their sense of the individual interviewee.
Simple negotiation script: “I do have some questions with regard to the salary and benefits package. It wasn’t clear to me whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range. I understand that there’s a range in terms of how much managers are paid in their first placement. I think I should be paid at the top of that range. And I would also like to be eligible for an end-of-year bonus. [This is the version akin to what most men use to negotiate a higher salary.]
Supervisor excuse script: “My team leader during the training program told me that I should talk with you about my compensation. It was not clear to us whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range. My team leader told me there is a range in terms of how much managers are paid in their first placement. He thought I should ask to be paid at the top of that range and to explain that I would also like to be eligible for an end-of-year bonus.” [This is basically explained by the researchers as a “blame the male supervisor, don’t blame me” script.]
Skills-contribution script: ‘I don’t know how typical it is for people at my level to negotiate, but I’m hopeful you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important that I bring to the job.’’ [This is explained by the researchers as a “see me as a positive contributor, not a selfish demander’’ script.]
When women used either the supervisor excuse script or the skills-contribution script, they improved both the social outcomes (i.e., willingness of the interviewer to work with the woman) and negotiation outcomes (i.e., giving her a higher salary). You might have already intuited–men using the supervisor excuse or skills-contribution scripts were not penalized for using the scripts but their outcomes were no better than if they simply asked for the money directly (using the simple negotiation script). No gain, but no penalty regardless of which one they chose.
Women’s requests for salary treatment are viewed through a very different lens than that applied to men. The researchers believe that these scripts improved women’s outcomes since they made them seem more relational (which we expect from women) and the requests for a higher salary were seen as more legitimate (thus they were granted). In short, you legitimize your request for higher salary while reassuring the interviewer that you are concerned for organizational relationships.
This study is well written (the researchers are very articulate and write in plain English). Here is part of their conclusion:
“We do not see our research as providing specific scripts that women should use but rather the outlines of one possible strategy. We recognize that some people will bristle at the practical implications of this research. For some women, the idea of crafting a relational account may feel inauthentic or even offensive: why should they conform to an unjust standard? Others may perceive relational accounts as a reinforcement of gender stereotypes… We share these concerns. If we could choose the results of our experiments, we would prefer to uncover a more liberated context for gender in negotiation.
…The motivation for this research was to offer strategies that women could use to change their personal circumstances and to send the message that, while gender constraints are real, they are not inescapable. Moreover, when women rectify gender inequalities, they do so not for themselves alone.
…Research suggests that when women break glass ceilings, they do so for others as well as for themselves. For instance, when more women gain high-status managerial positions, the gender pay gap reduces for lower level workers (Cohen & Huffman, 2007). We hope that some women will put the insights from our research into practice because every woman who reduces the gender gap in pay and authority reforms the social structures that keep women in their place.”
In essence, no, it isn’t fair. But it is a way to get a higher salary more comparable to men in similar positions. And if women do this one by one by one–it adds up to more gender equity. These researchers say the ends justify the means. We tend to agree with them.
Bowles, H., & Babcock, L. (2012). How Can Women Escape the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma? Relational Accounts Are One Answer Psychology of Women Quarterly DOI: 10.1177/0361684312455524
But if you’re a woman? Not so much. A new report put out by the American Historical Association shows us that career advancement varies by marital status for males and females. If you’re a man, being married makes you progress through the ranks faster: in 5.9 years rather than 6.4 years. If you are a woman, however, being married meant an average of 7.8 years to move from Associate to Full professor. If you were an unmarried woman, that same transition took an average of 6.7 years.
It is interesting to note that female full professors were 2x more likely than men to list their marital status as divorced or separated. They were also more likely to have never married at all than were their male colleagues. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.
Why does this happen? We thought you’d never ask. You can read the full report here but an article in the Atlantic goes through the report in specific detail and it isn’t a pretty picture. There is a hypothesis as to why men get tenure faster than women though and it’s basically about gender roles for women. (Who would have imagined it?!)
Female professors were more likely to have a spouse or partner with a doctoral degree, 54.7 percent to men’s 30.9 percent. Their partners were also more likely to work in academe, 49.6 percent to 36.3 percent.
“I have a theory about this,” said Tara Nummedal, an associate professor of history at Brown University. “It seems pretty clear that smart women are going to find men who are engaged, but I just don’t see that it works the other way.” She added that a female professor with a stay-at-home spouse is quite rare, but often sees men with stay-at-home wives, allowing them to fully commit themselves to their professions.
When Nummedal says women find men who are “engaged”–what she means is, that women with advanced degrees tend to marry men with careers and interests of their own that are not sacrificed for marriage. She goes further by saying:
“When we look at these kinds of issues, whether it is the wage gap or child care, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a fundamental problem with the professional workplace, which is still best structured for single males, or males with wives who support their careers.”
That may seem a hard conclusion but it is likely one that has women readers agreeing, and it’s well worth reading the entire article yourself. In an era where the number of substantive comments on blogs is way down, this article has almost 194 comments barely 48 hours after posting. They’re worth reading too.
It is an intriguing area. We spend much of our work time looking at bias and how to mitigate or minimize it. Yet, it’s always present. This example of gender bias is something you can only “see” in hindsight as we look back at average progression through the tenure process. But it is a bias likely “felt” by women faculty very, very regularly. As we are working cases, preparing witnesses, and hearing stories from parties–the importance of perspective is paramount. Just because we can’t “see it” doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Bias is all around us and it works to make us decide differently how justice will work depending on whether you are like me or not like me. The task for effective litigation advocacy is to figure out how to make the client as much “like” the juror as possible through the use of universal values that often show more about who we are than descriptors like skin color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.
Robert B. Townsend (2012). What Makes a Successful Academic Career in History? A Field Report from the Higher Ranks. Perspectives on History. (December)
You’ve seen our posts on wearing red (for both men and women) and the bounce you get in terms of perceived attractiveness and likability. But wait! New research says it doesn’t work for all of us!
There is some new research that confirms the results of prior research, saying once again that when men look at women wearing red they see those women as more attractive. And women expecting to interact with an attractive man were more likely to choose to wear a red shirt than a blue shirt.
The psychologists who do this research say this is not simply a Western phenomena but rather a seemingly hard-wired and universal preference/predilection as shown by recent research in rural Burkina Faso. (Of course, you already knew Burkina Faso is a landlocked and very poor area in West Africa.)
There is also something a little more disturbing being reported. And here it comes. Researchers in Germany wondered if red was equally flattering to women (in the eyes of heterosexual men) regardless of the woman’s age. They recruited participants to test this question from a shopping district and a university campus. As you perhaps can guess, no, red isn’t equally flattering to women regardless of age. At least not when it comes to making heterosexual men think of sex when they look at you.
The researchers recruited 60 young men–average age 24.7 years– and 60 (what the researchers labeled) “old men”–average age 53.5 years– who were presented with photographs of either a young female target (perceived to be about 23.7 years of age) or an “old female target” (perceived to be about 48.2 years of age). [Let’s agree that these characterizations of “old” are harsh and unreasonable, and just try to move on.] There were four photo variations (e.g., young target/white background, young target/red background, old target/white background, old target/red background) and one of the four photos was shown to every participant. The male research participants were asked the following three questions to determine sexual attractiveness [and we are not making this up]:
How much do you want to be intimate with this person?
How sexually desirable do you find this person?
How much do you want to have sex with this person?
German researchers do not mince words. Subjects were also asked a few other questions about the physical beauty, presumed intellect and likability of the female target. Finally, they were asked to estimate the age of the female target. And here are the (shocking) results:
Men (both old and young) found the young female target more sexually attractive than the old female target.
They found the young targets in front of the red background more attractive than the young targets photographed in front of the white background. As for the “old” target, no one really cared whether she was on a white or red background. There was no difference in how attractive she was described as being. Meh.
Both young and old men thought the young female target was equally sexually attractive. Old men thought the old female target more attractive than the young men did (so much for the cougar stereotype). In truth, the old men thought both young and old women equally sexually attractive (hence, the dirty old man stereotype). Takeaway: Everybody’s got a shot with Grandpa.
The young woman was seen as more physically attractive than the old woman. There were no differences in ratings of intellect or likability between the young woman and the old woman.
The researchers explain these results with hypotheses that are common among evolutionary psychologists and that make the rest of us (at least the “old women” among us) wince, gasp or growl. The researchers thought perhaps the young female target on the red background was more sexually attractive to the male participants because the “color red activates cognitive representations of ‘red-light districts’ in men, and the typical female sex worker is closer to 20 than 50 years old”. They further stick their feet in their mouth with the following: “It could also be that red is perceived as a cue to a woman’s ovulation, and our old target is clearly menopausal, so red is not a valid cue”. Evolutionary psychologists are not known for their wisdom in avoiding the application of gender stereotypes to explain their findings. It also makes one long for research on the dating aplomb of evolutionary psychologists. Not a romantic subgroup, apparently.
So. While we would say Tammy looks terrific in that red dress, this research would say it won’t help her be more persuasive or likable– in court or anywhere else. Red fades with time, and Tammy’s time has expired. Although old men will perhaps still leer since it seems as long as you are female, it works for them. Oy. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Or maybe it becomes easier with time. Women in your 40’s or older: Wear the outfit you like the most, and to heck with what researchers say!
Elliot, A., Greitemeyer, T., & Pazda, A. (2012). Women’s use of red clothing as a sexual signal in intersexual interaction Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.10.001
Elliot, A., Tracy, J., Pazda, A., & Beall, A. (2013). Red enhances women’s attractiveness to men: First evidence suggesting universality Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (1), 165-168 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.07.017
Schwarz, S., & Singer, M. (2013). Romantic red revisited: Red enhances men’s attraction to young, but not menopausal women Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (1), 161-164 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.08.004
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I don’t understand why this story didn’t get more press. According to the Associated Press, a NYPD officer was arrested before he could “kidnap, cook and eat women”. Seriously. The details are on Scribd and it’s nasty stuff. Tammy Wynette was obviously right–”it’s hard to be a woman” and you should probably turn the volume all the way up because this is just ridiculous.
And then, to add insult to injury, the venerable New York Times decides to give women dating advice which boils down to “lower your standards”. Even CNN got into the game with a story on some new research on women and their wayward hormones in the voting booth. The CNN piece originally said, among other things:
“New research suggests that hormones may influence female voting choices differently, depending on whether a woman is single or in a committed relationship.” [The full text of the original article is published here as a public service of the Daily Kos.]
After fast and furious derision across the internet, CNN removed the story and replaced it with this editorial comment:
“A post previously published in this space regarding a study about hormones and voting choices has been removed. After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN. We thank you for your comments and feedback.”
However, it’s worth noting that the post in question did not channel through the standard internal process and it was not reviewed by senior editorial staff before appearing on CNN.com. As recognized by our leadership, audience and critics, the piece did not meet the journalistic standards of CNN and should not have appeared on our site. We had an obligation to remove it.”
CNN evidently wanted to make absolutely sure we knew that “the most trusted source for news and information” doesn’t fact check their news before publishing it. In fact, their editors don’t even bother reading it. They leave that up to….readers.
And then, we see more about the politicians coming for the women’s vote! Everything in the waning days of the campaign will be all about the women!!! But it isn’t really a compliment since “they won’t be treating women like they’re smart”. Nope. Women are not so smart according to the political wizards.
“The portrait of the available woman voter is actually pretty depressing: polls say undecided voters are more likely to be women and less likely to know stuff about politics. The key to winning this group isn’t talking about policies that will help women, the logic goes, it’s about making an emotional appeal…”
Reading this, one might think we haven’t really come that far from a 1944 management training video titled Supervising Women Workers that circulated recently courtesy of The Atlantic. The “boss” on the video has a nice line at the end though:
“Look Brad, you’ve got a new bearings inspector who happens to be a woman. You need someone, and there isn’t a man available. It seems to me that whether the gal adds up to trouble or not is pretty much up to you.”
These posts about gender discrimination are discouraging, if you had hopes that as a society we were moving past such pointless bias. Just like those who believe the 2008 election of Barack Obama meant we were in a post-racial world, many think discrimination against women is a thing of the past. Many women (and minorities, and other groups) would beg to differ.
To be an effective advocate, you have to listen to what you hear. And sometimes, you will hear things you really would rather not hear, but in hearing it you can plan how to most effectively deal with it. It’s like having a secret weapon.
When you can hear the bias, you can figure out how to modify your story so the bias is neutralized or minimized.
It isn’t that I spend time searching for examples of how it’s hard to be a woman. It’s just that examples persistently plant themselves in front of me. So I am driven to share them. This time it was CNN with an opinion piece on why we are biased against women in science. In this post, the author summarizes research on how we tend to rate women professionals lower than males with identical credentials. She says:
“Perhaps the biggest worry is that people who swear they are objective are the most likely to make biased judgments. In several classic experiments, subjects were asked which criteria are most important for a particular job and then shown two résumés: one of the “wrong” gender who had all those qualifications and one of the “right” gender who lacked them. Yet the subjects rated the person with the “right” gender higher, i.e., they ignored the criteria they had earlier said were most important. And this tendency was greatest among those claiming objectivity.”
In other words, it’s automatic. We just do it. We all participate. Sometimes we participate by simply maintaining silence and deferring to men. There’s an interesting new study out in the August issue of the American Political Science Review on gender and deliberating groups. The researchers find that when women are in groups where they are outnumbered–they speak less. The same pattern does not happen with men. The pattern is different however, when the group is told to make their decision by unanimous vote rather than the majority rules. In that model of decision-making–women’s voices are heard. It’s a good sign for deliberating jurors although we often see women deferring to male jurors in our pretrial research groups. And we often see men who choose to dominate the discussion groups. It will take a long time and lots of behaving against stereotype and gender-expectations for all of us to figure out it’s okay to talk and that we don’t have to trample others to be heard.
So it’s better to fight back or speak up, right? Well. Not exactly. Another recent study, examined judges’ sentencing decisions in 26 different domestic homicide and abuse cases in Canada. The author found that when women fought back in domestic violence situations, they were more likely to be stereotyped with themes of substance abuse and “ongoing mutual violence”. And their sentences were then harsher.
A few months back we wrote about a study that said men were punished more severely for mistakes as leaders in male congruent workplaces (i.e., construction). It was intriguing to us since earlier research (in the same workplace environments) had shown women were punished more. In the new research, the researchers conclude that observers expect both men and women leaders to be competent across gender congruent and gender incongruent domains. We hope they are right. It would be nice for things to be becoming evenly assessed between genders.
Karpowitz, CF, Mendelberg, T., & Shaker, L. (2012). Gender inequality in deliberative participation. American Political Science Review, 106 (3) DOI: 10.1017/S0003055412000329