Thursday, January 23, 2014

women still make 77 cents on the dollar

I had a couple of really thought-provoking incidents in the last 24 hours. One was that, during a meeting yesterday with a powerful committee (won't say what), the head of the committee, a male (who is awesome), turned to my supervisor (female) and thanked her for taking minutes. Not that big a deal except he followed it up with the statement that somehow at every meeting he's ever been at, a female ends up taking this duty.

Next to my supervisor was a man who is her equivalent, who has a different position but one that is not superior, and he has never been asked to take minutes, nor can I picture that happening. The only time my boss didn't do it was once when I volunteered, just to give her a break, because she has MANY more important things to do.

Then, this morning I listened to the TED talk by Sheryl Sandburg, the woman that wrote Lean In. That book has been discussed amongst my friends since it came out. This talk did not really focus on child-related issues, but the book does. Those aren't an issue for me, although it's an important issue.

She talked about how women are perceived as bossy or aggressive for behaving the same way men do in the workplace. This has become such a cliché that I don't think people take it seriously. One of the only doubts I have about my ability to advance career-wise pertains to the chance that I might be perceived as too aggressive. I know that I'm well-liked at work, which goes a long way, but I wonder if a man who was as outspoken as I am would worry about that? That's what's so hard about these issues - it's impossible to know.

She talked about how when people think about these issues, men and women, they can take steps to counteract some of them. Even in small ways, like not letting women take all the seats on the side of the room when a conference table is full. My department makes an obvious effort to hire women and is headed by a women, and my previous workplace was pretty much female-run.

If it's not blatant, it comes through in these insidious small ways like the taking of the minutes somehow seeming like a female job. I try to do the best I can to be outspoken and assertive. I have volunteered multiple times to speak in front of groups and give presentations in meetings. I even sometimes wear shoes with heels which make me about six feet tall, especially in a situation where I might be dealing with an intimidating male (which happens quite a bit). My job makes me happy I have that height, I'm not sure if you petite ladies out there have ever felt it to be a hindrance?

Anyway, lots of thoughts


madewell said...

I have 100% felt that my height and my youthful appearance has been a challenge in some situations.

beckler said...

ya know, thinking about it, studies show that short men don't make us much either.

Anonymous said...

I came to comment exactly what Madeline wrote above, so I second that.

Last year I had an executive (not in my chain of command) approach me to do some work that his secretary was responsible for. I am not a secretary.

Luckily, my bosses were able to get me out of that, but what gives dude?


yolkie said...

I was talking about something similar only yesterday. I'm always in fear of standing up for my thoughts and opinions because in the end if things go the way I suggested- I'm going to be considered this bitch and/or princess/diva that always gets what she wants. A man would never have to deal with that. He gets to be aggressive or assertive, which is professionally valued.

Snufkin said...

I work in IT/Web Development (and am a female who's always looked younger than her age), so boy do I ever think about this topic on a regular basis. When it comes to note taking, the rule I've heard is that you pretty much have to avoid anything which reinforces those gender roles, like don't volunteer to take notes, make coffee, bring any kind of baked goods/food into the office, et cetera.

As for being outspoken, my anecdotal experience at least on the IT side is that in situations where I'm the only women in work group of men, even if it's about the topic I'm the expert/manager in, there have been situations where I feel like I have to argue my point or analysis more forcefully than if I were a dude.

beckler said...

Im going to do the only thing I can do in the minutes situation: insist that I do it. I have better stuff to do (we have an entire office for work like that, staffed by - surprise! all women), but the situation as it stands is ridic

Anonymous said...

Being quite tall myself I have actually made an effort to appear smaller in interview situations so as not to appear intimidating. I have also heard that one of the factors in woman making less money is that they don't ask for more. We are less likely to negotiate during hiring and so start lower.
I don't know what to do about the looking young thing. They must think I'm a child genius a la Doogie Howser to have my job and be as young as I'm perceived.

Anonymous said...

This is only partially related to what you're pointing out, but I wanted to add that my most difficult work situations have been centered around female bosses and when I worked in an office that was overwhelmingly female (out of 60 employees, only 4 were male). The level of competition, the expectations that we all work 50-60 hours per week, the applause one received for regularly sending emails late at night/on weekends to prove we were dedicated, the arbitrary firing of 16 people in a year, etc., was something I've never encountered at any other job that was more gender balanced.

I have worked for many female bosses who were brilliant, kind, and encouraging, but I think that my three jobs that were among almost solely female staffs were the cruelest and most hostile environments I've ever encountered, and that's really sad.


Caroline said...

Obviously I have about five million disjointed but amazing thoughts on this topic, but I will specifically respond to Jana's comment on negotiation.

I strongly recommend reading the books Women Don’t Ask and Ask For It by Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever. The first discusses exactly the issues that Jana raises: women don't negotiate for themselves. We are just as good as men at doing it, but we just don't. The second book is focused on developing your negotiation skills. I am using it to lead a four session workshop on negotiation at my university. These books are really eye opening, even for a brassy, bossy, Scrappy Doo of a lady like me.

Snufkin said...

Women Don't Ask is great. The others friends have recommended about negotiation are:

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

Anonymous said...

I am male and work in an office that's otherwise all women. I noticed from day one that being the only man in the room gives me this strange power to be heard. When i talk in a staff meeting, suddenly everyone listens. This may be because i'm a novelty, or maybe because the patriarchy is so deeply ingrained that even women are more apt to give their attention to men than women. Dunno. But sometimes I feel like people are waiting for my reaction to whatever idea is on the table, even though I'm not particularly senior in the hierarchy, in a way that they aren't waiting for my female colleagues' reactions.


Snufkin said...

One more, Ann Friedman's write up about negotiating for women, with GIFs

Liv Moe said...

wow, where to begin? somehow i haven't thought that much about these issues until the last two years or so. i'm assuming it's because of my change in job role between teaching and Verge.

the things that stand out the most are akin to what's been mentioned already involved men being considered motivated or driven and women being bitchy or my personal favorite "crazy" for exerting similar levels of go getter-ness. adding to the mix when a stranger criticizes me professionally when they don't approve of a project i'm working on bringing my gender into the conversation isn't uncommon. what's the male equivalent of calling someone a cunt or bitch i wonder?

i've had my qualifications questioned in front of male colleagues with lesser job titles, education, and career experience and in recent months been privy to casual sexist conversation amongst male colleagues.

this probably sounds like complaining which isn't my intention AT ALL. i love what i do and feel really lucky to have my position. more than anything these things have surprised because i thought we've come farther than this. in the meantime i ignore it as much as possible, try to support and give opportunities to female colleagues as much as i can, and in situations where something really ridiculous is going down, doing my best to take the high road.

beckler said...

the negotiating thing is totally real and some of it stems from the perception (backed up by studies) that women value praise more than money.

Women's reluctance to negotiate also probably stems from suffering from "imposter syndrome" where they feel like they are kind of faking their way into a job. I think I've posted before about numerous female PhDs at my work over the years expressing the fear that they didn't really know anything and would be found out. I've NEVER heard a female express that, and in fact worked with males over the years that were the opposite: posturing and kind of full of crap about how much they knew. I worked with one really bad one in particular, although he was later fired partly because it's hard to keep up appearances forever with that.

I'm happy to report that I know that I'm good at my new job and no longer feel that at all!