Calling it like Clinton: hidden gender discrimination

By Rebekah Peterson

Another blog post for all the nasty women out there? You bet.

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With the release of Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, a lot of criticism ensued:

“Enough, already”

“Bristling at her unfair loss and cashing in”                    

“Clinton is just playing the ol’ woman card again”

In reality? Clinton is calling out overt and hidden misogyny and sexism that she faced during the 2016 presidential campaign. The fact that Clinton still faced sexist attacks while running for president after decades in the political sphere is a problem—and it’s a problem for all women wanting a career in politics, or, let’s be real, any other field.

Research also shows that the issue of overt and hidden gender discrimination doesn’t just start once women begin their political career. For example, it can even occur when women are trying to pursue higher education in the field, like a PhD.

In 2004 Johanna Kantola surveyed data from PhD candidates in the Political Science department of a Finnish university. A questionnaire was answered by 42 PhD candidates and 13 were interviewed (8 women and 5 men).

Kantola examined the interviews of the women and men in the PhD program.

No overt forms of discrimination (sex-segregated job advertising, gender pay gap, or verbal abuse) were found, but hidden discrimination acts were, and those are much harder to address in an organization.

Many of the women PhD candidates recalled being called “girl” by their advisor, or their area of research not being taken seriously—two behaviors that contribute to women not being perceived as experts in the political field.

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Many of the women also said they were not being offered teaching positions by their advisors, while some of the male PhD candidates said they were often encouraged to apply for teaching positions by their advisors. This shows that women are often stalled in the recruiting process while men are recruited through their inner circle.

So, if female PhD candidates and the first female presidential candidate of a major political party are facing hidden discrimination…that means it’s most likely showing up in your workplace too.

And how should women deal with this gender discrimination at work?

Well, we all can’t write a book like Clinton calling people out—most women want to keep their jobs and this prooobably isn’t the best way to do that—but there are other ways to confront the issue. For example:

  1. Recognize the issue
    1. Write down any gender biases you may being facing.
  2. Confront it head on
    1. If it’s a pay gap issue, ask for a raise.
    2. If you aren’t being seen as the expert you are: use your business card to legitimize yourself.
    3. If it’s overt discrimination, like verbal harassment or outwardly sexist comments, know your organization’s zero-tolerance policy and speak with HR.
  3. Look for a female mentor
    1. A female mentor can help advise you on making it to the top as a woman.
    2. A female mentor can also tell you how they may have experienced hidden discrimination and how they dealt with it, or how they wish they dealt with it.

 

So remember—when you face gender discrimination, it doesn’t have to be overt to be upsetting and constraining. Channel your inner Clinton and call that crap out.

Oatmeal cookies and so-called workplace rookies

By Staff Writer

Twenty-first century feminism is kinda like an oatmeal cookie; it looks pretty sweet, but when you bite into it, it’s still just hardened oatmeal.

Since the beginning of the feminist movement, women have been claiming that they do not need feminism. Less passive dissidents have even suggested that the movement is over and that women don’t need feminism anymore. It’s easy to think this way; in the US, more women are in business and political leadership positions than ever before, the wage gap is (slowly, painstakingly) beginning to close, gender discrimination is technically illegal, women can vote and own property, Not All Men, #NoMakeup, Emma Watson’s speech, birth control’s sheer difficulty (not impossibility!) to access, and Gloria Steinem’s feature alongside tote bags in the spring 2016 Land’s End catalogue. Could it get any better for women? I mean, it could. It really could. But some women don’t think so.
“TOP GIRLS?”, published by Angela McRobbie in 2007, explores the ways that post-feminism has constructed a “correct” and “incorrect” professional woman. She argues that the attitude that feminism is over, or no longer needed (known as post-feminism), is actually a signifier of gender re-entrenchment: the process of defying gender norms in a way that paradoxically reassert masculine dominance. When successful women take on masculine behaviors in the workplace, their performance of masculinity highlights their commitment to performing their gender and ironically harms women who can’t or won’t act out these same masculine behaviors.

So no, it’s not bad that you wear a power suit to work while another woman wears a dress. Your power suit, instead, highlights that you are a woman with a higher achievement capacity, creating a dangerous hierarchy of workplace-acceptable women. 

An easier breakdown of this:
Dianne has short, cropped hair. She spends little time on care work, she delegates non-essential tasks, and does not talk about her personal life while in the office. She wears a power suit. Every. Day. She does not have any kids. Dianne is a feminist.

But meet Jane. Jane has long hair, and wears blouses. She does care work around the office, does not actively take credit for her work, and often asks “is there anything I can do to help you?”. She has two children, and their pictures are all over her desk. She had to take a day off once last year to stay home with one of them when they were sick. Jane is a feminist.

Both of these women are good workers, and could probably perform the same tasks to the same degree of adequacy. But, Dianne is regarded as having more capacity to achieve. In the competitive meritocracy of feminism, Jane just doesn’t measure up. Dianne’s ability to adopt masculine social and professional styles in the workplace is both a product of the feminist movement, and the success thereof a signal of postfeminism dawn. Women like Jane cannot succeed under current patriarchal structures that are perpetuated by successful post-feminist examples like Dianne.

“But I love blazers!”

I hear ya. But, the problem isn’t solved by eliminating this “top girl” who performs masculinity in the office. Instead, the fix is to regard femininity and the feminine as equal to masculinity and the masculine.

Feminism, in its most basic sense, means granting women political, social, and economic equality with men; and by definition, that means valuing femininity as much as masculinity. In order for women’s continued growth, we must catch ourselves when we judge other women for acting “too feminine” or valuing a woman with masculine behaviors more than an equally competent woman with feminine behaviors.

You don’t have to rock femininity, but you can’t knock it either; instead, use your new knowledge of gender re-entrenchment to specifically empower and speak up for individuals who perform femininity.  

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.