A not-so-bundle-of-joy

By Bronwyn Neal

Imagine this:

You are at the height of your career, you’ve found the love of your life, had your dream wedding, and not too long ago, you brought a little life into the world. You’re at the top of your game and nothing can bring you down. Or so you think. What if I told you that your new little bundle of joy now influences the way your co-workers, bosses and future employers perceive you as a professional? Don’t worry boys, you’re safe. Ladies on the other hand, pay close attention…

Over the past few decades, women have been making their way out of the house and into the workplace, morphing the image of “woman” from housewife to professional. Although this all sounds fine and dandy, women have not made this transition smoothly and are still trying to claim their rightful place in society.

In 2004, researchers Amy Cuddy, Susan Fiske, and Peter Glick conducted a study to find out how professional women are perceived after becoming mothers.

Here’s how: 122 undergraduates of diverse gender read profiles of three consultants who worked at a corporate company and were asked to respond with their first impressions. The profile described either a man or woman, and provided a brief background of their education, job requirements, hobbies, and whether or not they were a parent.

After each description, participants were asked to rate the consultant on 20 traits using a scale of 1 to 7. Of the 20 traits, a handful measured competence and several measured “warmth”-related traits.The rest were “filler” traits, meaning that they did not necessarily factor into what the researchers were trying to study.  

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Although this approach sounds simple, the results they found were anything but.

When reviewing the results, they found that the working mom was perceived significantly more warm, but marginally less competent than working women without children. Men on the other hand, did not differ on competence regardless of if they were a father or a working man without a child. Furthermore, working moms were preferred less than women without children, whereas working fathers were preferred less than a man without children.

There is a lot more than meets the surface with a study like this one.

Women being perceived as warmer after having a child is not absurd (I guess I’ll give them that). What is absurd, is the fact that women are perceived as less competent due to having a child. Correct me if i’m wrong, but I don’t think that bringing a life into the world affects how well a woman can complete a task or do her job for that matter.

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This same accusation becomes even more ridiculous when men receive brownie points for doing what they are expected of them as a father, whereas women have to jump through hoops and bend over backwards in order to get a simple “good job” for going above and beyond what is expected of them. This difference in perception can be explained by  old original gender roles of men and women: breadwinners vs. housewives.

A woman and man have the same job, they both fall in love and have a family. The man is now seen as a great father and the woman, as warmer, motherly. And as for their work ethic? Nothing changed. Why? Because babies don’t affect competency. Point being: we, as a society, shouldn’t let them.  

Balancing Bias

By Jennifer PeeksMease

Is the challenge of balance a hill only women climb?

usatsi_9431971_168381878_lowresFact: tune into any gymnastics competition, and you’ll only find women flipping, turning, and twisting on a strip of wood just 4 inches wide.

Whether you’re on a beam, or at work, it seems the ability to balance is a necessary virtue for any woman who wants to bring home the dough. 

But as we’re sure you, your besties, and Simone and Laurie have clearly demonstrated: women ARE master balancers. We will find a way to get to that charity event, console our friend going through a terrible breakup, hit the gym, read a book (to our kids if we have them), do the laundry, feed the mouths that need to eat, and still find time to make sure our family knows they are loved.

The moral of the story—we’ve got this.  

But I’m afraid there’s more to it than that.  

While you may think you have this work life balance thing down, your boss may not…and that can spell trouble for you.

Jenny Hoobler, Sandy Wayne, and Grace Lemmon of the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a survey of employees and their bosses to assess perceptions of work/life conflict and its effect on promotability.  

As it turns out, women employees actually reported less work life conflict than men who were surveyed, but that didn’t change the fact the bosses were more likely to perceive women employees as having greater work life conflict.  

More importantly, this perception of women’s work life conflict impacted boss’s perception of female employee’s “fit” with the organization and promotable roles, two factors they found to be most important to a boss’s perception of promotability.  (Yep, these two things mattered even more than their perceptions of an employee’s performance.)

Let me recap this for you: If your boss perceives you to have work life conflict, they are less likely to see you as “fit” for promotion.  And, bummer for you ladies, they are more likely to perceive women as having this work life conflict.

But what good does it do us to know this?

First, if you’re a person in the position to promote, check yourself! (And we mean all of you, the sex of bosses in this study didn’t significantly change this bias.)  Don’t let even casual conversations about an employee’s “fit” for a promotion digress into speculation about her obligations outside of work.  

And while we hate to put the burden on women to navigate yet one more hurdle, we encourage you to monitor how you talk about your obligations outside of work.  

Show your love for your family by talking about how wonderfully supportive they are of your career, and how much they help you out at home. (Oh, and don’t waste your time on a partner who isn’t worth bragging about in the first place…but that’s another blog post.)

Finally, make sure you’re managing your relationship with your superiors to position yourself well for promotion, to….balance out….this bias.

Not sure what you can do? Check out some of our other posts on promotion, networking, mentoring, and self-promotion.