“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.   

Hi, I’m Billy Mays, It’s Billy Mays, Here, Hi

By Liv Stephens

We all know that guy at work who won’t stop talking about himself. I mean, it’s like dude, how many times can you talk about yourself the way Billy Mays (RIP) talks about OxyClean?

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Beautiful!

Men and women talk about themselves differently at work, it’s true. So it would only make sense that they also talked about themselves differently online on social networking and business networking sites.

In 2012, researchers Eimler, Drapkina, Pfänder, Schliwa and Schawohl restate the long-tested idea that men on social networking services (SNS) emphasize power, occupation or status, and masculinity. Women, on the other hand, stress relationships, communication skills, and feelings. But, these researchers specifically wanted to know if this was also true on business networking services (BNS).

To do this, they looked at 200 BNS profiles on the most popular BNS website in Germany: Xing. They examined 100 male and 100 female profiles quantitatively for number of words, number of contacts, and number of groups they participated in or moderated. The profiles were also analyzed qualitatively for business elements (achievements, descriptions, task-oriented phrasing) and non-business elements (feelings, family and friends, networks, creativity, sports, smiling in the profile photo etc.).

What they found was that women make an effort to appear friendlier by smiling and listed more information about themselves in their profile. Men stressed their seriousness and competence through body language, not smiling in their profile picture, and by using more qualifying adjectives. Men also moderated and participated in more professional groups on the site. There was no difference between men and women when it came to listing awards they had received.

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BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

It’s important to understand that men may be receiving more advertising on BNS sites by being visible as moderators in networking groups and using more qualifying adjectives—but this does not mean that women are actually less qualified. The problem with this is iif an employer is comparing the profile of a man and the profile of a woman, the man will still seem more qualified no matter the actual reality. Crazy!

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Here’s how to order!

So women, get in there and write some text about how frickin’ qualified you are. Don’t be afraid to seem impersonal by claiming the work you’ve done and the leadership skills you have—in the end, that’s what the site is for, and clearly men are already doing 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.

The Fortune 500 Popularity Contest

By Rachel Garretson 

We all know that board numbers are critical to success in basketball (ok, maybe not all of us), but what about numbers on different types of boards? Say…corporate boards? What numbers matter there?  

Bear, Rahman, and Post used data from the Fortune 2009 World’s Most Admired Companies List and the Mergent database of annual reports (as well as various other public sources) to conduct a study on how how diverse members on a corporate advisory board affect a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) score.

Spoiler alert: diversity matters.

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    For those who might need a crash course in CSR ratings (I know I did), they’re a big deal. Good scores attract more job applicants, obviously, since none of us want to work for a company with a bad reputation, and they’re linked with high job satisfaction for current employees—because hey, if all your buddies think the place you work at is awesome, you’re going to feel better about your job and be less likely to start seeking work elsewhere.

    Beyond providing benefits to employees, good CSR ratings enhance corporate image itself, helping organizations grow. It also positively affects ~minor~ things like financial performance, institutional investment, and share price. And further, companies can accumulate it like capital. If companies have a lot of them, they can be used to offset a some of the consequences of any nasty little publicity crises that may happen along. We’re more likely to forgive a mistake by a company we like than a company we already hate.

    So CSR ratings are a big deal for the companies, but why did these researchers care? The bottom line is that they found gender diversity on a company’s board helps increase CSR ratings. For example, women bring different ideas to the table and differing decision-making styles to the table. This benefits the company in general, as almost all successful corporations pride themselves on innovation. Another way women helped out is just that they tend to be more aware of and sensitive to CSR. Since women are more aware of the company’s reputation and how that can affect it, they make more conscientious decisions that take those factors into consideration. In fact, women just being present is a big factor. Not just one token woman too. What our fearless researchers found was that as the percentage of women on the board increased, corporate reputation increased as well.

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Need another reason to expand diversity efforts within your organization, especially by including more women? Now you have it. When boss ladies join the table, everyone else benefits, too.

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.  

High-power humor

By Rachel Garretson

Laughing is good for us. We all know that. It reduces stress, it increases productivity, and it can be used to reduce conflict. These are all reasons to get giggling in life and at work, but we want to introduce you to a few more targeted and lesser-known ways humor is used in the workplace.

Jacqueline Watts conducted a two-pronged study analyzing how women use humor in a male dominated industry like the UK civil engineering profession. The first was an ethnographic study, which is a method that uses long term immersion in a culture to learn more about the beliefs, values and practices of the culture. For the second study, she conducted 31 interviews with U.K. women in various civil engineering positions.

What she focused on was three distinct ways in which women and men use humor in the workplace.

The first way was humor as a tool for resistance. Groups with limited agency like minorities (hint: women!) employed this strategy against dominant power structures. But this can be any group when applied to real-life scenarios.  Watts gives one example of construction workers mimicking the site foremen, or younger employees teasing their older counterparts about technology. This kind of humor lets us challenge inferior status within organizational power structures in an acceptable way, as long as we don’t push too far.

While resistance humor is something all of us use, humor as refuge is something Watts found to be more specific. Refuge humor, almost exclusively used by minorities, was (and is) used to create a safe space, a shared community. It was built upon a common position of relative weakness. In Watts’s study focusing on women in the male dominated engineering sector, female construction workers found comfort in engaging in innocent gossip with the secretarial staff (almost all women). The opportunity to engage in light hearted banter eased the burden of being a minority.

The third type that Watts presents is not so good: humor as exclusion. While women know humor as a tool for exclusion is definitely not an exclusively male trait, Watts found that men used humor to make women a distinct other. This strategy  often challenged women’s professional credibility but are couched as jokes…that it was just “teasing”. The problem is that when these types of jokes are consistently aimed at women, it lumps them together and solidifies a possibly unconscious “us versus them” mentality. This can really wear a woman down. The best coping mechanism is to not internalize it. How?  Maybe strategy #1 and #2 can help.

Sometimes women who experience exclusion take on partial responsibility by saying they aren’t presenting a professional enough image. “It was what I was wearing or how I acted.”Guilty of this? Stop! You know how badass you are. If you don’t, have someone remind you.

Humor is a great tool in the workplace, but don’t let the bad banter get you down. So keep on loling, lmaoing, and rofling. You’ve earned it.

I see London, I see France, I see…

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Me in France in fall of 2016, gracefully walking myself away from all of that gender inequality nonsense.

By Eliana Huffman

I see London, I see France, I see gender inequality all over the darn workplace. Case in point? At one French company in particular that I’m going analyze for you for the next 500 words.

Lady boss researchers Cécile Guillaume and Sophie Pochic interviewed 60 people, of either top management positions or ranked as “top potential”, within a large French company on the issue of women’s ability to access top positions and corporate diversity in general. They combined  interviews with secondary informationHR and workplace statistics provided by the company’s private databasefor analysis.

In short, the researchers confirmed that the glass ceiling is very real; women who worked at the company faced a whole lot of barriers to success that men didn’t. Some of the biggest ones? Promotions later in their tenure with the company than men, little support for employees who chose to raise a family (tackling child care and family work is a role that is usually socially prescribed to women), and being considered less educated for attending liberal arts schools even if the subjects were functionally transferrablefor example, being frowned upon for having a B.A. in Public Relations even if a B.B.A. in Marketing would produce a nearly identical skillset.

Additionally, almost double the amount of women as men in the company were partnered with someone who also worked for the organization. Those women consistently held lower rankings in the organization than their spouse, and did more family work at home. So in the wise words of Billy Rae Cyruswhat to heck? This implied that the organizational climate was more favorable towards men, even plucked from a partnership where both spouses worked full-time professionally, and obviously had the same socioeconomic status.

Now let’s talk about what this means for us. What can we do to stop organizations like this one from hindering women so much? And what is the greater impact that we can have for gender equality long-term?

We can start with paid family leave policies. Paid family leave has been proven to reduce the wage gap, help women be more productive at work, and boost their salaries in the long run.

And with this knowledge, how can men do their part to reduce the wage gap and make the workplace more friendly towards women? Well, easily enough, they can do the laundry, be there to take dinner out of the oven, change diapers or pick up around the house. All of these things reduce the amount of time women have to spend on housework and plus, contributing equally like this might increase men’s own relationship satisfaction and benefit them, too.

We can also vouch for greater HR training to teach recruiters the skill sets that different degrees and institutions of learning bring to the table, and spread information about the financial, and organizational, benefits of having people with great soft skills/feminine communication styles in the office.

So yeah, there’s London…there’s France…and do I see a beaconing horizon of hope over in there in the distance? Yep, that is definitely a beaconing horizon of hope. Let’s figure out how to get a little closer.