Archive for the ‘It’s hard to be a woman’ Category
Oh, 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.
The title of this blog post comes from a post by Ainissa Ramirez on gender and racial bias in the workplace. It’s a lovely turn of phrase even for such an ugly thing. We might think of the science fields as being more neutral and unbiased. I mean, it is science, right? Not so much.
Researchers in Connecticut looked at gender bias in university science departments. And they did it very simply. They submitted application materials of a student for a lab manager position to 127 Biology, Chemistry and Physics faculty from 6 different (anonymous) universities (3 public and 3 private). The researchers were careful to make sure the faculty participating in the study matched the demographics of their overall academic departments. The samples also (impressively) matched national demographics in hard sciences departments. Here’s how the authors describe their sample of 127 science faculty:
74% male, 26% female.
81% White; 6% East Asian; 4% South Asian; 2% Hispanic; 2% African American; 2% multiracial; and 1% each for Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and other.
Average age was 50.34 years with a range from 29 to 78 years of age.
18% were Assistant Professors; 22% were Associate Professors; and 60% were Full Professors.
40% were Biologists; 32% were Physicists; and 28% were Chemists.
In short, this was a sample of science faculty with diverse backgrounds, a range of experience in academia and they were representative of the country’s Science faculty demographically.
The only difference between the application materials faculty were given for the lab manager position was that one applicant was female (Jennifer) and the other was male (John). The application materials gave the same information on Jennifer/John’s credentials. The only difference between Jennifer and John’s applications were the changing of the name and gender related pronouns. Here’s what faculty participant’s saw in Jennifer’s application for example:
You probably know what’s going to happen but we’ll say it anyway and point out that this has not yet been published officially so it’s very, very recent research and not something that’s been out there for decades. There were no differences in how male and female faculty responded to any given application in terms of rating the applicant’s competence, suitability for hire, offers of mentoring, or the initial salary offer. There were also no differences related to the faculty member’s field of specialization (Biology, Chemistry or Physics). However, every issue was significantly different (“with effect sizes ranging from moderate to large”) depending on whether the applicant was male or female.
Faculty participants (both male and female) viewed the female applicant as less competent and less hireable than the male applicant.
They offered less mentoring to the female applicant than to the male applicant.
They offered the female applicant an average annual salary of $26,507.94 and the male applicant was offered an average salary of $30,238.10.
The researchers had also had faculty members complete the Modern Sexism Scale. As they examined the faculty scores on that scale (comprised of questions so objectionable they could make you ill) they found that “the more preexisting subtle bias the participants exhibited against women, the less competence and hireability they perceived in the female applicant and the less willing they were to offer her mentoring”. In other words, the scale was validated against the observable behavior of these faculty members. The researchers believe that subtle biases against women made the faculty more likely to hire and mentor the male student applicant. Oddly, the faculty reported they liked the female applicant more. (They just didn’t want to hire or mentor her as much as the male.) I guess the women were lovely. Just not worthy.
It’s another affirmation of Sheryl Sandberg’s book. And it’s a current story about gender bias in the ivory tower for those of us who may believe this sexism stuff is a thing of the past. Whether you are a science major, a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit, or an attorney–gender matters. We have to work to find ways to have it not factor into our decisions so insidiously. In the classroom, in the conference room, in the courtroom, and, in the deliberation room.
Moss-Racusin CA, Dovidio JF, Brescoll VL, Graham MJ, & Handelsman J (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (41), 16474-9 PMID: 22988126
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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