What’s wrong with being confident?

By Joey Konrad

When you think about your getting your first job, do you often ask yourself what’s next? You know, what’s involved in creating an actual career?

There’s a wide variety of resources available when it comes to the conversation of job interviews and getting started in a career, but there is simply a much smaller discussion out there for negotiating salaries or promotions within your career field, which is just as vital to your career progress.

Besides lack of experience with this discussion, women at work have an additional hurdle of overcoming gender barriers that have employers promoting women by performance, while those same employers are promoting male coworkers based on potential.

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The good news is these barriers are not immovable objects, and can be worked around with a little practice. In 2013, Anett Grant and Amanda Taylor video-recorded interviews of men and women in leadership positions within Fortune 50 companies, and generated a list of strategies for women use to resist sexist attitudes or self-doubt in the workplace and promotional conversations.

They found  that women  constantly self-regulate when talking about their potential and their ideas.  As a result, they hesitate in interviews when responding to questions, which can signal lack of confidence. The men studied would also hesitate—but for less time, and responded confidently to questions asked. Grant and Taylor recommend that women should work on shutting off that regulating voice in their heads, and start responses strong and confident, even at the expense of using “filler words”. Additionally, structuring answers and practicing responses beforehand helps to quiet that regulating voice so you can truly speak your mind.

Grant and Taylor also noted that there was a gender gap in keeping responses succinct. Women would often have longer responses because of multiple hesitations and be perceived as less direct. In fact, on average, women’s answers were longer by almost 30 seconds. The researchers point out that’s enough time for Usain Bolt to win gold in the 100 meter dash—twice.

Further, the researchers argued that women discuss achievement and personal success in abstract terms, which isn’t helpful when communicating with higher-ups that are familiar with traditional promotional language. Taking careful note about the work you have contributed, or creating explicit lists of projects and statistical impacts (i.e. monetary gains) to take credit for provides a much more effective response.

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Lastly, through this study Grant and Taylor found that communication styles between genders were different.  Men were significantly more likely to use first-person nouns like “I” when discussing achievements, while women often used nondescript pronouns like “we.” Using  “I”, “my”, and “mines” show your actual contributions much more effectively.

Does this seem a little overwhelming? You’re not alone. Try making these changes in everyday speech so that you can avoid having to filter them out in a job interview or when asking for a promotion, which would only create more hesitations in your speech.

Self-promotion is not a random ability that some people have while others are just out of luck; it is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and deployed successfully. Beyond the strategies here, look to InformHer staff writer Rebekah Peterson’s article on modesty for more tips!

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.

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.

The Leadership Double Duty: Being woman, becoming CEO

By Rebekah Peterson

Beyoncé knows “who run the world? Girls!”

Well, if Beyoncé declared it, then why hasn’t the business world caught on yet?

Only 14.2% of the top leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women.

What’s worse? Out of those 500 companies, there are only 24 female CEOs.

The good news? Companies that sustain a high representation of women board members significantly outperform companies with few or no women board members, according to a 2011 Catalyst analysis.

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Point: Having women in leadership pays off. Literally.

In fact, there is research that proves women’s leadership is more effective than men’s. In a 2003 analysis of existing research, van Engen, Eagly, and Johannesen-Schmidt found that transformational leadership is the most effective for managing. This type of leadership inspires employees to go beyond the call of duty, foster creative solutions, serve as mentors, and articulate plans for achieving a vision. As shown in the analyses, women exceed men on overall transformational leadership, which leads to more effective styles.

In 2011 those same researchers teamed up with Claartje Vinkenburg to analyze questionnaire responses from 271 men and women participants who had considerable management experience and assessed their beliefs about leadership. They found that people perceive women as having effective leadership.

AKA, women demonstrate effective leadership, get stuff done, and people know it. So, why aren’t they reaching the highest level of management?

Well, in the second part of Vinkenburg et al’s study, they analyzed questionnaire results from 514 men and women participants who had considerable management experience to assess how they believe men or women should lead. They found “inspirational motivation” style, which is when one rallies optimism and excitement about goals or future states, was deemed a less important “should” for women.

Here is where the damage is done: While we don’t look to women for inspirational motivation,  Inspirational motivation is most correlated with promotions to senior level management, especially CEO.

Tricky how that works. Right?

Inspirational motivation was perceived as the most important for a male manager to receive a promotion to senior management. So, if a male manager is seeking a higher level promotion he should adopt this style to increase his chance.

…Women have to do double duty:

The research suggests that women managers who want higher level promotions must combine inspiration motivation and a style called “individualized consideration”—a leadership style that emphasizes developing and mentoring followers and attending to individual needs.

Why?

Women must show their leadership style is congruent with senior level management (AKA inspirational), but must also use individualized consideration because this is congruent with female gender roles as caretakers. In other words, women must combine leadership styles that correlate with the most common white male CEO, but also display leadership style that fits the stereotype of female roles to mitigate backlash.

Although reaching the top is not easy for anyone, or fair for women, knowing what leadership styles to combine can help get you that promotion. Be your team and employee’s motivator, while also reaching out as a mentor to them.whorunthe

Now get out there and prove Beyoncé right.

We can run the world… Next stop: CEO