Sunday, January 25, 2015

Women at Work

According to the Economist, Americans believe that women are just as competent as men and that they are equally effective leaders.

The magazine reports:

IN 2015 the promise of gender equality seems closer than ever. A new report by the Pew Research Centre shows that the majority of Americans think women are just as capable of being good political and business leaders as men. They are perceived as indistinguishable from their male peers when it comes to leadership qualities such as intelligence and capacity for innovation. On other qualities—honesty, fairness, compassion and willingness to compromise—many Americans actually judge women as superior.

At first glance, it seems that more and more people have learned the politically correct way to answer survey questions.

None of this considers what choices women would make in living their lives. It does not consider the price that a woman will pay in her personal life if she ascends the corporate hierarchy.

The Economist continues to say that it is thrilled to see “the success of Hillary Clinton.” In truth, no one has been able to explain what precisely she has achieved. It makes more sense to say that her stewardship of American foreign policy was catastrophic. Unless you think that the Arab Spring, the Russian reset, leading from behind in Libya and Benghazi were great successes, the Economist is trafficking in propaganda, not objective evaluation.

Let’s not forget that Mrs. Clinton owes nearly all of her titles to her last name. Besides, how many young women would want her political influence if it meant also having her marriage?

The propagandists will never be satisfied until there are equal numbers of women throughout corporate America, but they do not ask what this would do to women’s lives or to corporate profits.

Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg are convinced that women-run enterprises are better than man-run enterprises, but apparently there are very, very few of them, so we do not know what would happen if all enterprises had an equal number of men and women. And we do not know what would happen to America’s children if they received less maternal attention? If both men and women divided their time between home and work then neither group would really excel in either place.

In a competitive marketplace the man who goes home to do the dishes will most likely lose out to the man whose wife takes charge of the home front. And, the woman who refuses to take responsibility for her home might very well find her marriage threatened by another woman who whispers in her husband's ear one day: If you were my husband, I would never let you change a diaper.

These points seem self-evident. And yet, the Economist blissfully ignores them.

It prefers to live in a world of appearances and prejudices:

According to Pew, the problem is that women still have to do more than men to prove themselves. This finding suggests a troubling assumption—that we still don’t expect women to be able to do what men can do. We allow that it’s possible, but our baseline expectations are that men are more capable. This puts women in the position of having to go above and beyond the standards to which men are held in order to demonstrate their competence.

A pollster might suggest that if survey participants offer two contradictory answers on similar questions, they are hiding their true feelings. While everyone knows to tell pollsters that men and women are equally competent in the workplace, they know from experience that such is not exactly the case.

For example, the polls and the magazine do not explain why most women would rather have male bosses. Is it because they have not seen enough sit-coms with women in charge?

However much everyone thinks men and women are the same, the Economist opines, poll results suggests underlying prejudices:

Research has found that pregnant women are perceived as “less authoritative and more irrational, regardless of their actual performance”. Mothers are often seen as less committed to work than non-mothers. Fathers, meanwhile, are not only viewed as equally competent as men without children, but also significantly more committed to work. As a result, while mothers are often penalised for their family commitments, fathers tend to be “recommended for management training more than men without children.” Researchers describe this phenomenon as a “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood bonus”. And this is without considering some of the complications of parental leave and child care, which disproportionately affect female workers.

Do you believe that a pregnant woman is more or less authoritative?

As it happens, the Economist is contradicting itself. If a pregnant leader is perceived to be less authoritative, then her ability to lead will surely suffer.

You may have noticed, as the Economist hasn’t, that most men and even most women are instinctively driven to protect pregnant women. There are good biological reasons why people do so. They consider pregnancy to be an incapacitating condition and believe that a pregnant woman is more vulnerable. They behave accordingly.

Is the author of this column suggesting that we should cease to provide special consideration and special protection for pregnant women, thus, to let them fend for themselves?

If pregnancy and childbirth were merely ginned up by the patriarchy to keep women out of the boardroom, this assumes that women want to spend less time with their children, even to abandon them to others, in order to occupy a precious seat in the boardroom.

If we are not going to abolish the special consideration that defines maternity leave should we now force men to take paternity leave? Do you think that women would be happy to abandon a helpless infant in order to put in some extra time on that marketing plan? If paternity leave is not mandatory then most men will quickly understand that spending more time on the job and giving more attention to it will give them a competitive advantage over women employees.

And this without even mentioning the point of my previous post: that women have been shown to be more emotionally sensitive than men. This might mean that women are more suited to care for young children.

Unfortunately, and to my surprise, the Economist has no interest in reality. It does not care whether the way people see men and women might have something to do with reality.

More than anything, it believes in appearances. One should note that the belief in appearances and the failure to get in touch with reality is characteristic of Platonic thought.

The magazine is puzzled because so many of those who have been indoctrinated in feminist thinking still refuse to act accordingly. Apparently, reality is more recalcitrant than it imagines.

For all we know, gender disparity is not really a problem. It is only a problem when judged against someone’s ideology.

The Economist thinks it’s a problem and doesn’t want to abandon the ideology. So it explains away the failure to live the ideology by noting that we are not living the idea because we do not see enough women leaders. It sees the problem lying in appearances.

On might note that when Congress investigated the botched Obamacare rollout a couple of years ago nearly all of those in leadership positions were women.

You can say that sexism prevented them from doing a better job, but this draws you dangerously close to saying that women are never responsible for doing a bad job.

Strangely, the magazine suggests that it’s a uniquely American problem. Actually, it’s human history with a few conspicuous exceptions that has failed to live up to its ideology:

Viscerally, Americans resist letting femininity and power go hand-in-hand; a female leader still strikes us as unnatural on an emotional level. At the end of the day, we simply lack enough compelling models for what female power should look like. This should change as more women manage to break into leadership roles. Soon, perhaps, a powerful woman won’t appear threatening or aspirational, but simply normal.

Compelling models of female power—like Hillary Clinton.

But, how many of the women who emulate Hillary Clinton or who want to rise up the corporate hierarchy are interested in enhancing their “femininity.” Didn’t Betty Friedan teach women that femininity is the road to victimhood?

One must note that the magazine does not mention the name of the greatest female political leader in British history: Margaret Thatcher.

Could it be because Thatcher understood herself to be an anomaly? A happy anomaly, of course, but one who found that her ability to lead was enhanced by her surrounding herself entirely with men.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"On other qualities—honesty, fairness, compassion and willingness to compromise—many Americans actually judge women as superior."

How many?

As I've noted here before, my unscientific qualitative research over the last 20 years says otherwise. Since we're making a sexist argument in favor of equality, I think it would be wise to ask women if they'd like to work for a woman or a man. The vast majority I've spoken with want to work for a man, and political correctness buries this. When I ask these women why, it's very clear: most women in positions of corporate authority are duplicitous, petty, ruthless and bossy. Notwithstanding Sheryl Sandberg's distaste for the "bossy" monicker, I find it interesting that most of the conversations I've had on this subject are the exact opposite of what is reported here.

Now, I am more traditional about things, but am able to Work effectively with female clients, colleagues and superiors, thank you. But if I talked to and behaved the same with women as I do with men, I'd probably be dead. Social flexibility is an art form, but biology and socialization are largely fixed. Men are men, and women are women. Good luck changing that. We can make pretend--as elites have for the past 50 years--but it doesn't work very well.

This does not mean that men aren't rascals in the business world, but that's to be expected. I would love to treat women as my equal in the corporate world, but I would do so at my own peril. Most professional women I know say they want to be treated equally, but also like the privileges and prerogatives women enjoy (when it suits them, of course). This is understandable, and I'm not going to treat a woman the way I would treat a man because I view it as uncivilized, crude, and undignified. If that makes me an unscrupulous lout, then so be it. But women working with and for women is a dodgy dance, indeed. The way they snicker and complain about the other women is simply astounding... and the profit motive offered by a business setting offers no sanctuary at all. In fact, it seems somewhat worse. They engage in cruel gossip, sabotage and subterfuge, pretend to be best friends with them 20 seconds later. If that's just what women/girls do, then that's fine. I accept that. But pardon me while I question the veracity of this tripe from the Economist. I discern little advantage in "honesty, fairness, compassion, and willingness to compromise." It's part of the human condition.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

As for the comment "Americans resist letting femininity and power go hand-in-hand," can we not at least acknowledge that femininity IS power? My goodness, what is a greater power than the ability to create, give and nurture life? If some women don't want this power or eschew it, that's fine, but theirs is a choice. The world needn't universally celebrate their desire to become corporate tycoonas as though it's every little girl's primary life mission. We cannot conduct sound social relations by treating every minority as though it's the majority. Or, worse, that it should be... which I suspect is the real point of the article. Women are different, have different capacities, capabilities and bearing. This is all lovely and is best honored. This craze about "equality" leads people to lose their marbles and leaves many women feeling dishonored, unappreciated and marginalized. They're women, and would like to be treated as women. Imagine that.

Be careful what you wish for... you just might get it. It's hard to be someone you're not. The idea that behind every little orphan Annie and Susie Q is the next Sheryl Sandberg or Hillary Clinton is a patently absurd projection. If Annie and Susie want to run a place like Facebook, so be it. But there is no need to reorganize the entire social structure so they can do it. It's silly, inefficient and carries great social risks. There are many more women who choose to lead satisfying lives on paths other than the one to the C-suite or Pennsylvania Avenue. What about them? There are a lot of them.

Kaiser Derden (aka TDL) said...

11 years in the Navy and now 28 years in Corporate America and I can tell you that if I have to compete for a position or promotion I'd much rather go up against a woman ... its not even a close call ... I'll always beat them out because they mostly have bought into the PC nonsense that I'm "threatened" by a "strong" woman or that they are the "sensitive" ones ... they are handicapped into thinking they know my weakness and their supposed strength ...

zbignu said...

Hillary Clintons' singular accomplishment has been her ability to consistently fail upwards.

Dennis said...


The easiest way to challenge someone is to go after their supposed strengths. There lies their biggest disadvantage. Not liking to play politics does not mean I don't know how to play politics.
I would suggest that there is a big difference between emotion and sensitivity. Sensitivity can be part of emotion, but sensitivity stands on its own.
I would also posit that men are probably more sensitive than women, but its is balanced against logic and rational thought. It is why men write poems, books, compose music, paint, create a large number of the things that advance our status as human beings. Besides a beautiful woman men have created the vast majority of beauty that exists in this world even by our recognition of nature and even natural law. Take away men's sensitivity to life and there would be little that would have been created. We would still be barbarians incapable of true growth.
In fact I would suggest that in our desire to be sensitive and love our wives we created all kinds of work saving devices to lighten the load on them. So much so that we essentially took away their contribution to the family. Our sensitivity to women failed to see that fact and in many ways led to the unhappiness of women. Instead of of being sensitive to our desire to make their lives easy they felt oppressed. The road to HELL is paved with good intentions.
We all desire to feel that we are an equal contributing member to a family unit, group, et al. No matter the desire to improve women's lives it still has to maintain an equilibrium.
Ultimately the balance between sensitivity and logic is what makes life worth living. said...

Come on Stuart, tell everyone why there will always be and why there needs to be a glass ceiling. I certainly don't know Lacan like you do, but I did get that part and certainly saw that as I raised my two sons! Oh, and btw, now that I am a widow-empty nester type, I have for the first time control of the remote! How phallic is that?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think women are happier today with their economic equality, ease of divorce, or "reproductive freedom"? Anyone?

Dennis said...

Anon 126511,

I have always wondered why women seem to be progressively unhappy despite the fact that in this country they have far more opportunity than other women throughout the world and a significant number of men. I am beginning to believe that it comes from the "princess attitude" that is resident in most young women from birth.
In a test where babies were dressed in a manner that was meant to hide or emphasize the sex implied women always talked to and treated what they thought were females babies far more than they did those they thought were male babies. If in fact women have the most affect on what a child learns in the first years of their lives girls start with a true understanding that they are special whereas boys are placed at some disadvantage when it comes to a closeness to those very mothers.
One can see this when they look at family pictures where both a male and female children are a part. The little girl will, almost always, be in the center and the little boy will be off to the side. It furthers manifests itself in the fact that when boys are playing together there is always the little girl who wants to play and sooner than later the boys relent. The first thing that happens is the little girl wants to change the rules of the game. Does any of this sound familiar in later life? They not only did not bring the ball they now want to take it home with them.
This is where many a young boy begins to try to exclude girls because they cannot seem to grasp that they need to be part of the team instead of changing the rules and then telling everybody what they should do. This is true of almost every feminist example one sees in corporate and or government in America.
One of the reasons a supposed glass ceiling" is that women create it by not wanting to be part of the team and do what it takes to be a functioning part of a team. The "princess" always exhibits itself. It is why we get the question of "What do women want?" instead of what is required to have a functioning relationship, business, et al? Vote for me because I am a woman. Few women will give what they expect from others.
Life is based on the give and take and dare I say the respect of the inherent qualities of both sexes. Something I see very little out of most women. Women are self limiting, but in most cases will never recognize it for it is they who are their own worst enemy.