When collaboration becomes overkill: How collaboration can kill your career

By Erika Harrington

“Women aren’t authoritative.” “A commanding voice is a masculine one.” “Women are too dainty to lead.” We get it. You think it takes a certain type of a person to be a leader, and that type of person is usually a man. Thankfully, when it comes to the success of a company, what you think doesn’t matter; what actually matters are performance and results.

With that in mind, it’s high time that we face the truth that women can produce as well as men. Don’t believe me? Well, maybe you’ll believe British sociolinguist Judith Baxter, who published a study on the leadership abilities of males and females. Baxter wanted to find out if different, gender-specific language characteristics affected an individual’s ability to become a leader, and how well people  respond to them as such.

mulanclimbingUsing groups of all male, all female, and mixed gender participants, she was able to see who stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Her findings—women were just as likely to exhibit leadership qualities and deliver respectable results. While women did communicate differently, they weren’t any less likely to take command or any less effective in command.

So why aren’t we seeing more balance in top-level professional positions?

There are many explanations for the scarcity of women leaders. One especially was noted in this study; Baxter found that the all-female group did not allow for a leader to emerge, and reacted negatively to one woman trying to take control of the group.

I know what you’re thinking: Here we go again with cattiness and women tearing each other down.

Not so fast, though—this article pointed out a more probable explanation; Baxter noted that the all female group seemed to value a group where everyone was equal. This approach allowed for a more diverse set of ideas to emerge. Nice job, ladies!

However, it is important to remember that there is also value in having a leader. The downside of this diversity enhancing collaborative approach was that no single idea gained significant focus. Kinda like when you spend 20 minutes driving around town with your friends trying to decide where to eat before Natalie finally caves and (in a truly hangry manner) screams, “Screw it! Let’s just get McDonald’s!”

Sometimes, having a leader just makes final decisions easier.

So, what can we learn from these findings?

Allowing a single individual (or a small group of individuals) to have power over a group or organization is important for productivity.  But, ensuring that these individuals can do a good job is just as important (let’s be real, McDonald’s was not the best choice, Natalie).
What isn’t important is that every leader fit the same mold. Masculine and feminine styles  differ, but these differences do not mean one is better than another. So let’s end the illusion that there’s one right way to get things done, because thinking that way is how one social group gets an unfair advantage. There is a time and place for all of these styles, so let’s all acknowledge strong women leaders for what they are. Let’s get more ladies in top-level professional positions and watch them thrive with their male peers.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.

The betrayal of badass boss ladies

By Jennifer PeeksMease

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with my mom. We were talking politics. Don’t worry, it’s a relatively safe topic in my family.

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No one insulted anyone’s intelligence. No feelings were hurt. It was just good ole’ fashion discussion. Then, the topic turned to Hillary Clinton, and my mom said something along the lines of this: “I think Clinton is well qualified to be president. She has the best set of experiences…I’m just not sure that I like her.”

There it is: She’s good. She’s competent. And what does the research suggest? We don’t really like that.

I first learned of the “likeability penalty” from Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk. Sandberg references a study in which MBA students were asked to read a scenario involving a leader, and were then asked to evaluate the competence and likeability of the leader. The good news? The assessed level of competence didn’t change much when researchers changed male and female names.

Believe it or not, that’s an improvement. The bad news: women were deemed less likeable. And that, my friends, is a downer.

But, in 2011, two researchers noticed that most studies showing a likeability penalty dealt with hypothetical scenarios, so they set out to assess the situation by conducting a nationwide study that asked people to assess their real-life bosses. One of many conclusions was that people assess a likability penalty less often when they are assessing the boss they actually work with.

Whew! Uh, sort of…

What does it mean that we assess women more harshly in imaginary relationships than we do in actual relationships? On one hand, it’s good to hear. It suggests that women can be powerful, competent and liked by the people they manage.

But there’s still a troubling catch: despite the fact that real relationships with women leaders don’t support the need for a likability penalty, when we imagine relationships with powerful, competent women, research indicates that we assume they aren’t likable.

That goes for you too, Secretary Clinton.

But there is something we can all do, men and women alike: We can interrupt this somehow shared imagination. We can call people out on it. We can question our own judgment of successful, competent women.

Let’s be honest. We believe our gut feelings have some kind of intuitive authenticity to them, and so we often trust them blindly. While I believe that intuition matters, it’s important to recognize gut feelings aren’t always unique insights.

Anyone can earn your distaste, women included. But if you’re looking for things to justify that nagging feeling that you “just don’t really like” that kickass, successful woman in your office—whom you don’t even know—then check yourself. It may not be your intuition talking, it might just be patriarchy.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.

Negotiating your salary: it’s not just for the boys

By Rachel Garretson

We’ve heard it from every teacher, parent, and sappy teen magazine relationship columnist alike: healthy communication is the key to success. But what about when those coveted communication skills need to translate to the workplace, and no one ever taught you how?

Welp.

It turns out men generally have the advantage here. Researchers have found evidence that they attempt to negotiate salaries more often then women, and when women apply for jobs, they tend to assume negotiations aren’t even an option.

Picture1This same tendency can hurt women even more once they do land the job. Unfortunately, there are no massive neon signs conveniently posted along our professional journey telling us when we should ask for a raise. Thus, once again, we find that women are less keen on initiating these negotiations.

Here’s where women do shine, though; a study done in Chicago found that just including the words “salary negotiable” on job listings reversed the trend, and women actually negotiated more often than men. So, if it isn’t listed in the job offer, look online, or work with the vibe your potential future employer is giving off when it comes time to talk salary. If negotiations aren’t possible, they will say so, chica.

Interestingly, however, according to this study this imbalance was seen less often when the evaluator (interviewer) was a woman. In that scenario, women were just as likely as men to attempt salary negotiations. Unfortunately, we can’t choose our evaluators, can we?

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This could be because when when both genders negotiate, women still tend to walk out with the lower salary.  More research is needed on this, but part of it may have to do with women already dreading the awkwardness of being told “no”, and part of it may have to do with the techniques women use to approach negotiations in general.

In fact, studies have shown that specific beliefs women often hold can be detrimental during negotiations. For example, 83% of women surveyed subscribed to the belief that it’s a company’s responsibility to determine a fair salary.

Word to the wise: unless you vouch for your own worth, not all companies are going to try to pay you more than the bare minimum. Don’t be cheap labor. Do your research, and come into your negotiations knowing the average salary for your job title. Then aim a little higher. You know you’re worth it.

On that note, don’t wait till you finally start your job to prove yourself. Negotiations are a time to lay out everything you have to offer the company. If you believe the time to start proving your worth is after the deal is done, you’re already behind.

So, to sum it all up: Stepping up to the table is not invite-only. But when you do step up, know your value beforehand and sell yourself like you’re a refreshing box of brand name Rice Krispies in a sea of Great Value imposters. You’ve got this.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.

 

The girl power hour

By Eliana Huffman

Beyonce. Angela Merkel. Emma Watson. Michelle Obama.

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We are hashtag #blessed to live in an era graced by so many influential women. They serve as role models, mentors, and further— in a professional context—allies.

According to a recent analysis of 5,679 workplaces located in Texas, more women in charge within an organization leads to increased gender-integration across all employees, regardless of status. This means that for every position within an organization, women and men are given equal opportunities to obtain said position, as well as opportunities to be promoted from it. This gender-integration also includes more equal pay for equal work.

But what does this mean overall? For one, it means that women are agents of change. Climbing up the corporate ladder is already challenging for most, and near impossible for some, especially women. However, this study goes to show that a little girl power goes a long way.

It’s easy to see other women as competition, in more ways than one. We live in a world that’s overly conducive to tearing each other down, and in fact encourages it (thinking of mainstream media examples here, like Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, or the movie Mean Girls).

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In a professional setting, this behavior doesn’t always stop. According to a recent study done at Bentley University, over 50% of respondents said that women-specific networking programs would be beneficial [to women as a whole], and yet only 17% of people who sit on corporate boards in the United States are women.

Houston, we have a problem.

What can we as individuals do to fix this? Well, for starters, include women in your professional network. Seriously. Whether you’re a college student seeking a mentor, or you’re a tenured careerist wanting to pay your wisdom forward, have at it.

This goes for men too—serving as an ally not only makes you feel good, but actually pushes your own career forward. In the words of Meghan Casserly, Forbes magazine, “women are meeting, sharing and connecting in ways that men often shy away from. The result is lasting relationships that are the building blocks of future job placements, sales leads and partnerships.”

Now that’s more like it.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.