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44 Responses

  1. Anon21
    Anon21 December 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm |

    It needs no re-telling here, but there’s a big gender gap in leadership roles: there are 20 women in the Senate, and that’s a record high. As of November 2012, there are 21 women who are Fortune 500 CEOs – about 4% – and that is also a record high. Yet, women are getting college degrees and entering the workforce at higher rates than men. Between graduating college and reaching senior management, something is stopping women from making it to the top echelons of the workforce

    I fully agree with the main thrust of your piece, but the framing of this paragraph (and particularly the last sentence) strikes me as off. Millenial women, who have outstripped men in terms of educational attainment, are not in the age cohort from which Fortune 500 CEOs and U.S. Senators are selected. Was the educational attainment by gender picture similar in 1980 (which is about the time the average Senator or Fortune 500 CEO of today would have graduated college)? If not, then we should expect some of the gender gap in positions of greatest power and influence to fade away as the generation in which women are more educationally accomplished than men grows up.

    But I definitely agree that some of the gap will remain unless our society changes the way it socializes girls and women, just as you suggest.

    1. Jill
      Jill December 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm | *

      Actually yes, educational attainment rates have been close to equal since the late 1980s and early 1990s. In any event, the imbalance even in the 80s wasn’t nearly as skewed as today’s Senate or CEO numbers.

      1. Anon21
        Anon21 December 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

        As above, I don’t think the late 1980s is the right time frame. If that is the time gender parity was achieved, I would think we’d see the ripple of that in the immediate future, as the college students of that time age into their late 40s and early 50s. (The average age of current Senators on taking office was 50; a person who graduated college in 1988 would be 45 now, a bit young to run for Senate.)

        But it doesn’t surprise me that the current “upper echelons” gender ratio is way more skewed than the gender education gap in the early 1980s. And I completely agree that socialization and outright sexism are to blame for a large part of the power gap.

  2. tomek
    tomek December 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

    To blame the gender gap entirely on sexism means that there is absolutely nothing we as women can do to change that gap, but that’s not entirely true.

    yes indeed. it is nice to read writing what recognize female power to change situation instead of blame man

    have considered you what we are wired to dislike certain trait of woman and like certain trait of man? for example when i see man bossing people with skill, i respect for. when i see woman do same, no matter how much skill she have, i think she bitch. even though i know is sexist to think such, i think such still, and woman whom i ask think same. maybe it is build into our brain or such?

    1. Anon21
      Anon21 December 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

      maybe it is build into our brain or such?

      Does this count as evo psych wankery if he fails to posit how bossy women would have been eaten by mammoths in caveman times?

    2. Becca Stareyes
      Becca Stareyes December 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

      As tempting as it is to blame the brain, the thing is that we all grow up in cultures where we form ideas like that, to the point where we don’t even realize it. Basically, it’s more that our brains develop ideas of how the world works by observations, and those ‘common sense’ ideas shape our reactions.

      Which makes it really hard to test things, unless there are cultures where such things don’t exist and we can compare, or we can see changes in behavior in time far faster than biological evolution could account for.

      So, the best thing we can do is to question our common sense and gut feelings, because those have been so heavily sculpted. And be aware that they can be wrong or biased, even if we are all wonderful people who think sexism is horrible.

    3. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers December 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

      Tomek,

      There’s no biological reason to imagine humans are hardwired to dislike bossy women, and in fact plenty of reason to guess they would prefer bossy women. Among primates, and among most hunter-gatherers, men do not directly take care of babies and in many they don’t care for children, either; they defend the group from outside males and predators, and they do some of the food gathering and they do most of the meat hunting that gets done, but they aren’t involved in the day-to-day business of raising the young, and they aren’t involved in the internal logistics of managing what gets done to provide food to the entire group (in the case of humans; to the best of my knowledge primates don’t hand out the food communally.)

      A woman who lacks authority will be unable to control her children. Men would not be attracted to this, in the ancestral environment, because men who found weak women attractive would end up with their children dying young for not listening to mom’s warnings, and thus the genes wouldn’t propagate. Also, a woman who has authority will have authority within the tribe over food distribution, ensuring that she can make sure that her own children, and the men she likes, get their fair share, or more. So biologically, being attracted to strong, dominant women with authority would be associated with the greater health and fitness of a man’s offspring, and being hardwired to disregard female authority in favor of male authority would result in children dying too young to reproduce, as if they didn’t listen to Mom, and they did listen to random male strangers… there’s a reason many, many mammalian females defend their young against any males, even the males that fathered the young. Biologically, male mammals are more dangerous to young mammals of their species than females are. Thinking that a male is more worth listening to than a female will get a young proto-human killed. And there’s no mechanism to suggest why this would reverse in adulthood. Male humans aren’t superior leaders to female humans, they’re just physically stronger and more aggressive, so while one would expect a higher fear response toward male voices (which is in fact seen in humans), one would not expect a higher degree of willingness to *obey* males except out of fear that he’ll harm you, which doesn’t lead to loyal obedience.

      No, the reason modern humans don’t consider women to have as much authority as men is millennia of cultural training in suppressing women’s authority. Men being physically stronger and more aggressive than women doesn’t make them better leaders, but it does mean that they are more likely to be able to beat women into submission. And people who are being beaten and dominated by someone in their private life don’t easily wield authority in their public life, and in a small environment, like the villages and tribes we lived in for almost all of our history, everyone knows what’s happening anyway, and humans *are* hardwired to disrespect victims. (Because every mammal is, so we are not likely to be different.)

      So the reason humans (and in particular male humans) disrespect women is not biological at all; it comes from millennia of cruel, violent behavior from men. If we were truly a just species, which we’re not, this would lead us to reject male authority… but humans, like all other mammals, will give more respect to the torturer than to his victim.

  3. Ron O
    Ron O December 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    The solution proposed seems backwards to me. We should be socializing boys to be nicer and more compassionate rather than socialize girls to be less so.

    1. Nobody
      Nobody December 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

      We can do both.

      I’d definitely rather have fewer aggressive, abrasive jerks to deal with in the workplace rather than more.

      If we can socialize boys to be a bit less pushy while socializing girls to be more assertive, then women being “as aggressive as men” would have a different meaning, and a more positive one.

    2. Lasciel
      Lasciel December 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

      Or socialize everyone to have an appreciation of nice and modest people. Why should loudmouths who constantly toot their own horn get more recognition? Shouldn’t it go by actual achievements?

    3. robotile
      robotile December 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm |

      This is a dilemma. I work in a field where self-promotion is one of the biggest factors in success, and my ambition is often in conflict with my desire to just keep my head down and do my work well. It’s pretty icky to see who rises to the top, and the angling for positions of power often takes away time that could be better spent actually improving the work product.
      Sure, self-promotion is a skill in and of itself, but is that the one we really want to be encouraging in people? Modesty, cooperativeness, and a lack of ego in work are inherently good traits for people of both sexes to have, and it’s a pity that women have to shed traits that may actually make them more effective at their jobs in order to be more successful.
      Less sexism is obviously a top priority, but so is restructuring work environments so that certain types of people (read: aggressive politics-playing types) don’t rise to the top. I think there also has to be some way to change the power dynamic between boss and worker — having a bad or just incompatible boss can screw up a person’s career trajectory for years to come, and right now, very few workplaces have effective ways to deal with that. For many women, that’s probably one of the biggest practical obstacles and one of the key work relationships where sexism plays out.

      1. White Rabbit
        White Rabbit December 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

        …having a bad or just incompatible boss can screw up a person’s career trajectory for years to come, and right now, very few workplaces have effective ways to deal with that. For many women, that’s probably one of the biggest practical obstacles and one of the key work relationships where sexism plays out.

        This.

        I’m a woman, and earlier in my career, I resorted to switching jobs more than a few times when I realized I had a boss standing in my way of advancement. This strategy served me well over the years, despite all of the traditional advice against job-hopping, but it requires a skill set and thick skin that some (many?) people don’t have.

        I’m mostly happy with where I’m at now, but I know that when I’m ready to advance further, I’m going to have to look elsewhere. My boss is generally a nice fellow, but I work for an old boys’ club, and he also buys into the old school mentality of seniority – as best as the rest of us can tell, he’s only the boss because he stayed put long enough that it became impossible NOT to promote him; it’s certainly not his deft skill at managing people or projects. Also, he has a team of strong-willed, take-the-bull-by-the-horns, successful women working for him, and meanwhile he’s one of the most spineless and directionless bosses I’ve ever worked for. It’s really hard not to read sexism into the fact that he’s allowed to continue on as the manager, despite frequently standing in the way of progress.

        In a different example, I had a male boss at a previous job who surprised me. I was in a male-dominated field, and he was a staunch Texas Republican with traditional values, yet he recognized that I had untapped talent and went to bat for me several times. I’ll never forget the time a newly minted male college graduate was promoted into a plum position ahead of me – this guy was reporting to me at the time, and he was lazy and had zero relevant experience or training, but apparently none of that mattered. After this happened, my boss actually took me aside to APOLOGIZE on behalf of his colleagues. It was blatant sexism, and while my boss at the time never used that word, he acknowledged as much. The situation was infuriating, but it also showed that there are indeed some very good apples among the old boys’ club.

        Anyway, in my experience, sexism in the workplace is a very real thing. I’ve seen it in action, and friends of mine have described their experiences with it. From my vantage point, it seems women have to prove themselves several times before being promoted, whereas men just have to show up and do the bare minimum to qualify for plum opportunities. It’s infuriating.

    4. DSJ
      DSJ December 7, 2012 at 11:47 pm |

      Uh, how did “aggressive, outspoken ” and “ambitious” become the opposite of “nicer and compassionate”?

      This is exactly the problem-

      we’re taught that being ambitious and being likeable are mutually exclusive,

      A post urging women to be more aggressive, outspoken and ambitious is read as urging women to be meaner and less compassionate. Not mutually exclusive, folks! When it’s men in the discussion no one treats them as mutually exclusive. Heck, I want my compassionate people to be outspoken and ambitious because that way, we get compassionate people in positions of power.

      1. robotile
        robotile December 8, 2012 at 12:03 am |

        DSJ
        actually many people would see aggressive/competitive and modest/cooperative as dichotomous traits, in men as well as women. Further, many people don’t like aggressiveness in men or women. I’m simply saying that aggressiveness and extroversion are overly rewarded in society and the workplace, so it sucks that to get ahead women are expected to play into that.
        And I don’t think I ever used the words mean or compassionate: that was your framing.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl December 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

          I agree with you, Robotile. In the U.S. being aggressive and gregarious are definitely seen as desirable traits in men. And men are rewarded both socially and professionally for embracing those qualities.

          As a more general matter, (and again I’m limiting my commentary to here in the U.S.) personality traits that are seen as feminine are viewed as weaknesses and thus undesirable traits in people while those that are viewed as traditionally masculine are considered to be positive and valuable ones that are encouraged and rewarded. This country has a long history of valuing men and their masculinity over women and anything associated with femininity. Thus being pushy, aggressive and driven to achieve one’s goals despite stepping on others toes is encouraged in men and discouraged in women. While being cooperative, flexible, and thinking about others is encouraged for women and discouraged in men. In a wonderful show of hypocrisy, women still continue to be viewed negatively for those traits because they are women after all.

          Because in the end it does still come down to sexism and how sexism plays out in our society. Sexism dictates that men perform their masculinity in overt ways and women do similiarly with their femininity. Blurring the lines in either direction is still discouraged for the most part. It’s also why we still see so much conflict between expectations put on men and women when it comes to getting married and having children. Until the sexism ends the cycle will just continue on.

        2. DSJ
          DSJ December 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

          robotile,

          I said, “aggressive”, “outspoken”, and “ambitious” are definitely not opposites of “nice” and “compassionate.”

          I never talked about “modest” and “cooperative.” “modesty” suggests conservatism in dress or humility about one’s station or ability. “cooperative” just means the ability to work with others.

          “cooperative and modest” aren’t synonyms of “nice and compassionate” just as “nice and compassionate” aren’t antonyms of “ambitious and outspoken”.

          All of these words were used by either the OP or a post above me, or you. I didn’t introduce any of these words.

          I disagree with you about the nature of sexism- under sexism, women aren’t supposed to play into masculine-affiliated traits to get ahead. *Women aren’t supposed to get ahead at all.* That’s why when women do adopt ambition or aggressiveness, it’s not rewarded in the same way as it is in men. That’s why it’s sexism. If it was just women and men being subjected to the same crappy standards, as you and Lolagirl are complaining about, it might be something bad, but it’s not sexism.

          The whole idea of deflecting a discussion of why women are discouraged from being ambitious or aggressive onto why ambition and aggression is a good thing in the workplace (or in any place to ‘get ahead’) reflects the conservative ‘lost idealized woman of purity’ lament. It allows women to still say modest, nice, unambitious, and un-aggressive, yet somehow still get ahead. The problem is that this is a much, much steeper uphill climb than even reforming ideas about how women should behave is. Simply speaking up at a meeting and putting your idea out there is necessary just to inform others that you have an idea. If you don’t speak up, no matter how well intentioned and anti-sexist the people in the meeting are, they’ll never know about your idea. So just for instance- in this way, workplaces will always reward those that are more outspoken.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl December 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |

          If it was just women and men being subjected to the same crappy standards, as you and Lolagirl are complaining about, it might be something bad, but it’s not sexism.

          Except that isn’t actually what I wrote.

          I spelled out how women and men have different standards placed on them, and those most definitely are rooted quite deeply in sexism. The expectation that one be aggressive and a go-getter at work in order to get ahead may be presented as a gender neutral one these days, but the reality of how it plays out is still also quite deeply rooted in sexist and gendered expectations. Because women who do behave aggressively and who doggedly pursue their ambitions continue to be criticized and even find additional roadblocks placed in their way by employers and peers precisely because they are not behaving in what is considered a properly feminine manner.

          That men are still the only ones who find themselves rewarded professionally and personally for being aggressive and ruthlessly ambitious is undoubtedly sexism in action. Because they are conducting themselves in the way men are supposed to in order to be successful.

        4. DSJ
          DSJ December 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

          Yes, sorry, I shouldn’t have included your name in there.

  4. matlun
    matlun December 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm |

    I don’t know. I have never really understood the desire to be a high ambition careerist. As long as you are comfortably well off and do not have financial worries in any real sense – why would you want to put in 80 hour weeks for years to get to a high status position?

    Perhaps women (on average) simply have a more rational and sound attitude to life overall? Ie if there is an “ambition gap”, perhaps the women are on the “correct” side?

    Btw I do not think the article linked in OP makes a very strong case for actual bias. Just looking at outcomes will always be inconclusive, because it is just begging the question. I believe their seeming conclusion (that it is a mix of bias and choice) is correct, but the argument reaching the conclusion appears to be weak.

    1. PrettyAmiable
      PrettyAmiable December 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm |

      why would you want to put in 80 hour weeks for years to get to a high status position?

      You can’t think of any other reason people would want to put in 80 hour weeks? This is like when people say they don’t understand why people would want to work out for hours on end to get ridiculously jacked.

      1. EG
        EG December 8, 2012 at 11:29 am |

        Honestly, I can’t. I can’t think of any reason anybody would want to put in 80-hour weeks. But I also can’t think of a reason anybody would want to (want to, not do so under social pressure) spend hours in a gym, so perhaps that’s just me.

        1. speedbudget
          speedbudget December 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

          I’ve spent hours in the gym. It felt good. The endorphin rush was awesome. I used to look forward to my two-hour Saturday and Sunday workouts. I got high every weekend legally. I also enjoyed the social camaraderie with my workout mates (I did body sculpting and step aerobics classes), the workouts themselves were fun, and I generally had a good time at my gym.

          I have done 80-hour work weeks. They were not fun. They were painful and grueling. The only reason they were and are worth it is because I get a fat paycheck.

          So in one case, I loved doing the activity because the activity felt good. In the other, I do the activity because there is a payout at the other end that is rather pleasant, but I would never work 80-hour weeks just for to do it.

    2. robotile
      robotile December 7, 2012 at 11:47 pm |

      matlun, for many people, they already have to work 50 to 60 hours just to keep their jobs or tread water in their position. After a while, it gets hard to put in those long hours if you’re not being rewarded for it with greater power or job responsibilities.

      Also, being high status at your job sometimes involves working more, but a lot of times it actually comes with less work, greater work flexibility, and quite simply, more power over your time. So that’s why it’s important for more women to attain high-powered positions — so that power is more equally distributed.

      1. matlun
        matlun December 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |

        Working hard because you have to or to get to a situation where you are comfortably off is one thing. I grew up poor and now not having to worry much about money is a wonderful feeling of freedom. Also having a job you enjoy is worth a lot.

        But fighting for a high powered career, for status and/or more money that you can really use? I honestly do not get the attraction.

        This is just my subjective view, obviously.

    3. Chataya
      Chataya December 9, 2012 at 2:40 am |

      I don’t understand why so many people want to have kids and stay home with them for hours on end, but to each their own.

  5. Jadey
    Jadey December 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

    I’m not clear on how:

    most women have been taught from an early age to be nice, above all else. To watch your tone. To not be too aggressive. To not be too greedy. To share the credit for their achievements. To be modest. And as girls grow into women, they internalize those messages and carry the “nice girl” message into their careers.

    isn’t also sexism. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that sexism manifests itself in many different ways which pervade every aspect of our lives. There’s sexism in the way we are raised to behave. There’s sexism in the way we are rewarded for how we behave (and punished for how we misbehave). All of these things are sexism in action.

    Also, I find recognizing structural barriers makes me feel more empowered. The trick with perceptions of control is that it’s just as damaging to *over*estimate how much control you have (leading you to make unrealistic goals and then blame yourself entirely for failing) as it is to underestimate it (leading you to give up before you try). So I disagree so much with this:

    To blame the gender gap entirely on sexism means that there is absolutely nothing we as women can do to change that gap

    that it’s almost hard for me to put into words. I feel like this statement shows no understanding of how individuals interact with social forces.

    One thing I will put out there as a privileged white woman who was inadequately socialized to be feminine and as a result is rather aggressive, competitive, ambitious and, yes, even successful in her field of employment… it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, the financial security and respect from colleagues (about 50/50 men and women, as it happens) is great, but actually the more I learn about the traditional masculine vs. feminine stereotypes in the workplace, the more I admire the “feminine” approach and wish that were the one that was rewarded (regardless of gender!). More and more, I find I prefer to work with women and men who don’t conform to masculine stereotypes and seek out collaborative, low-stress work environments, even if it means keeping my own “natural” inclinations in check.

    1. Jadey
      Jadey December 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm |

      Hm, I want to say that I don’t mean to downplay the fact that I really do have a lot of advantages in my field partly as a result of conforming to certain traits. Obviously that privilege go a long way and plenty of people would love that kind of support and security. I just wanted to make the point that it takes a personal toll and is far from an ideal situation, so we aren’t glorifying a certain type of trait more than it deserves.

    2. samanthab.
      samanthab. December 8, 2012 at 5:55 am |

      I’m in full agreement here. I was raised to be assertive, and, guess what, the policing which the diarist describes as applying to girls as they are raised? That never ends. In any male dominated field, you face a constant barrage of attacks when you assert yourself as a woman. If the diarist has found a safe haven from that, great. But it strikes me as completely irrational to suggest that women are socialized to be nice, but that socialization… It ends when exactly? This diary reads to me as pure victim blaming. Look at how powerful women are treated by the public and press and get back to me. We are punished viciously if we go beyond the sugar and spice and everything model. That won’t end until men and their enablers make it end. It is NOT my fault that this is the case, and, frankly, I don’t appreciate being told otherwise.

    3. Past my expiration date
      Past my expiration date December 8, 2012 at 9:30 am |

      Yes, I’m also stuck on this sentence

      To blame the gender gap entirely on sexism means that there is absolutely nothing we as women can do to change that gap

      Sexism isn’t an immutable aspect of reality, like gravity. There’s stuff people can do to fight sexism.

  6. Emelyn
    Emelyn December 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    Unfortunately, the women I’ve witnessed use the “Letting go of the need to be likeable and embracing a more aggressive, outspoken career” strategy don’t get ahead either. Their bosses have also been socialised to expect women to be “nice” and those that aren’t are unpredictable and not to be trusted, certainly not promoted. It’s an impossibly fine line to walk.

    1. seisy
      seisy December 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm |

      Yes, wasn’t there some study that showed that when men and women follow the exact same (slightly more aggressive) script for asking for a range, people judge them very differently, seeing the man as worthy of the raise and a valuable employee, and the woman as a pushy, incompetent bitch?

      The problem I have with the “women just need to be more aggressive” or “women need to negotiate more” is that it implies we’re just kind of too dumb to have ever figured that out. It seems more likely to me that women are well aware of the cost of going outside gender norms.

      1. rain
        rain December 8, 2012 at 1:12 am |

        Would that be the work of Linda Babcock?
        “Babcock concluded that women are essentially trained not to [negotiate] and penalized by employers when they do. . .negotiating can sometimes hurt a female job candidate. In research she co-published last year, she found that female candidates who ask for higher salaries before receiving a formal job offer are often not hired at all. Not surprisingly, males who negotiate do not face similar negative consequences. This empirical evidence supports what many women already know from experience: When they ask for what they deserve, employers often view them as overly aggressive, pushy or too “difficult” to hire. ”

        This is what I find infuriating. “Women are penalized for asking” came out at the same time as “women don’t ask”, and yet, to this day, I still come across articles that offer the “women need to learn to ask” solution. I guess it didn’t help that Babcock called the book that she co-wrote, “Women Don’t Ask”.

        From the OP:

        Letting go of the need to be likeable and embracing a more aggressive, outspoken career strategy is key to increasing women’s success in the workforce and helping women to advance to higher levels of leadership.

        FFS. No. Women being more aggressive does not increase their success in the workplace. It does not help them to advance. See also The Sexual Harrassment of Uppity Women.

    2. samanthab.
      samanthab. December 8, 2012 at 5:57 am |

      Thank you!! This needed to be said.

  7. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 7, 2012 at 8:40 pm |

    The problem isn’t that women aren’t ambitious enough – it’s that we’re taught that being ambitious and being likeable are mutually exclusive, and we worry we have to hide our ambition. And once we realize that, it’s something that we do all have the power to change ourselves.

    I’m sure this post was intended to be condescending but unfortunately, it came off that way to me. Likeability and ambition are not mutually exclusive. Some if the most ambitious executives I work with are also very agreeable people. Of course each one of them us a dude. Being likeable isn’t the problem, its that ambition for women is socially constructed as inappropriate. There isn’t shit I can do about that. And honestly, I’m exhausted from the fifteen million other constraints I operate under as a somewhat ambitious person who happens to be female. I’m not particularly interested in yet another solution that is about ME changing MY behavior to further suit the expectations of the kyriarchy.

    1. Kristen J.
      Kristen J. December 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm |

      Was not. Dammit.

      1. robotile
        robotile December 7, 2012 at 11:40 pm |

        Agreed!
        It’s incredibly naive to assume that working women aren’t running little mini-experiments at the workplace all the time. If you want to get ahead, you try lots of different things and see how they pan out. I’m guessing many women, after testing multiple ways of interacting with colleagues, find the outcomes are: be nice and people are friendly but condescending, be outspoken and everyone thinks you’re talking out of turn, show some smarts and men get weirdly challenged, be modest and people think you’re dumb, defer to others and people pass along all the good work to someone else, etc. etc. etc. Really, women’s work situation is the definition of “no-win.” And even if you do hit on a work-style that seems to further success, it’s super exhausting to constantly have to make sure always working that way in order to maximize your odds of success.

  8. Unree
    Unree December 8, 2012 at 12:09 am |

    Letting go of the need to be likeable and embracing a more aggressive, outspoken career strategy is key to increasing women’s success in the workforce and helping women to advance to higher levels of leadership.

    Nisha, that’s just not true. Or: citation needed. Tell us about one woman who found that “letting go of the need to be likeable” resulted in success for her, or helped other women. In my world women who do that are written off as, yeah, bitches.

  9. Stella
    Stella December 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    Only because I can join the gym to get as strong and muscley as I can, take a martial art till the 5th dan or do anything else does not mean I want to.

    If there is sexism, something needs to be done about it, but we shouldnt have to conform to any schemes, wether it is those of misogynists whom want 100% of women in the kitchen, or those of social engineers whom want to see 50 50 everywhere. Rather society should listen to what we want, instead of telling us what we should want.

  10. Marni
    Marni December 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    What I do notice every day is that most women have been taught from an early age to be nice, above all else. To watch your tone. To not be too aggressive. To not be too greedy. To share the credit for their achievements. To be modest.

    Yup. And I started out life this way. And men loved me when I was young. Then one day I found ‘ambition’.

    Actually, I always wanted to work in science, that is all. But not by following the trendy set just to make myself look good – by doing my own thing. I call it integrity, but most call it ‘ambition’. And boy do people hate women who are like that. Most people, because everyone gets that conditioning. And most of us carry on forgiving people for the most incomprehensible spite – while they say WE are ‘not nice’. And living in poverty of course, because the jobs tend to go to young women, who can be exploited, and do not know what ‘ambition’ really is. And so it goes. My generation will die, our education wasted. Probably so will the next. By then, I’m guessing nothing will prevent our extinction.

  11. thebluehaiku
    thebluehaiku December 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

    I would venture to say that the “ambition gap” is not entirely distinct from the desire to be a “nice” girl. There is often an image of nice girls as the ones who are nurturing and therefore choose a family lifestyle or certain “female” jobs in teaching, nursing, etc. I have great respect for women (and men) who choose these things, because I believe they are seriously undervalued. I would guess that our ideas about who the “nice girls” are is related to the types of career ambitions we instill in our children.

  12. The Ambition Gap « A life unexamined
    The Ambition Gap « A life unexamined December 11, 2012 at 6:58 am |

    [...] Over at Feministe, guest writer Nisha Chittal argues that the ambition gap isn’t something tha…. Chittal doesn’t argue that gender bias in the workplace doesn’t exist – but rather, that women are also taught from an early age to put more value on being nice, out of fear of being ‘the office bitch.’ She writes: What I do notice every day is that most women have been taught from an early age to be nice, above all else. To watch your tone. To not be too aggressive. To not be too greedy. To share the credit for their achievements. To be modest. And as girls grow into women, they internalize those messages and carry the “nice girl” message into their careers. Most women I know constantly wrestle with how to reconcile their high ambitions with the conflicting messages they’ve received to be likeable, and not too aggressive. [...]

  13. Athenia
    Athenia December 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

    I find being “aggressive” and “ambitious” exhausting. All I want to do is do my job and have fun doing it. I used to be so optimistic about my future prospects, but now, I’m so unsure. *sigh*

  14. Christian Patriarchy and Gender: Contentment v. Ambition

    [...] absent from mainstream American society. Nisha Chittal touched on some similar ideas in “Let’s Talk about That Ambition Gap.”What I do notice every day is that most women have been taught from an early age to be nice, [...]

  15. Stella
    Stella December 13, 2012 at 8:56 am |

    I would venture to say that the “ambition gap” is not entirely distinct from the desire to be a “nice” girl. There is often an image of nice girls as the ones who are nurturing and therefore choose a family lifestyle or certain “female” jobs in teaching, nursing, etc. I have great respect for women (and men) who choose these things, because I believe they are seriously undervalued. I would guess that our ideas about who the “nice girls” are is related to the types of career ambitions we instill in our children.

    For me its a romantic issue as well. Call me shallow, but I am attracted to manliness. I want a partner who is at least a little bit taller than me and stronger than me. I also want a partner who in society is on equal footing with me. Even if I could afford it, I do not want a man who makes far less money than me even if I could afford him. It is emotional I just dont find men whom are needy like that attractive.

    So I am in kind of a dilemma, I do like having a good job and raking in the money I deserve but at the same time I would hate it to be on top the foodchain with no men around whom I can see as an equal. I am sure many women feel similiarly and that is holding them back in the same way they worry about putting on too much muscle by going to the gym. With most women its subconscious though, so thats the reason they hold themselves back. They dont want to be the bossman, they want to date and marry the bossman. Look at Clinton, she did not marry an intern, her husband was the effin prez. I bet with many other high profile women it is similiarly. If for every women who makes it high on the totem pole, you need a man to pair her with who made it even further, you have your gap right there, a huge gap.

    Maybe our subconscious isnt in the 21st century yet.

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