American Horror Story: Earning more money than your husband

By Erika Harrington

Lions, tigers, and high-earning women! Oh, my!

Framing a situation where a woman makes more than her husband as a marriage-dooming horror story is nothing new. From family to friends to tv shows, we’re constantly told that if we ever find ourselves making more money than our partner, we’ll be welcoming a host of problems into the relationship.

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Now you’re probably wondering, do you have to choose between a fulfilling marriage and a fat paycheck?

Not quite. Don’t let this myth crush your hopes of a decent future, and allow me to ease your stress. I’m happy to report that these fears, instilled in you by society and the media, are just as real as the boogeyman.  (Assuming, of course, that you don’t believe in the boogeyman. You do know he’s not real, right?)

According to Gregory Eirich and Joan Robinson, there is no evidence that the wife being the higher-earning spouse has any effect on financial satisfaction and marital stress [in the context of a heterosexual relationship]. Although some marriages may face finance-related strains, Eirich and Robinson report that those strains have little to do with who makes more money.

Amazing. Who would have ever imagined that which person makes the most money does not actually matter in the relationship? Oh but wait, because the best is yet to come.

giphyThe best part about this study was the finding that at the end of the day, what really matters isn’t who makes more money, but how much money a couple makes combined. It turns out that no one really cares who’s picking up the bill for a five-star dinner, or whose credit card the tropical vacation gets charged to. The only thing that matters is actually eating that steak and laying on that beach. The moral of the story: Marital strife is influenced by how much money a couple makes combined—not by who is making it.

Revolutionary.

With that said, this wouldn’t be a proper InformHer post without reminding you that a problem still persists. If people don’t really get divorced because the wife is bringing home all the bread, then why are we talking about it? Sadly, even though a woman out-earning her husband isn’t the life ruining issue that so many American dramas say it is, this myth can still impact the important professional decisions of many women. Further, it can have an impact on the egos of some men. The idea that each spouse has certain marital roles to fulfill and that a woman should be afraid of being more successful than her partner can seriously alter a woman’s intended career path.

So let’s use this research as a guide to closing the gender gap, and to shoot down any excuses keeping women from the top. It’s time to readdress our priorities, and start putting a possible beach house and a new Mercedes over an overly protected male ego.

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.

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.

Hair we go again…

By Erika Harrington

Let’s talk about the sassiest nonverbal. Let’s talk about the act done by the tallest of runway models to the smallest of cute toddlers. Let’s talk about the hair flip.

Well actually, let’s talk about hair in the workplace.

It’s no surprise that when we talk about getting a job, we talk about appearance. Self-presentation is definitely important. But where do professional standards come from? One answer to this question might be policy. Legal scholar, Angela Onwuachi Willig, analyzed cases in which women’s hair was the bases for reprimand. And who were the women that were most likely to be involved in these cases? You guessed it– African American women.

A quick google search of ideal workplace hairstyles, and what kind of results do you see? Straight hair worn down and tucked behind your ears, an organized bun, or relaxed but well-managed curls. All suitable options for the hardworking woman—well, the hard working white woman at least.

Willig’s study addresses Title IX, explaining that discrimination goes further than a woman’s right to not wear makeup. Our workplaces are not only plagued with gendered norms, they’re plagued with gender norms typically associated with white women. What is the company policy on dreadlocks? Afros? Kinky curls that can only be held down after a draining battle with blood, sweat, tears, and tons of product? Pressure to conform to these appearance policies is the exact burden that Willig describes, and the exact burden that violates the rights upheld by Title IX. This pressure is too real because to resist it is to welcome career-impacting consequences. The result: an average work day that begins at 7:15 am with fine tooth comb and a hot iron. Why do we look at braids with disdain? Braids! A style we spent a large chunk of our adolescence styling on our Barbie dolls.

This is unacceptable. Keeping our hair down is literally keeping us down. Why are we focusing so much time and energy on hair, instead of focusing on killing the next sales presentation? Why are these expressions of individualism and culture being stifled? This doesn’t only apply to black women– although if you’ve never had to run away from your mom as she tried to hot comb your relentless curls, consider yourself lucky. It applies anybody who’s putting in extra effort to uphold standards that are completely unrelated to their actual work performance.

Fortunately, there are ways we can begin to address this problem. For starters, let’s shift the emphasis on producing, not primping. If there are specific policies in your organization that address appearance, check to make sure that they’re inclusive to women of all races and ethnicities. If you’re an employee and you encounter a disagreement with a higher-up about what constitutes “extreme” or “unkempt” hair, understand that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Manual on Race Discrimination is on your side. Speak with your organization’s human resources department or coordinator and keep a detailed record of all pertinent conversations.

say enough. And if you’re like me, and love looking into a crowd of people and seeing heads of diversity, then tell the world you’ve had enough too. Say it loud, say it proud: a woman’s hair, afro or otherwise, has nothing to do with her professional competence.

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.

What makes the Red Woman unemployed?

By Ellie Miller

In 2010, when Peter Pan peanut butter was recalled, I wasn’t surprised. Peter Pan always makes me sick. Not because of fake ingredients and preservatives, but for the racism that it spouts in the movie’s infamous “What made the Red Man red?” scene. In your list of greatest Disney memories, this song probably falls pretty low. And I’d say that’s a good thing.  In this short scene, Disney captured the stereotypes that millions of Americans held about Native people. Natives were portrayed as overly sexual, stupid, and lazy. Decades later, these stereotypes still exist, one of the more prominent being the stereotype of laziness. Needless to say, that has not been very good for Native women in the workplace.

According to The American Association of University Women, in 2015, Native women made only 59 cents for every dollar a white man made. Once you pick your jaw up off the table at the shock of these numbers (I know that’s exactly what I did), you may be thinking, “I thought women make 77 cents for the male dollar.” You would be right- but that’s only if you look at white women. The severe racial discrimination that Native women experience in the workplace compared to any other groups highlights the ways racist ideas of laziness, drunkenness, and promiscuity consistently create unsafe spaces for Native women to work.

These numbers aren’t new, however. Nancy Shoemaker, in her book Negotiators of change: Historical perspectives on Native American women, explains how historically Native women have been given the lowest paid jobs. This trend stems from change resistant belief that Native people are unable to effectively participate in society.

This leads me to the thing we really need to know: These power imbalances and pay gaps didn’t happen by accident.

When colonizers first encountered Native people (the ones they mistakenly called Indians),  Native people, who happened to be more advanced than the Romans (and way less dead), were labeled as uncivilized labors with their heads and hands in the mud. The colonizers also ignored the fact that traditional Native societies  valued women’s work, and viewed Native women as protectors and bearers of life.

So in American history, we had a clash of two cultures, one that valued women’s work–more specifically, native women’s work– and one that didn’t.  I’m afraid you know how the story ends.

Sherman Indian School, 1910. Source

In order to make sure that colonizers’ ideas about work won out over native ideas, colonists ensured that the future–that is the youth–only learned colonizers’ ideas of work. They did this by removing kids from their families and culture, and sending them to boarding school. According to J.E. Simenson, in their book Making Home Work: Domesticity and Native American Assimilation in the American West, Native women were specifically taught “female occupations”, like cleaning or milking cows, while men learned industry and management techniques. This distinction set up Native women to only ever be laborers for white society.

In the face of this oppression and disavowal of work, Native women remain resilient. As culture protectors, Native women have been able to use their cultural value passed to them by their ancestors to resurrect aspects of traditional Native work. This matters not only for Native women, but for all women. Because understanding this situation historically makes it clear that our ideas about work and “the way things are” isn’t the way they have always been, and isn’t how they have to be, should be, or will be in the future.

We should know the name of Winona LaDuke who created the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which recovers traditional modes of agriculture and sustainability and reducing toxins from local farms. We should know to buy real Native earrings, not the $15 dreamcatchers hoops from Urban Outfitter- they’re probably the same price, but one supports Native women and the other child slaves in China, so you decide.

Knowing these names and this information reminds us that we can support Native women who assert the value of their ways of living and working, and we can also follow their lead by asserting the values of our own way of living and working.

 

So what made the Red Woman unemployed? Clearly the colonizer. But what made the Red Woman thrive? The answer to that is simply this: Red women.

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.