Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant are at it again. They continue to take dead aim at what they call “deeply held gender stereotypes,” the ones that are holding women back from fulfilling their potential as corporate honchos.
Unfortunately, they undermine their own authority never consider the possibility that what they call stereotypes have a basis in reality. Their thinking is ideologically driven, not fact-driven.
Their lesson today— it reads like a sermon worthy of the Church of the Liberal Pieties—is that women are being held back at work because they tend to be called on to do the “office housework,” thus to be more nurturing and communal.
Sandberg and Grant put it this way:
In keeping with deeply held gender stereotypes, we expect men to be ambitious and results-oriented, and women to be nurturing and communal. When a man offers to help, we shower him with praise and rewards. But when a woman helps, we feel less indebted. She’s communal, right? She wants to be a team player. The reverse is also true. When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is “busy”; a woman is “selfish.”
Over and over, after giving identical help, a man was significantly more likely to be recommended for promotions, important projects, raises and bonuses. A woman had to help just to get the same rating as a man who didn’t help.
The evidence piles up:
Not long ago, a female senior executive we know was sitting at a board meeting next to several more junior male colleagues when the board chairman asked her to fetch him a soda.
The Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter observed that women do the lion’s share of “office housework” — administrative tasks that help but don’t pay off.
Someone has to take notes, serve on committees and plan meetings — and just as happens with housework at home, that someone is usually a woman.
Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, finds that professional women in business, law and science are still expected to bring cupcakes, answer phones and take notes. These activities don’t just use valuable time; they also cause women to miss opportunities. The person taking diligent notes in the meeting almost never makes the killer point.
In an analysis of 183 different studies spanning 15 countries and dozens of occupations, women were significantly more likely to feel emotionally exhausted. In their quest to care for others, women often sacrifice themselves. For every 1,000 people at work, 80 more women than men burn out — in large part because they fail to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.
One quotes their column at length because it is the right and fair thing to do.
Step back from the fever swamps of ideology for a moment and ask yourself: why do people expect that women will do more of the office housework? Why, you might ask, do people expect that women will be more nurturing and caring?
Is it caused by deeply held gender stereotypes, or to life experience? Most of the people in these meetings and companies were brought up by mothers who were also women. They had been nurtured and cared for by women. Let’s imagine that these female mothers were wonderfully successful at nurturing their children.
It’s not irrational to associate women with nurturance and with motherhood. What appeared to be a gender stereotype turns out to be reality. Can you wrap your mind around the notion that women are predisposed to nurture children?
A zealot would reply that women are being exploited on the basis of their biology. They should consider that women are moral beings who might believe that they have a duty to nurture their children. They should consider that women might believe that they are better at nurturing than their husbands are. They should consider that women, given a free choice might very choose to spend more time caring for their children.
If you want to deprive them of the choice to do so, on the grounds that they are reinforcing a stereotype, you should say so.
An ideologue would see this division of household and childrearing labor as evidence of a stereotype. Because, when all you have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.
And let’s notice, as has been reported in another study, women whose husbands are more successful tend to do more of the housework. Women whose husbands are less successful do less of the housework.
New York Magazine reported:
When men make less money than their female partners, they tend to do more chores around the home than men who earn more money than their wives or girlfriends, according to a new paper in the journal Work, Employment and Society. But no matter who makes more than whom, women still do the bulk of the housework, reports Clare Lyonette of the Warwick Institute for Employment Research.
Is it better for a man to spend more time doing housework when that will damage his career? Is it better for a man who is less inclined toward nurturance to be enlisted for that task when a woman can do it better? Do you believe that very many women want to leave their children to the gentle ministrations of a gender that has been widely excoriated for its tendency to abuse and molest children?
Those who think that women who nurture their children are reinforcing a stereotype should say so.
Then they can propose solutions. They can recommend that children be brought up by an army of nannies, with perhaps a few mannies thrown in for diversity. Some serious theorists, in their war against the nuclear family, believe that children should be brought up by a village or in a commune or in daycare.
If they are serious about undermining gender stereotypes they should require that mothers NOT stay at home and nurture their children.
If you allow women a free choice between nurturing their children and spending time at the office, many of them will choose the former. In fact, the prevalence of stay-at-home mothers is highest in families that can afford to live on a single income.
If Sandberg is serious about her class struggle against gender stereotypes, she can actively discriminate against men at Facebook. The men who are passed over for promotions will then, logically, be consigned to do more housework and will become more nurturing.
Whether this represents the most efficient and effective division of household labor does not matter to the zealots who are at war against gender stereotypes. Clearly, the zealots believe that this will improve corporate functioning. They need but put it into practice and prove their point.
Considering the power of these “gender stereotypes,” those who want to rid the world of them should start a campaign to shut down all of the magazines and television shows that depict women nurturing children, preparing meals family dinners, making a home for their families and doing anything resembling housework.
Good-bye Rachael Ray and Good Housekeeping. From now on all commercials for household cleaning products and food products must feature cheerful men enjoying their new roles as housewives.
Another great leap forward!