“Thats what she said”

By Bronwyn Neal

Whether Michael Scott is making crazy jokes, leading a Diversity Day discussion, or complaining to the camera about Toby, there is no denying the comedic appeal of The Office.  

Although The Office uses humor to shed light on the issues of white male-dominated Western white-collar workplaces, it also, reinforces gender stereotypes that hinder the success of women and men in these corporate settings.

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Now, before you curse my name for criticizing this ever most popular and timeless “reality show”, let me explain.

In 2013, Jessica Birthisel and Jason A. Martin analyzed the first 2 seasons of The Office and assigned gender related incidents into 3 categories: gendered hierarchies, corporative initiatives magnifying gender tension, and informal mixed-gendered interaction. The researchers used real-world workplace research in order to explore the ways in which The Office reinforces these frameworks. As a result they were able to assess if the representation of real life office situations in The Office reinforce or challenge the patriarchy that is American corporate life.

Findings:

Gendered hierarchies are basically power structures; how men and women, as bosses, are perceived. Women in leadership positions tend to be seen as uptight and aggressive; whereas women in a support role are viewed as sweet and helpful. Men as bosses on the other hand are viewed as in charge, but more feminine due to their “suit” and corporate image when compared to more “manly” blue collar positions. These stereotypical characteristics are carried out by The Offices’ main characters; Jane and Michael. Jane, Michael’s boss, is the HBIC at Dunder Mifflin; she is no-nonsense and aggressive when dealing with problems and coworkers. Michael, on the other hand, would rather be seen as a friend than a boss and would rather be seen as “cool” than authoritative.

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When corporate initiatives magnify tensions in the workplace, they usually organize a meeting or workshop similar to the one that Michael facilitate called Diversity Day. These meeting essentially place everyone in a space to talk about uncomfortable issues in an effort to make people feel more comfortable. Sounds like a full proof plan, right? I didn’t think so either. Researchers observed that despite good intentions, these meetings tend to increase racial and gender tensions, as demonstrated through Michael’s inappropriate joke telling and conducting activities.

As a fan myself, it saddens me that I was unable to get through this article without mentioning Jim and Pam’s infamous love story. Although their unspoken attraction and lust for one another brings a little flavor to the show, their romance emphasizes that a white, heteronormative romance is the only spark that excites an otherwise boring office setting.

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It’s all just fun and games right?

Well, no. Due to the reality show feel and authentic depiction of everyday office life in corporate America, The Office presents its viewers with a work environment where offensive employees and unfitting behavior is neither punished nor received repercussions. Due to the transparency and the realistic characteristics of the office, the lack of responsibility taken for actions naturalizes the sexualization of women and harassment of people based on gender or sexual orientation.

What can you do? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Do not entertain jokes that repress someone’s identity as an individual. This could be something as simple as walking away or not laughing in order to show your discomfort.

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  1. Hold people accountable for behaviors and actions that may be offensive to others. It is never fun to call someone out, so taking them aside instead of talking in front of a group will make you and the person more comfortable when trying to educate them on what they did wrong.
  2. Question policies that seem to create division as opposed to collaboration. Policies can change. Just because it is written down doesn’t mean it is set in stone. If you feel like a policy hurts more than help, talk to HR and figure out how you can improve it.   

Can a company’s organizational structure actually be more friendly to women?

By Lauren Thatcher

Companies can be gendered? Wait, what?

Let’s begin with talking about a company’s power—it starts with the organizational structure. If decisions are made only by upper management, the company is hierarchical. If the decisions are divided up among all levels of workers, the company is egalitarian.

Researcher Lynn Gencianeo Chin investigated how a company’s organizational structure, centralized (hierarchical) or decentralized (egalitarian), affects leadership evaluations of men and women regardless of their individual leadership styles.

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She did this by having 200 college students read and evaluate profiles of companies asking for Federal loans. All companies were from the healthcare field for many reasons, including it can be seen as a gender-neutral industry. She identified each profile as either a centralized or decentralized company, that was lead by a man or a woman.

After being given brief descriptions of the qualifications of the company’s CEO, CEO gender, organizational structure, and organizational outcomes the students were asked to evaluate the profile. For each profile students evaluated the CEO’s leadership skills, as well as rewarded or punished the CEO for the company’s outcome, success or failure.  

For a woman in a hierarchical company, despite her leadership style not being described, she received “dominance backlash.” It didn’t matter if a woman’s hierarchical company succeeded, because women didn’t receive recognition. However, when men’s companies succeeded, the evaluations of their leadership skills increased.

So basically, women can’t win in hierarchical companies. We get lower ratings than men when we fail and we get lower ratings than men when we succeed. Even a woman’s actual competence was questioned more than a man’s competence when their company failed.

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After handling that nice punch in the stomach, let’s look at women in egalitarian companies. This organizational structure offers an equality atmosphere that allows women not be devalued next to their male competition when they succeed, thankfully. However, that does not apply if their company fails. Women receive a much comparatively larger drop in evaluations in competence and leadership skills when this occurs.

It’s like this is never ending. There was almost a light at the end of the tunnel with the egalitarian companies…almost. So what does this mean for women in the workplace? What can organizations do to limit this?

Organizations need to create a consistent criteria for evaluating different levels of success. And further, we need to hire more women to make promotional and company culture decisions.

So though the past and present are dim with a negative bias towards women in leadership, hopefully the future can be bright with women supporting other women and organizations strict criteria diminishing opportunity for penalizing women’s leadership.

The Eeny Meeny Miny Mo Game of Assigning Challenging Job Tasks

By Rebekah Peterson

Senior managers, have you ever had a challenging job assignment and weren’t sure who you wanted to give it to? Something like:

“Eeny meeny miny mo…who should I give this project to? Oh, of course, he would be great for this!”

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It seems that managers tend to assign challenging job assignments to their male subordinates over their female subordinates—and academic research proves it.

In 2009, researchers Irene De Pater, Annelies Van Vianen, and Myriam Bechtoldt randomly selected 39 senior level supervisors at a pharmaceutical company to participate in a study about job task allocation behavior.

The supervisors answered a questionnaire that consisted of three parts. Participants were asked to:

  1. Give the initials of six subordinates along with their age, gender, and how long they have worked under their supervision; they were given five descriptions of challenging tasks and asked to rank on a scale 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much) the extent they would assign a task to each subordinate.
  2. Answer questions about their subordinates ambition and job performance: they ranked on a scale of 1 (not applicable) to 5 (fully applicable) the extent to statements such as “this employee seek managerial positions” applied to each subordinate.
  3. Additionally answer questions regarding perceived similarity to their subordinates because it would play a major factoring in giving out tasks; on the same 1 to 5 scale, they were asked to rank the extent to statements such as “the things I value in life are similar to the things this employee values.”

As discussed in an earlier post about the first part of this study, the results showed that women do indeed get fewer challenging job tasks than their male co-workers, and now part two shows they aren’t receiving these tasks because of their gender. These results were consistent, even after being examined for whether the subordinates’ gender could explain supervisor’s willingness to assign them challenging tasksbeyond the number of years the subordinate worked under their manager, their ambition, job performance, or even supervisor perception of personal similarity to each subordinate.

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So, bosses, before you play eeny meeny miny mo for who should get the next challenging job tasks…

  1. Recognize if there is a problem. Have you been assigning your male employees more challenging tasks?  If not, great! Continue with your equal gender task allocation.
  2. If there seems to be a problem, the hardest part is acknowledging it and putting in a system to help address any bias. So next time you need to assign an employee to a challenging tasks, use a system that can help you track your subordinate’s years at the organization and their levels of ambition and job performance to decided more fairly who should get the task.

Or, another idea: make a list of promising subordinates for this tasks and schedule 5 minute meetings with each. See which subordinate has to right management style and ideas to bring to the project.

Make assigning tasks fair for everyone and come up with your own system to ensure that this happens. So from now on, don’t fall into the eeny meeny miny mo game…pick the right person for the challenging task.

Women’s politeness: it’s a strategy, not a lifestyle

By Lauren Thatcher

Do you feel that? That’s the tension between professional assertiveness and gender-appropriate politeness for women.

According to Tessa M Pfafman and Bree McEwan (2014), women strategically choose to be polite in order to overcome boundaries set by men in the professional world. How did they learn this? The researchers interviewed 18 women from 15 different types of organizations, and they were asked to describe professional men and women, as well as offering their views on what being a professional means and who influenced those views.

While popular media often depicts successful assertive women, in reality, the women studied described how they were met with a much different scenario. Once women achieved positions in the workplace, they were greeted with negative labels like “bitch” or even the loss of their job because they acted assertively.

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This is something that drives me crazy about being a woman—if you try to reach your professional goals, you’re labeled with nasty names. However, men are encourage to do anything and everything to go after their goals. The good news is, in this particular study, the professional women in this study found a subtle way to achieve their goals while avoiding negative labels.

What’s that subtle way you ask? Something we were all taught growing up—being polite. This strategy worked for them because of the way society views women. Because if a woman perceived as nice and friendly, even if she has to demonstrate these behaviors in a greater capacity than her male counterparts, then she can be seen as a good professional in her coworkers’ eyes. I mean if you’re looking for a way to persuade a man in your professional life, make him feel as though he is the superior when trying to persuade him, right?

Not in my book. Do we need to kiss the ground men walk on? Reinforce sexist stereotypes? Ensure that women have to shine less in the workplace in order to make men happy? Nope. Because according to the authors, this is not the case—they argue instead that women are given the opportunity to redefine what assertive means.

Case in point: the women interviewed for this study felt that being strategic and polite was another way to act as an assertive professional. They believed they had the upper hand because they are able to change their communication strategies based on their understanding of the situation and what they wanted the outcome to be. In other words, women felt they were empowering themselves by redefining what “assertive” means for professional women.  

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So to the women using politeness as a strategy to outsmart the patriarchy, and it works for you: then you go girl(s).

Step Up: All In (For Self-Advocacy)

By Rebekah Peterson

Ladies, do you ever have a feeling that your male co-workers are being given more challenging assignments than you?

You know, that despite your ambition, your male co-workers are being given challenging assignments like managing a project, organizing a company event, or assuming responsibility of a major client?

Well, it’s not just a feeling and scholarly research actually backs this up.

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In 2009 researchers Irene De Pater, Annelies Van Vianen, and Myriam Bechtoldt randomly selected 136 employees working at middle job levels at a pharmaceutical company to participate in a study about their job experiences.

First, the employees were asked demographic questions, such as number of years in their current job and the level of their highest education. Next, they were asked to self-rank their ambition level and self-evaluation. Lastly, they were given ten descriptions of challenging job assignments and were asked to rank each on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much) the extent to which they deal with each of the assignment descriptions in their current job.

The results of the employees questionnaire were analyzed only after being controlled for their ambition and self-evaluation and the other demographic variables.

The results?

Women in middle job levels have fewer challenging job assignments than their male co-workers.

Yup—your ambition and desire to develop new skills are overshadowed by your gender.

Not only are assignments being given based on gender unfair, but they can also negatively impact your career.

The ability to tackle challenging job assignments helps lead to promotional opportunities, and if women aren’t being given the chance to prove themselves, it constrains them in reaching new heights in their careers and positions of power.

But just because you may not be assigned a challenging task at work shouldn’t stop you from getting one yourself. Here are some tips for asking your boss for more challenging tasks:

Step 1: Decide what you want out of asking for more tasks

  • More work in your position?
  • Or, a promotion?

Step 2: Come up with a solution

  • If you want more responsibilities in your position, identify tasks you are interested in.
  • If you’re ready for a promotion, identify opportunities within your company you think would be a good fit.

Step 3: Write down your current responsibilities

  • Your boss may not know exactly what you do and you should showcase your ability to complete all your current tasks and then some.

Step 4: Schedule the conversation with your boss

  • Schedule at least 30 minutes with your boss to discuss your current role and your proposal.
  • If you don’t want to schedule a time, bring it up at your annual review.

Step 5: Be honest

  • Be open with your boss. They want to help you and might have different ideas for more assignments.

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So, here’s my challenging assignment to you: don’t be afraid to self-advocate, and don’t be timid about asking for what you want.

Now I’m Mad

By Erika Harrington

Have you all seen the #BlackWomenAtWork hashtag? If you haven’t, you need to check it out right now. Sparked by Bill O’Reilly’s comments towards congresswoman Maxine Walter, the trending tag is a perfect example of the layered problems professional women of color face throughout their careers, a problem characterized by a policing of emotions and anger.

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But let’s back up for a second. What are we talking about when we talk about “anger”?

A snide comment? A side-eye? The silent treatment? Or, if you’re like me, a tearful and dramatic outburst? However you show it, we all get angry sometimes. Things get frustrating, things get tough, and people get vicious. And they can get frustrating with family, get tough with friends, and peopleyes, even professional peopleget vicious at work.

It’s natural and it’s something you can recover from…right?

Well, let me clarifyit’s easy for some people to recover from. It’s a little tougher for women because when they get mad, it tends to be perceived as the result of their over-emotional and irrational nature. But we’ve already covered this.

And we know there’s a misconception that when women get angry, it’s because they’re just inherently emotional. But men? Well, men were obviously just reacting to something upsetting.

Now this actually makes me mad. If Tina from accounting has been dodging my emails and skipping our meetings, and our project doesn’t get done because we never worked out the budget, and then my boss chews me out for not delivering, I’m going to be bitter. And Tina and I might have to have an unpleasantyet professionalconversation. And no one, and I mean no one is going to tell me that it’s my fault that I’m mad. Yes, yes, we all know there’s more to it than thatbut you get my point.

So I’ve spent a lot of time ranting on something we’ve already read about–I just can’t help it, these matters always get me riled up. Must be my angry nature, right? I want to take time to remind you all that is even worse for women of color, specifically black women who have to deal with the ~angry black woman~ trope.  

Researchers Durr and Wingfield did an extensive study of black, female professionals with participant observation and in-depth interviews. One notable conclusion was the strain and wasted energy that participants experienced when trying to avoid certain stereotypes. They find themselves constantly worried that they aren’t controlling their emotions well enough. They must “pick their battles” so that they aren’t viewed unprofessionally, but the reality is that, in any job there are times where you have to fight for the ideas that you believe in.

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So while it’s more than troublesome that black women deal with a constant threat of being stereotyped, it’s especially problematic when avoiding the stereotype hinders one’s ability to forward their contributions. This can have long-term effects on careers if it prevents individuals from taking the career risks that are key to success. Speaking of impacts on career, let’s consider the emotional cost of constantly worry about not acting “too black” for the workplace. All that time black women spend concerned with image, they could spend doing, oh I don’t know, their actual job maybe?

So what’s the solution here? Well, many advise women to make sure that their anger is accompanied with justifications. When things get frustrating, make sure you’re communicating in a level-headed manner, with fool-proof explanations so your accuser can’t claim that you’re acting irrational. This is good advice day-to-day advice for black women. But let’s also encourage others  to make work environments inclusive and free of prejudice. If your black, female co-worker gets mad and “goes off,” and you find yourself thinking “typical,” then you need to check yourself. Better yet, be willing to check others. A simple “I think her response was appropriate given the situation,” can go a long way at the water cooler.  Remind yourself, or anyone who makes comments like these, that they aren’t angry because they’re black, they’re angry because it be like that sometimes.

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.  

She’s Still Got It

By Erika Harrington

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As a soon-to-be college graduate, getting ready to enter the workforce, I’ve got a bone to pick with baby boomers today that refuse to leave the workforce. You’ve had your fun, and now it’s my turn to know the joy of a steady paycheck, saved capital, and credit. And apparently you all are working longer because every generation gets healthier and healthier and live longer lives. Which is cool and all, but come on–can’t you enjoy your health in retirement?

Okay, okay. I know you don’t deserve all the blame. The economy and personal debt crises are making it difficult for you to leave the workforce even if you wanted to. We can all agree, regardless of age, that that is lame.

Now that I’m done with my typical “millennial whining,” I will say that I’m loving the new trend of unprecedentedly older women remaining in the workforce much longer than their predecessors. It’s a true sign of progress to see women, who in past generations would have been weeded out of their jobs because of domestic pressures, experiencing fulfillment at later stages of their career. This also adds an exciting new question to the conversation surrounding professional females: what is it like to be an older woman in the workforce?

Researchers Carol Atkinson, Jackie Ford, and Nancy Harding recognized the need to investigate this new demographic of professionals. They interviewed 51 year old HR Director, Flora, to ask about the rewards and obstacles of working in this stage of life. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of her experiences.

For one, there’s mentoring. Flora explained that entering this stage comes with a great deal of uncertainty. She can’t look to older women in her life like her mother or friends, because she doesn’t know many women who worked this late into their life at all. That’s tough. Being a female in the workforce is hard enough at the start, but if women don’t feel like they have any mentors to look to for help in continuing their career throughout later parts of their life, they might not be motivated to keep at it. And a cycle continues–a cycle that limits the shelf life of our careers.

Then comes a crossover between ageism and sexism. The researchers also discussed the new environment that’ll be undoubtedly formed in the professional world as the number of older women working increased. This environment includes the overlap between sexism and ageism that older women would inevitably have to face. Flora, like many women, also took a break to tend to her family. Coming back with gaps in her career is an obstacle unique to older women.

The cringe-worthy questions have switched from “Do you plan on having kids? How are you going to balance that with this job?” to “Are you sure you didn’t fall behind during the time you took off for your kids?”

Tsourcehe beautiful thing is that women in their 50s and 60s are paving a new way that female professionals in the past have not. They’re dodging the loaded speech and breaking stereotypes so that maybe, just maybe, the next wave of ladies won’t have to.

So as a millennial about to enter the workforce, who is lucky to have so many women with 20+ years of experience in their fields, I would like to not only apologize from my sassiness earlier, but also thank you for being an example to look up to when I plan out my long term professional goals. Not only do you show me that I don’t have to cut my career short for any reason, but you show me what bravery looks like in a world of uncertainty.

Never quit makin’ that money.

 

Undoing Gender at Work

By Joey Konrad

Picture this:

You are a trained physician on a flight to Hawaii. A flight attendant announces over the intercom that a passenger has become unresponsive and a doctor is needed immediately. You rush out of your seat and run to notify the attendant that you can help. However, the attendant simply brushes you off and refuses to believe you are, in fact, a doctor.

The enormous amount of money and time spent at medical school and residency to finally reach the status of a practicing physician, and all of it washed away by a simple refusal to trust your words.

This situation is not a nightmare or work of fiction, but a personal account of events that actually unfolded.

If that’s not wild enough, this is not an isolated event. In 2009, Elisabeth Kelan conducted interviews with working men and women at technology firms. She found that women reported frequently struggling to be accepted by customers as technology workers. Eerily similar to the earlier story, one women had a customer refuse to believe she was an executive and lead programmer. They had the nerve to refer to her as a secretary during meetings and told her to take notes.

The interviews suggest that our thoughts about gender inform our thoughts about who is suited for different work.

Let’s look at some statistics that back up that statement.

The prevailing idea in American culture is that individuals are free to pursue whatever passion or line of work they choose. However, the workforce remains significantly gender segregated.

The U.S. Department of Labor occupational statistics reveal that women dominate caretaker fields; 96 percent of secretaries, 95 percent of childcare workers, and 91 percent of registered nurses are women. Meanwhile, women make up only 14 percent of engineers, 9 percent of construction workers, and 6 percent of programmers.200

And we’re supposed to believe this is just a coincidence?

What if we look at the earlier examples to account for cultural bias and assumptions?

The customer can refuse to believe the woman was an executive programmer if information technology is considered  “masculine” work. Furthermore, the customer assuming the woman was a secretary shows cultural assumptions that tell us what work is feminine.

Kelan noted that all the women interviewed described struggles with not being perceived as competent and legitimate in their workplace. Since programming is assumed to be masculine work, women’s ideas and skills are often ignored, so women face pressure and anxiety to legitimize themselves in the eyes of customers and co-workers.

So let’s talk about where we go from here.

Well first, we want to give a shout out to all women working in male-dominated fields. Any frustrations you feel about being taken seriously in your workplace are absolutely important. Your work blurs the lines between what is “feminine” and “masculine” work, and shows that people should be able to follow passions that inspire them.

But in case our encouragement isn’t enough – and it most likely won’t be – Elisabeth Kelan found that some women used business cards as a strategy for establishing legitimacy. Presenting cards early at meetings and interviews allows professional women to define themselves instead of customer’s assumptions.

You go girl!

Say Her Name, Say Her Name

By Liv Stephens

It’s time to talk about a little bit of Monica, Erica, Rita, Tina, Sandra, Mary, and Jessica.

anigif_enhanced-28999-1428709735-5Lou Bega was definitely not afraid of name dropping when he wrote the jive pop 1999 classic Mambo No. 5.  However, the song has us vibing for more than one reason; it promotes female autonomy!

No, it’s not a trap. You see, research suggests that male and masculine voices address women using language that identifies women through their relationships with other people. It is almost never done with malicious intent, and research basically chalks it up to a style of speech that men learn by talking with other men called “attachment erasure”and it looks kinda like this:

“This is so-and-so, she’s that one dude’s __________ [girlfriend/roommate/sister/cousin/ hookup/friend/classmate/dog groomer]”

Or this:

“Oh, I know you! You work for/with ______ [the name of your sweaty co-worker] ”

You may not have even noticed it before, but everyone does it to everyone.  It’s hard to not fall into this language pattern.  The problem is that references to women are much more likely to use attachment erasure than references to men. This means that womens’ networking looks and sounds a lot different than mens’.

Here’s the deal: generally speaking, we prefer to network with people who we like.  And research indicates that we like people more when we perceive them to be similar to us.  It’s called the principle of homophily.

Here’s why that matters: A 2006 study conducted by Vasilyeva and Doerfel interviewed and surveyed employees of a retail company to study differences in the ways that guys, gals, and androgynous pals communicate. Among the tsunami of relevant findings they uncovered, they found that women need a higher degree of homophily (aka social sameness) than men do when networking with men in their field. As in, women need to be seen as similar to the man they are talking to in order for social attachments to form.  Unfortunately, this “one of the guys” feel is confirmed through statements of attachment erasure.  

Men, on the other hand, do not need need to establish similarity through others to affirm their attachments in the workplace, and can instead assert their sameness through personal characteristics such as similar goals, activities, or achievements.

A 2016 article by Susan Durbin explains that mentor relationships that involved at least one woman were only reported to form between those who already had common social connections, often initiated through a statement of attachment erasure.

This might look like:

“Oh, you’re Linda’s cousin!”

“Hey, did you work for Tom over at Company Inc.?”

Men, on the other hand, were able to create mentoring relationships via activities and hobbies both internal and external to the workplace.

That might look like:

“Hey, did you also go to Expensive University?”

“Were you the guy who gave that presentation at that conference last week?”

You get the picture.

So, what does this mean for women? Women must focus especially on their social credentials, and not their personal credentials, to boost their networking abilities. The semi-unfortunate truth is that who they know may be more important than what they know. In order to regain their autonomy, women must establish personal similarities (or what the research calls attachments) instead of social attachments through other people.

We can all help close this attachment gap by referring to people of all genders using their personal characteristics, instead of their social connections.
Bega said it best: you “must stay deep, ‘cuz talk is cheap.”

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