Gender & Leadership with Dr. Sheppard, Assistant Professor of Management
Good afternoon, and welcome everyone. My name is Christina and I’ll be your moderator today. I’d like to start by thanking you all for joining us for the gender bias in the workplace presentation which will feature guest speaker Dr. Leah Sheppard. Dr. Sheppard is currently the Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship at Washington State University, Executive MBA Online Program and we are excited to have her with us today.Before we get started, I’d like to cover a few housekeeping items. In order to minimize background noise, the presentation is being broadcast in broadcast only mode which means you can hear us but we cannot hear you. You can ask a question at any time using the chat or Q&A feature to the right bottom of your screen. We will do our best to answer as many questions as possible during the Q&A session at the end of the webinar. If we are unable to answer all of your questions today, one of our enrollment advisors will follow up with you.
Finally we are recording the webinar and it will be emailed to you after the presentation as well as posted to our website in the next couple of weeks. Before we jump into the presentation, we did want to share a few accolades we are very proud of. This year our Carson College of Business Graduate Program celebrates 60 years of excellence in business education. Also WSU now ranks in the top 5% among the best online MBA programs and number eight among the best online MBA programs for veterans by US News and World Report.
During this presentation Dr. Sheppard will provide an intro to gender stereotyping as well as proposed tactics to circumvent these issues. Now I will hand it over to Leah to start the presentation which should run approximately 40 to 50 minutes followed by a live Q&A session at the end of the slide presentation. So please be sure to stick around. Leah.
Great thank you Christina, I’m very excited to be here and to talk about these issues today and I hope that we’ll have some great discussion at the end with the questions that you provide. So like Christina said, I have a little agenda set here, we’re going to talk a little bit about where gender stereotyping comes from, identify some of the major hurdles that women face. I will mention and describe those hurdles and then I will come back to each of them and describe some of the ways in which they can be circumvented.
We’re also going to talk a little bit about some of the issues that men face. Outline kind of where we’re going in terms of how are things changing, how are things improving in terms of gender equality and then we’ll have some questions. So this slide that we see here where were we then. So if we go back to the 1950s, we see that women comprised only about 30% of the workforce. We have done a better job at integrating women into the workforce in general. We saw that women in the ‘50s were very segregated in terms of the types of occupations that they held. So that there were certain jobs that were simply not an option for women and we also saw this in terms of segregation based on age.
A lot of the positions that women would hold at work in the ‘50s and ‘60s, they were younger women who were fresh out of high school or even college and planned to work for a few years before getting married at which time they would exit the workforce, have children and possibly return to the workforce after their children had grown and left the home. We really didn’t see working mothers as often as working fathers, and we saw women occupying roles like operators, secretaries. Often roles that were either in support of men’s work or roles that involved a lot of nurturing and caretaking, very consistent with some of the gender role stereotypes that we know about.
Today, we see that women now comprise nearly 50% of the workforce. Like I said we’ve done a lot better with integrating women into the workforce. They’re not nearly as segregated as they were in terms of the occupations that they hold but we do still see some significant segregation. We do see that women and men tend to choose different industries and occupations and end up in different roles when they’re within those occupations. We see that men are more likely to enter into very high ranking leadership roles.
But we do see a lot of working mothers, it’s very normal now to see women not only taking care of children at home but also being in the work force full time or part-time. And this chart just shows us that as we ascend this pyramid meaning that we’re entering into positions with more power, we see fewer and fewer women represented. We do see especially in very high ranking leadership roles that there is still quite a dearth of women in those positions. So among the S&P 500 companies, only roughly 5% of the CEO positions are held by women and that number has been very slowly creeping up, but it’s estimated that it’s going to take a very long time before we would see some parity there.
So where does all of this begin? Well first I’d like to start by dispelling what I call the caveman myth. This is sort of the notion that well men and women are just very different, they’ve evolved for their very different roles. Now of course men and women do differ in some important ways, biologically that’s a very obvious one. Biology is linked to differences in hormones and certainly hormones do affect our behavior. But when we look at those differences in the research, in the academic literature, they’re far too small to really explain all of this problem in terms of women occupying leadership roles. These differences have also become very exaggerated.
So the caveman myth is kind of this story that well before Nations became industrialized, it would be the woman would stay at home or in the cave. She would prepare food, she would take care of children and men would go off and hunt. This is often given as some explanation for where some of these differences would come from. But we can see examples where that is simply not the case. For example the Aeta people of the Philippines. The vast majority of women in that culture hunt and in fact when anthropologists have studied hunting groups within that community, they’ve seen that groups consisting of all women are actually more successful at hunting than groups consisting of all men.
The most successful groups are ones that are mixed in gender, but it really dispel this myth that women don’t engage in that type of behavior. And really pre-industrial revolution when people were working on farms or working at home, they wouldn’t have the luxury of having such divided roles. So really we do most gender researchers agree that a lot of these differences in the types of gender role norms we have, came about during the industrial revolution which encouraged people to seek employment outside of their home and it was most generally men who would be seeking employment outside of the home because it favored certain abilities that they had. For example upper body strength.
Most of the men would go off and work in a factory setting that required them to have a certain level of strength that many women might not have. So it became sort of I guess a organic segregation of roles at that point where women would be more likely to stay at home and be taking care of children and then we can see how the roles become reproduced because children are born into that scenario. They view the types of roles that are then defined as being normative for them and they enter into those roles, so it becomes reproduced.
It also becomes reproduced through media messages, girl stuff and boy stuff is very different, it’s marketed very differently. Same with products for women and men. We hear things like, “That’s not very ladylike or man up.” These types of statements all reinforce gender role stereotypes as we see them.
And gender really is the strongest force categorizing us. When we first encounter someone for the first time, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, one of the first things that registers with us is that … is what we identify that person’s sex or gender to be and we become quite uncomfortable in fact when we don’t know what someone’s gender is or we don’t really know how to refer to them. And this is true today even in modern times, we are quite obsessed with being able to categorize people in terms of the gender they identify with, the biological sex with which they are born and we make a lot of assumptions based on those different categories.
You may have heard of something called a gender reveal party which is really something that’s quite new. It sort of goes against … you know we like to think that we’re becoming more and more gender egalitarian, but this gender reveal party, there’s something that’s come about probably in the past 10 years. And if you’re not aware of what a gender reveal party is, I can explain it. So basically it’s a way for a couple who is expecting to find out the … well not the gender really, it’s the biological sex of their baby in a way where it’s a surprise for everyone. So they can have a party and they’re finding out for the first time as are their friends.
So oftentimes rather than finding out in a private ultrasound, the results of the ultrasound will instead be phoned into a bakery and then the baker will say, “Okay, it’s a boy so I’m going to put blue icing in the middle of the cake and then when the couple cuts the cake, they find out the biological sex of their baby as do their friends and family.”
I’m not trying to say that these are terrible parties by any means but it just goes to show you how interested we are and oftentimes when we find out that someone is pregnant the first thing we ask is, “Is it a boy or a girl?” We’re already making finding ways to categorize that child before they even enter the world.
This categorization comes with both descriptive and prescriptive stereotypes. Men and women are often described as being very different in terms of … we describe women as being, oftentimes being more emotional, also more nurturing and warm than men, whereas men we describe as being somewhat colder and detached perhaps from emotion. This also lends itself to these prescriptive stereotypes where we internalize these in terms of the shoulds. Then we believe that women should be warm and nurturing, we believe that men should be somewhat unemotional. Many people will say I don’t like it when men cry, that makes me uncomfortable. Well why is that? Because we clearly believe that they should not be emotional.
This links into leadership because we generally describe or stereotype leadership as being a dominant and assertive role which tends to map on more closely with the stereotypes that we ascribe men being more dominant, independent assertive. What this means is that when we think about a powerful role or a high-status role, be it Manager or be it leader or be it a doctor, a lawyer, oftentimes when we think of the prototypical person who would occupy such a role, that individual is male. So this is a little riddle that you may have been exposed to. I sometimes show it to my students in class, my undergraduate student.
A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the father. The son is rushed to the hospital, just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate, this boy is my son,” and you ask the person to explain how this can be? This has also been used in a lot of research studies. Now the most likely answer, there are of course numerous ways that this could be but the most likely answer is that the surgeon is the boy’s mother. Statistically speaking, I realize that’s also a very heteronormative explanation but if we consider the fact that over 90% of the population identifies as heterosexual, this is the most likely explanation.
But far fewer students or research participants, than you would think actually come to that conclusion. They’re often likely to say things like, “Oh it’s an adopted scenario where there’s a biological father and an adoptive father or it’s a two-father households. They come up with explanations that are just statistically less likely to be the case than the mother simply being the surgeon. So what we’re seeing here is that this role is somehow prototypical male in our minds and that’s true really of leadership roles, any role that we see as having power or status. Our mind goes to this place of it’s likely a male holding that position. And that’s often because traditionally that has been true. But even as we’re seeing things change, far more women now are doctors and lawyers as well. Our view on the prototypical person that holds those roles is kind of stubborn and resistant to change, but hopefully with time things will start to shift.
So we’ve talked a little bit about the source of some of the issues that I’m now going to talk about. I’m going to talk about the pay gap and how negotiation plays into that. The confidence gap, the backlash effect and the motherhood penalty and so like I said earlier, I will state these each and then I’ll come back to them when we talk about the specific ways in which they might be able to be circumvented
The pay gap we hear a lot about the pay gap. The media loves to talk about it. Right now in the US women make about 83 cents to every dollar that men make. We also hear a lot in the media especially about the pay gap being a myth. I can assure you that gender researchers are very much in agreement on this, it is not in fact a myth. It is of course partially due to factors other than discrimination. Things like choice of industry, hours, work, education, job tenure. Absolutely these things affect pay but even after statistically controlling for all of these factors or comparing women and men who are equal on these things, we still see a pay gap.
So it is absolutely not only due to those factors. Another factor that is also part of it again, does not fully explain it but partially helps to explain it is that women are generally less likely to initiate wage negotiations and then start to write with the very first job out of you know university. We see that women are more tentative in this regard, will accept the salary that is given and then you can imagine even a small difference in the salary of men and women in that starting position will just compound as over time they get more raises that are a percentage of their salary. It just gets larger and larger and larger over time.
However, I’m constantly updating myself on the research in this area and there is some really new research suggesting that this discrepancy is actually shrinking. Women are actually becoming more likely now to negotiate probably because they’ve been hearing over and over again women don’t negotiate, they should do that more. They’re starting to do that more but what this research is showing was that women were less likely to get that pay bump when they requested it than men were s. That could be contributing to this as well.
Some another evidence to suggest that this is not all a myth and it’s not all about occupational choice and industry choice, is that as we see women flowing into male dominated occupations, the average wage declines and this is not simply a function of women demanding less. This is actually more a function about that work becoming somewhat less valued and then the opposite happens when men flow into female dominated occupation. That’s really suggestive of something having to do with how women in men’s work is valued.
So I’ll come back to that later when we talk about some ways to circumvent it. We also see a confidence gap that could be lending itself to gender inequality at work and in particular the gap that we see in terms of leadership attainment between men and women. So we see that women and girls, so this starts at a very young age. They generally report having lower self-esteem than men and boys and it’s not just generalized self-esteem, it’s also specific areas of self-esteem. Women have a lower leadership efficacy, they have a lower entrepreneurial efficacy. They don’t see themselves as being as skilled at things like leadership roles and becoming an entrepreneur for example.
It could also be, this could also lend itself to what I just talked about negotiation. If women lack some confidence relative to men, they may be less likely to say, “Well, you know I’m not being paid enough, I’m worth more than this and I’m going to go and ask for more.” It can make them feel like they’re worth, they’re not worth more and then it could also even if they believe that they’re being treated unfairly in terms of salary, that lack of confidence could also make them less likely to ask. They might fear that situation a lot more.
This could also be related to the confidence gap. We see that women are less likely to take credit for their accomplishments. Upon being told that they did a great job we’ll often hear women deflect and say things like, “Well I had a lot of help or I got lucky. I had a great team around me.” They really emphasize sort of the community aspect which I don’t think is a bad thing. I think really the difference that we see here actually I think men might shift a bit more on this to make this less of a difference. Because usually what we tend to see with men when they’re rewarded for a job well done, they don’t really deflect in that way. They don’t credit people around them or their team and since we know that so much of work in organizations is really a team effort, I think maybe that’s an area where men could seek some improvement in terms of yeah, you know crediting your team, crediting the people around you for a job well done.
But this is particularly problematic when we consider some other issues. There’s been research looking at meetings, work meanings and observing the types of interactions that happen and what’s generally shown is that women tend to speak less in meetings. They’re more likely to be interrupted when they do and they’re also less likely to be credited for their ideas. They might put forth an idea, it’s somewhat ignored. Later someone else repeats it and that person ends up getting credit for it. We see a real problem here when we consider that women themselves are less likely to take credit for their own accomplishments and they’re probably not as likely to get that credit from other people. We’ve got to figure out a way for them to get that credit somehow.
In terms also just of presence. Some of you may be familiar with the book Presence written by Dr. Amy Cuddy. She also had a TED talk, she’s done some research on power posing. Now that literature is a bit fraught with tension right now because researchers have had some difficulty replicating some of her work. In particular she found that by doing things like adopting expansive postures. She called it … well I guess more colloquially It’s known as power posing. So standing with your hands on your hips or sitting with your feet up on a table and your hands behind your head, these are expansive postures.
Her research showed that by adopting expansive postures people not only felt more powerful, but they actually showed an increase in testosterone which is the dominant hormone and a decrease in cortisol which is the stress hormone. Now researchers have been having a very hard time replicating the hormonal effects. The decrease in cortisol and increase in testosterone. However quite a bit of the research has replicated that in fact these positions, adopting these postures do make people feel either more or less powerful. If you’re adopting a non-expansive posture kind of shrinking into yourself, your arms are crossed, you’re making yourself smaller, that makes you feel less powerful standing with your hands on your hips or your feet up on the desk makes you feel more powerful.
But this is interesting because when we look at the postures that men and women just tend to naturally adopt, men do tend to adopt more expansive postures and women tend to make themselves smaller and fold into themselves. What this means is I could be conveying how you feel in terms of power and confidence and then that could actually impact how other people feel and whether you take a risk on something. So that’s kind of a fascinating area in terms of what our body language is signaling to our ourselves and to others about our confidence.
Also I wanted to talk a little bit about the backlash effect. With some of the earlier hurdles that I’ve presented, oftentimes people will say, “Okay, well why don’t women just be more assertive, negotiate more, take up more space.” Now that’s not necessarily bad advice. In fact that’s advice that I would likely give to women but I would also feel irresponsible if I didn’t tell the women those same women about what some of the research on the backlash effect shows because I think you’d want to be prepared and understand some of the consequences of behaving assertively when you’re a woman.
Unfortunately the literature shows that when women do behave more assertively, when they do adopt more masculine traits and behaviors, they might get a bump up in terms of their perceived competence or how suited they are to a leadership role. However, they’re also then more likely to be seen as being cold, being less likable. And this can have real career implications because there’s other research indicating that those perceptions of being cold and unlikable can actually lead to them being seen as less deserving of salary and status. You could see how a woman behaving in an assertive fashion, it might get her what she wants in the short term but what are the long term implications of that. Does she have negative career implications as a result of that behavior? It’s something I think that we have to be aware of if we are to tell people we’ll simply become more assertive, that could backfire. Again later, I’ll talk a little bit about well how do we navigate that and what is the best advice in this regard.
Last hurdle that I wanted to talk about, the motherhood penalty. So we see two different things happen for men and women who become parents and then are navigating the workplace. Women who are also mothers are believed to have more work life conflict and less job commitment than men who are fathers. We see that parenthood generally tends to slow down or even halt women’s job progression and speed up men’s. Now of course we can say well women are more likely to take some time out of the workforce to scale back a bit at work in response to having children but this research considers men and women who have gone back to work full time. This is once women have been fully reintegrated back into the workforce after having children and this bias still exists. Where they’re somehow seen as being less committed and having more work life conflict.
Now all of this occurs despite the fact that men and women generally tend to report pretty similar levels of work life conflict. It doesn’t seem like it’s completely true that the women are somehow more conflicted and then that is spilling over into job performance or job commitment. We call this the motherhood penalty and also the fatherhood bonus because we do in fact see that for some reason when men have children, they’re now seen as maybe they’re seen as needing the job that much more, that much more committed. Their status tends to increase at work. And the opposite typically happens for women.
So let’s talk a little bit about circumventing the issues. I think negotiation remains a really important thing. I tell any undergraduate student coming through my classroom that it is really important that they negotiate. Although what I think might be better, that really does put the onus on the individual. I think what would be better is if organizations took a lot more preventative measures and I’ve even seen … I started to hear about other universities doing this which friends of mine who have gone into different universities as professors and been told that no, there is no negotiation on salary. That salary is fixed. In order to try to prevent this type of problem, they can negotiate on other things but salary is not one of them.
Organizations might have a lot of work to do in terms of really trying to standardize and make sure that there’s not gender differences because of the tendency for men to negotiate more than women. But I always tell my students to negotiate on salary at this point until organizations are going to step in and do something. You’ve got to look out for yourself, so negotiate but do your research. Don’t say I want this, well why? Make sure your worth, have an understanding of what the marketplace is looking like. What is the general starting salary in the type of position in industry that you’re entering into? Really important to be able to know that.
What I also suggest is and I think that this might be particularly important for women is to say something like, “Well you know I discussed this offer with my mentor and they suggested that I ask about this or ask for further clarification or they indicated that they thought that this number would be more appropriate.” And I realized that some people might see that and some people might kind of bulk at that advice and say, “That seems kind of weak to me,” but the fact of the matter is that there is research suggesting that when women balance assertiveness with warmth, they’re spared from the backlash effect. So for example when women negotiate assertively, but they do so on behalf of another person, they don’t receive the same backlash as if they were negotiating for themselves.
Now I know that that doesn’t really help the individual who doesn’t have someone else negotiating for them, they need to do it themselves but if we keep that in mind in terms of how we might balance that warmth and assertiveness in that context, we might be able to both get what we want and also avoid the backlash. Also emphasizing the “We.” Instead of focusing on you know what I want, what I deserve, it’s about can we come to some type of mutually satisfying agreement. I want both of us to come out of this and be happy. Emphasizing how important it is that both parties are satisfied can kind of demonstrate that this person is still displaying that prescription for warmth within that interaction.
In terms of getting back to the presence issue, I think it’s really important for everyone to sort of pay attention to the nonverbal signals that we’re conveying with our body language. So like I said, there is that evidence from the power posing literature that adopting these expansive postures can make us feel more powerful and I’m really guilty of this. I’m always crossing my arms because I find it comfortable but I always wonder why am I doing that. Why am I more comforted by shrinking into myself. But I think it is when we go into situations where we do want to convey some power. We have to think about what are we redisplaying with our body, can we sit up straight or can we take up a little bit more space in a non-obnoxious way of course. But if we’re posed in a way that is a powerful position, that powerful people tend to demonstrate with their body language, that’s going to change how we feel about ourselves and it’s going to change how others feel about us as well.
Speaking in meetings and doing so with conviction, and I know I’m sure I’ve said many times through this presentation but sometimes recording ourselves we all become aware of that, how often we’re saying those ums and try to focus on removing that from vocabulary. Even more important than I think than that, because sometimes we say um, um because we’re reflecting and we’re preparing to speak. But I think what’s even more dangerous and this is especially true for women, is turning statements into question. So turning up the end of the sentence like we’re asking a question rather than making a statement, even though it is in fact a statement that we are making.
And I think this flips back into the confidence issue. So sometimes women might be hesitant or a little bit afraid of what it is that they’re saying. They don’t want to come across as being demanding, or too assertive and so they pose their statement in a more tentative or hesitant way to try to avoid some of that backlash. But I think there are ways in which we can speak that can convey a warmth, like smiling for example while also making a statement and not turning it into a question.
This fourth one I think is important for both men and women to consider. Our tendency to pay more attention in meetings and see what has to … pay attention more to the dynamics. So, if we do observe a woman being interrupted, can we make an attempt to sort of get back to what it was that she was trying to say and say something like, “Well, I think so and so got cut off there, but maybe she’d like to finish her point.” Also if you notice that someone … that a woman puts forth an idea and that it kind of gets ignored, going back to it and saying, “I’d like to get back to what so and so was saying. I think she had a really great idea, crediting it to her to make sure that she’s going to get that credit.
I think that these things can really help us change the way that our meetings progress and try to get women a little bit more time, you know, give them a little bit more of the stage and also ensure that they’re being credited for what they’re bringing to the table.
This is advice that comes from Sheryl Sandberg, this don’t lean out too soon in her Lean In book. So she noticed … and I have to admit that I notice this too. A lot of young women mentally taking themselves out of the running for a certain position because they worry that those positions could interfere with other things that they want in their life, like having children. And I think it is really important that we give the messaging that you don’t have to be just one thing in your life. You can have more. I don’t want to say you can have it all, I don’t think anybody can have it all, but it’s okay to be focused on your career especially when you’re young and to try to cross the bridge when you get to it. Don’t be taking yourself out of the running for position before you know you’ve even ready to have children.
Now, ultimately of course I recognize that again, I’m not trying to put all the onus on the individual. Organizations really have to change in this regard. We need better parental leave policies and not just for women, but for men. Men should have the right to paternity leave and that should be encouraged for men. And part of the problem with this is that even when paternity leave is available to men, they’re less likely to take it and there’s some research showing that when they do take it, they experience a stigma. They can be mocked, they’re ridiculed, they’re treated differently when they go back. And so that’s a really big problem to, how can we hope for equality in that area if men are prevented somehow from taking that opportunity.
And that brings me to my next point which is relating some of these issues to men and masculinity. So we have a really long way to go in terms of redefining masculinity. And a lot of these problems are, I think that there’s a big source of the problem is in how rigidly we define masculinity. We have a real issue with men venturing into femininity and I would argue that, and other researchers have argued that really masculinity is much more fragile than femininity. Women can display femininity in a lot of different ways and for men it’s just not simply the case. It’s a very rigid, narrow pathway. Any venturing into femininity in terms of how they look, how they dress, how they display emotions, how they speak, they can be penalized for that or be seen as week or too feminine.
We see this in female dominated professions carrying stigma for men, so many men who enter into occupations like nursing feel very stigmatized, they feel ridiculed by people who are in their family, by their friends. They feel like they’re treated differently when they’re in those roles as well. And it’s really rare to see a man taking on a role like being full time parent, a stay at home parent, even though lots and lots of women do that role. That seems to be very normal for women, but something that’s quite … seen as being quite abnormal for men.
And really we’ve conceptualized the entire realm of parenting as a very female thing. It’s not really parenting, it’s being a mom. And we really have to change the way that we talk about these things, if we want to make it much more normal for men to occupy those types of positions. Just to give a couple of examples of this, you know we see parenting is often framed as being like I said, it’s a job for moms. Much of the advertising for children’s products is all aimed at mothers. And this really excludes men from the conversation and it makes men feel as though that’s not an area in which they belong.
In fact a lot of men who are full time stay at home dads express a lot of feelings of isolation within that role, because they don’t really have groups of people that they can connect to. They’re sometimes even just explicitly excluded from parenting groups which are often exclusively mothers. And this is all very intimately linked to the issues that women face, because they all stem from the same source. It all … all of this reflects the fact that we tend to value femininity and what has traditionally been women’s work less than masculinity and what has traditionally been men’s work. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t see … We wouldn’t then …
When we hear about women who are saying things like, “I’m going to be a CEO, I’m going to be an engineer, that tends to be met with a lot of encouragement and scholarships and the, “You go girl.” When men say, “Actually, I’m going to be a stay at home dad or I’m going to go into nursing,” we just don’t see the same level of encouragement of them into those roles, which it really does highlight and make very clear that we clearly value masculinity and femininity and the types of roles and occupations that have been historically associated with those concepts very, very differently. So to add to that earlier list, we do have a lot of work in order to redefine men’s roles and what are the acceptable roles.
It’s not all bad news, I don’t want to leave this on a very pessimistic note. So in terms of … Earlier I mentioned how we do really view leadership as a prototypical male activity, but this could be changing and it might be starting with the fact that our ideas about leadership are changing. Our ideas about the prototypical or the best leader are changing. We’re starting now to have conversations about quiet leadership and how important that is and how closely linked it can be to organizational success. Quiet leadership in the tendency to be … instead of leadership defined by being very extroverted and loud and dominant, it’s leadership characterized by reflection, collaboration, involving others in our decision making. We’re really seeing the benefits of these things in organizations.
And there’s also some research and that profile of quiet leadership is also somewhat consistent with transformational leadership. What we’re seeing in the literature is that women are actually more likely to be described as transformational leaders or they tend to display behaviors that are more consistent with transformational leadership than men. So that might mean then that as our ideas of the prototypical, the most effective type of leader are changing, we might see women as being more compatible with those roles and that could really lead to a shift in terms of the number of women that we then see occupying those roles. And hopefully as more women simply ascend to those positions, it will become much more normative for us and we see women in those roles, and it’s not as great of a divide, is the hope. I think I just said this, basically, as our notions about effective leadership change, so does our notion about prototypical leaders.
On the men’s side, we’re also hearing more conversations about paternity leaves, advertising is very slowly, but it is changing to be more inclusive, particularly of nontraditional families. You know, we’re obviously recognizing that families aren’t just nuclear family of mom, dad and kids. Families can look a lot of different ways and advertising is starting to realize that it can be I think very profitable. Companies are realizing that it can be very profitable to tap into that changing structure. So hopefully as we see that more nontraditional families represented, that’s going to somewhat de-gender the role of primary caregiver.
And I’ve seen a lot of other encouraging things on this front, just a lot of discussions about masculinity and how it’s very rigidly defined, which does not serve men and it certainly doesn’t serve women. I have been really encouraged just recently to hear that the University of Calgary in Canada is now offering a masculine studies program. And it’s really started with the intention of let’s redefine masculinity because the current definition is just not working for a lot of people. So let’s talk about all of these restrictions that have been placed on men and their behavior for such a long time and let’s try to relieve that burden. So I’m very encouraged by changes like that and I hope all of you are as well.
So ready to take any questions and I believe I’ll be passing it back over to Christina to moderate this part.
Yes, thank you Leah for providing those insights into gender and leadership. We’ve received a couple questions so far. One is kind of piggybacking on your what about men section. He stated that he’s interviewed for and then beat out for five key jobs by women. In each case, he was interviewed by a woman and lost the position to a woman who has less experience than he had. I don’t know if you had any thoughts that you wanted to discuss with that?
Yeah, I mean it’s really hard to know without knowing the exact situation. I mean I would want to see the CVs and all of the experience of everyone involved. One thing we do know is that women are … And I don’t know if this is applicable to this situation, but women are becoming more educated than men. Women are now more likely to have advanced degrees, which could actually give them a leg up in certain areas. And of course if organizations are focused on enhancing diversity and if they have affirmative action programs, then that is something that we’re going to see.
But the way that I think that these issues need to be framed as, is, “Okay, well, what does the individual need to do to make themselves become even more competitive?” I think for a long time, it was the case that white men had the upper hand in most of these settings and that’s no longer the case. And so sometimes that appears to be reverse discrimination or reverse sexism, but the numbers don’t bear that out. We still see far fewer women getting those roles. So I think oftentimes, it’s just relative, it’s just a sense of where is it now versus where that used to be.
Thank you for that. This next question is what would you suggest the managers do in order to avoid gender inequality within inequality and sex harassment permissive cultures?
Sorry, can you repeat that one? I may have missed.
Sure. What would you suggest the managers do in order to avoid gender inequality within inequality and sex harassment permissive cultures?
Okay, so the culture is somewhat permissive of harassment perhaps and gender inequality. Yeah, I mean really it starts at the top. The culture is going to set so many of these norms. So that sounds like an issue where the managers have to really combat that culture and try to alter the culture before the employees are going to see any meaningful change. If it’s in terms of, and I’m not exactly sure with the question, is it in terms of selection decision, promotion decisions? If we’re concerned about that, so if we’re concerned about gender bias, gender inequality in terms of our personnel selection promotion decisions, then what we really have to do to try to make the process fair is bringing more people.
So one person shouldn’t be making a decision really, there should be a panel for any given job, because hopefully then it will be the case that everyone has sort of their own unique bias that plays out. And if we have a larger team of individuals who are making those decisions, some of those things might balance themselves out. Also keeping things gender blind for as long as possible, now I know that might not be possible if you’re doing an internal promotion and you are very aware of the gender of the individuals who you’re considering. But in terms of bringing people into organizations, there are actually companies you can work with that take care of the recruitment process up until a certain point, so up until the in-person meeting must happen and they attempt to de-gender the process. So they remove names, they get ID codes, so that …
So in terms of people getting their foot in the door and getting their qualifications recognized it’s gender blind as far as it can go. So yeah, increasing the number of people in terms of who are making decisions on these interviewing panels, making decisions for promotions, increasingly use of 360 degree appraisals, because that’s really important. Appraisal process is going to be really important in terms of who ends up getting the promotion. And we know that a lot of performance appraisal systems are very biased, because again it’s one person giving a rating. It’s a manager rating one of their direct reports. So having that individual instead rated by yes their supervisor, but a peer, a client, themselves, all of these things can help increase the validity of that performance appraisal which will then produce less bias decisions when it comes time for promotions.
Wonderful. I think building on that, what can you do if the gender bias is deep within the culture of a company or an organization like an old boys’ network?
Yes, this is again it gets back to culture and we’re seeing so much of this, that there are so many toxic cultures that are very resistant to change. Managers have to make sure that everybody is getting a fair shot and that’s not just in terms of what’s happening at work every day, but it is also the social aspect. So whenever I think of old boys’ network or old boys’ club, I kind of think of these opportunities to socialize and make a network that women often aren’t invited to. And so it might be things like golfing or just after hour socialization that women don’t get drawn into.
So I think for managers, it’s really important that they’re thinking about, even though … So let’s take for example if you had a male manager who he maybe has more in common with some of his subordinates who are male. Maybe he feels a little bit more comfortable interacting with them, but he has to really consider is he giving more opportunities for socialization with those male employees than he is to the female employees, and he’s got to figure out a way to get that on equal footing. If it means taking socializing out of the question and making it more professional, then so be it. That might be the only way forward in terms of how he’s comfortable.
But, we’ve got to think about those opportunities and I think ultimately, it’s the manager’s responsibility to take ownership of that and really be reflective on how they behave towards their subordinates.
Great, thank you. Next question, outplacement groups are predominantly and populated by women over 45, do you know of any studies concerning this?
No I don’t, I’m sorry. I could look into that.
This next question is do you have any other advice about how to balance or combine warmth and assertiveness especially in meetings or negotiations?
Yeah, so I think a lot of it comes down to … A lot of it ends up being body language I think. So can we try to balance an expansive posture like I said without being obnoxious. So when women are sitting in a negotiation setting or a meeting, they might want to think about, “Are my arms crossed, are my legs crossed? Am I just kind of shrinking into myself? Can I make myself a little bit more open?” But then using other techniques in terms of the warmth, like I said smiling. And I know that that … sometimes that can be annoying advice, because women are often told throughout their life, “Why aren’t you smiling? You look miserable.”
But I mean the question is asking me, what would you advise? Well, if you do smile while speaking, you are going to be seen as more warm. So that might be one way. And I think thinking about the way in which you speak as well, are you adopting a clear voice and making statements without being overly harsh? Avoiding things like obviously yelling and raising your voice or being too aggressive with hand gestures. Those things could come across as being too harsh. So you might look into softening tone as well a little bit.
So it is … I recognize that that is a very challenging thing to do, and that most women would feel like they’re walking on a tight rope. And it does place a lot of the onus on women. It makes women think, “Well what?” It could actually exacerbate the confidence issue, because now you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, how are people regarding me and I’ve got to juggle all of these things.” So I give this advice very tentatively, because I recognize that it’s kind of unfair that women would have to and you know adapt their behavior so much and walk this tightrope, but it does seem to bring success at least to the individual woman. So I also wouldn’t tell a woman that she shouldn’t do those things trying to be a little bit more savvy in terms of balancing that assertiveness and warmth.
And again going back to the negotiation, emphasizing that we’re defining a mutually agreeable situation, having … And I think also having some research to back you up. And anyone should do that, men and women should always go into a negotiation being very prepared to explain why it is that they’re asking for what they are asking. I think to the extent that you can make it seem like it’s very obvious and rational. That’s going to work in your favor.
Great, thank you. In this next question, how do you explain the studied phenomenon that many women leaders are more critical of their female employees than male leaders are?
So this is actually one of my specific areas of research, and there really is not a lot of research suggesting that women are somehow more critical of their female subordinates. There’s a little bit of research that I’m aware of that looks at professors and how they respond to graduate students. And there’s a finding there that female professors are somewhat … See their female grad students as somewhat less committed to graduate work. The problem with a lot of these studies is that they don’t follow up and make comparisons with male leaders. They’ll show something like a female leader react somewhat poorly to another woman, but they won’t show whether the same thing happens with men. Like if men are equally likely to be reacting negatively to another man.
I think what a lot of this is produced by is just a general tendency towards intersexual conflict. So we tend to regard similar others as being competitors. I mean, I’m probably going to compare myself more to another woman and see her as more of a competitor for the same resources in an organization as me. But I think that that would happen with men too. I think men would also regard other men as being, they’re more likely competitors and who they would socially compare against. So, I think this is just a natural tendency, but for whatever reason, when it’s women responding to other women this way, it gets really problematized.
And so, my research in this area has focused on the problematization of women’s conflict with each other or their relationships with one another. And I actually started from a place when I first entered into this literature, I did start from a place of kind of the question here which was, “Oh, why don’t women support each other?” And as I immersed myself in the literature and started doing my own research in that area, I started to realize that there’s just not strong evidence for that. That supposed fact. What I came to the conclusion through my research and through reading others’ research is that this is just general same sex conflict, and we’ve problematized it for women but not for men. We see it as being natural and normal for men and problematic for women.
Great. Does your research show that women in leadership roles tend to exhibit masculine competencies, characteristics and qualities hence the reason why they may have been promoted to the roles?
So my research, the research that I’ve conducted, I have not looked at that question, but yes, that is true. There is research that exists. Other individuals have conducted research that shows that … so it’s kind of an interesting finding. While there’s backlash for women who display masculine characteristics, it is also the case that women who do eventually become successful in achieving high ranking leadership roles tend to be somewhat more masculine in terms of how they report on … There’s something called the Bem Sex-Role Inventory and you describe yourself. And all of the traits sort of map on to either masculinity or femininity.
What I think though is that it could be that some of those women while perhaps being somewhat more masculine, they might be the really savvy ones. They might be the ones who have done a really great job of at times kind of hiding or masking some of their more masculine characteristics with femininity. And so they might actually be quite skilled at self monitoring, which is kind of knowing what the situation, any given situation is calling for in terms of the appropriate behavior and being able to display that. So yeah, that’s a great question and yeah it does bear out, the research does bear that out.
Wonderful. We’re narrowing in on our time here. This next question, any suggestions on how a woman can regain control after being cut off in a discussion that they’ve been mansplained is what you said.
Yeah, that’s an interesting one, I mean especially if a meeting ends and there’s really no time to put yourself back in there. I would say it could be an email that you follow up with the team that you’re meeting with. It could also be … sometimes I think, and again this is that kind of advice that sometimes I give it and I cringe a little bit because it doesn’t really get to the source of the issue, but it’s kind of a Band-Aid. I think if women choose … Think about, “Okay, who is the most important person to share this idea with? Who is the person that I believe has a lot of influence? And if I can get them on my team and get them to back me up on this idea, then I think that they could help transmit that idea to other people and help get other people on board.”
So kind of think about who are the people that you need to convince, you need to get on your side, you’re kind of building alliances. And that can be a way other than just bringing up an idea in a meeting, that you might be able to have some influence. And it’s kind of behind the scenes, I realize that but if all you really care about is the idea of being heard and being implemented, then that could be a successful strategy.
Wonderful, thank you. Just looking at the last questions here. So this attendee has been an advocate for women’s equality and advisor in the corporate sphere for 30 years and is saddened to see the insights and conclusions have not changed much since 1985. Do you know of any longitudinal studies besides the pay gap that would show any changes to the behaviors you have highlighted?
I mean, all these things are really very slowly changing. I think it’s just the pace at which they’re changing that is really the troubling part. The pay gap is shrinking, I mean honestly I’m constantly updating it because I often reference it in papers that I write. So I’m always looking for the latest numbers. And I mean, I think even within the past 10 years, maybe even five years ago, it wasn’t in the 82 cents range, it was more in the 70s, so I’ve noticed that those things are changing. We are seeing more and more women entering into leadership roles. It’s just is very slow paced. And I think we’re dealing with something that is at an organizational level and a societal level and it’s just going to take time. And I’m sorry I can’t be more encouraging than that.
Wonderful, thank you. All right, we are at the hour mark here, so I wanted to close things up. Thank you everyone for attending today’s event and thank you to Dr. Sheppard for taking the time to share her insights. We will be sending out a recording of this webinar as well as the link to learn more about 100% online executive MBA program that can be completed in as few as 18 months. We hope to see you soon at Washington State University. Thank you.
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