The workplace remains one of the most problematic areas for women in term of inequality. Discrimination still continues to exist, even in first world countries like the United States. As discussed in a previous article, many companies still favour employing men (partly because women are the ones who have babies and are usually the primary care-givers) and certainly top management is dominated by men, with only 15% of women worldwide holding directorships and only 5% serving as the CEO of a company. This on-going preference given to men was highlighted in a recent experiment in America. Here are the details:
A resume of a fictitious person was sent to a selection of 147 college professors at 6 major research universities. The professors were asked to rate this resumé as part of a study. The ‘candidate’ was a recent graduate who was seeking a position as a laboratory manager. All professors received the same one-page summary which portrayed a promising candidate, but not someone outstanding. The only difference? – on half of the resumes, the mythical candidate was called John; on the other half the candidate was named Jennifer.
- On a scale of 1 to 7 (with 7 being the highest) professors gave John an average score of 4 for competence and Jennifer 3.3
- John was seen more favourably as someone they might hire for their laboratories or would be willing to mentor
- The average starting salary offered to Jennifer was $26,508. To John it was $30,328.
Some people claim that the problem of discrimination has gone away – but it very clearly hasn’t. What is even more surprising was that the professors tested were a mixture of men and women – the biased evaluation was no different depending on whether a man or a woman was making the assessment. It is perhaps understandable that men would discriminate, but why would this be true of women?
Women discriminating against women
The fact that women still consider themselves inferior in many cases should come as no surprise. This is the result of centuries of conditioning. Even Aristotle advised that: “Woman may be said to be an inferior man.” When women succeed in business they most often tend to try to emulate men. They then believe that they have somehow ‘risen above’ the normal woman, and so still tend to discriminate against other women who haven’t displayed enough masculine tendencies. And so the cycle is perpetuated with women themselves believing that they are less competent than men.
Over the years, psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that both sexes consistently value men more highly than women. Characteristics considered male are usually praised: those considered female are usually criticized. In 1957 A.C. Sheriffs and J.P. McKee noted that “women are regarded as guilty of snobbery and irrational and unpleasant emotionality.” Consistent with this report, E.G. French and G.S. Lesser found in 1964 that “women who value intellectual attainment feel they must reject the woman’s role” – intellectual accomplishment apparently being considered, even among intellectual women, a masculine preserve.”
And yet, here are some amazing facts:
- Companies that employ more women in upper level management are more profitable than those that rely heavily on male talent to run their businesses.
- Men may naturally be more prone to risk taking and competition (thanks to the hormone testosterone), but women are better collaborators and better at achieving long-term results.
- Not only should women receive fair pay because they deserve it, but because it would be good for the economy in general (see a future article on poverty reduction).
- In practically every leadership survey conducted, women outstrip men in the qualities required to be most effective.
Looking at these interesting truths will be the subject of tomorrow’s article.