Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is Gender Bias Really Real?

Thanks to Forbes and to Kathy Caprino, we now know that gender bias is real. Just as feminists have been saying, we are all sexists. Which means that we need to do penance in order to atone for our sins.

But, what does this really mean? At best, it means that people perceive men and women differently. But, if everyone thought that men and women were exactly the same, wouldn’t that count as a delusional belief. After all, the science is settled, men and women really are different… in significant and not-so-significant ways.

Even feminists insist that an off-color remark made by a man to a woman is not at all the same as an off-color remark made by a man to another man.

The studies in question attempt to prove that gender bias is real by showing that when men and women both assert themselves in a work situation, they are perceived differently. Surely, it is true that men and women are often perceived differently. But, why do we need to call it bias. Perhaps people are responding to differences in tone of voice, appearance, posture and attitude. It is commonly known, even to feminists, that female voice has a higher pitch than the male voice, thus that the male voice, for reasons that we ought not to attribute to the vast right-wing conspiracy, commands more authority and respect.

If you are studying leadership and management ability, you cannot do studies in which no one knows the speaker’s gender.

Of course, you can run experiments where you reduce the importance of perceived gender. In a famous experiment, judges were asked to appraise male and female musicians when they did not know whether the musicians were men or women. The result: they had a higher opinion of women performers when they did not know that the performers were women.

In that case, it seems that gender bias did exist. If a musician's place in an orchestra is merely a function of how well he or she plays, this would be relevant.

One might even note that judgment is based on experience and that judges may have heard, over time, more better male musicians than females. Perhaps there are other reasons. Perhaps women are not as reliable when it comes to showing up for rehearsals and performances. Then again, perhaps orchestra leaders are bigots. Whatever the case, the results cannot apply to situations where women and competing against men for leadership positions.

Kathy Caprino explains:

A new study by New York Times bestselling authors,Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield revealed that gender bias in the workplace is real, finding that women’s perceived competency drops by 35% and their perceived worth falls by $15,088 when they are judged as being “forceful” or “assertive.” Compare this with the drops in competency and worth that men experience when being judged as forceful: their competency drops by 22% and their worth falls by $6,547. This significant difference reveals a true gender bias that prohibits women from succeeding fully in leadership and management roles where assertiveness is, of course, a crucial behavior.

Perhaps I am not reading this correctly, but the study seems to show that being forceful and assertive is generally considered to be a negative, in both men and women. Along with the research comparing introverts and extroverts, as reported here yesterday, this tells us again that people who are more extroverted are considered to be less competent leaders.

Of course, the study seems to have been designed to support Sheryl Sandberg’s advice for women to Lean In. But, it says that when women do so, they are punished more harshly than men who do the same thing.

For all I know, the experiment might be telling us that leaning in is a bad idea and that it is worse for women than for men. To which Caprino and Co. would respond that a good leader must be forceful and assertive. But, as Elizabeth Bernstein noted in her column about introverts, the best leaders are anything but forceful and assertive. Leadership is not an exercise in imposing your will on others.

We must also consider the fact that all of this self-assertion is really macho posturing. Real strength of character, to say nothing of real manliness, is not shown by blustering braggadocio. One must add that, like it or not, men are more naturally suited to macho posturing than are women.

In other words, a man who is acting macho is exaggerating a quality that he probably possesses.. A woman who is acting macho is pretending to be something she is not. A macho man might just turn out to be manly. A woman pretending to be a macho man is not going to turn out to be manly.

When a woman is induced to pretend to be a man, she takes the risk that she will not be perceived as knowing who she is. Moreover, she might even be mistaken for a feminist, thus for someone whose loyalty to her ideology is stronger than her loyalty to her company.

Obviously, the world has known many great women leaders and managers. In some situations they succeed by surrounding themselves with males… thus mitigating the notion that their leadership is coming from a more feminine place.

Margaret Thatcher was firm and decisive, even forceful. And yet, she surrounded herself with men, and went out of her way to show her strength and courage. By being the only woman in the room, Thatcher was able to assert her authority while allowing everyone to think that it had a manly quality.

On the other hand when Hillary Clinton tries to be decisive and forceful it comes across as posturing. But, Hillary has taken a tack that many other women leaders avoid: she surrounds herself with women.  And, we must add, she has notably lacked professional achievements and accomplishments. If we were to judge her on her ability to run a presidential campaign, even with the assistance of Bill Clinton, she seems clearly not to be up to the job.

Still, rather than declaim against gender bias, culture warriors who are really interested in women’s professional advancement would do better to advise women to show that they like being women and to help them to find ways to manage the perception of their relative weakness.

In truth, women are constitutionally weaker than men. In many jobs it does not really matter, but if one is conscious of the fact—who isn’t?—one cannot just turn off the consciousness because it is politically incorrect. Some women leaders have found ways to deal with the situation. They have not done so by denying that they are women. And they have not done so by laying a feminist guilt trip on the world.


Ares Olympus said...

re: In truth, women are constitutionally weaker than men

That's an interesting choice of words, constitutionally?

What does it mean?
3. A person’s physical state with regard to vitality, health, and strength.

So strength is only one of three parts. Are women weaker in vitality and health?

We know that male babies have a higher probability of miscarriage, and infant death, and women live longer, outside of childbirth risks.
Genetic components results in newborn females being biologically advantaged when in comes to surviving their first birthday. Males, biologically, have lower chances of surviving infancy in comparison to female babies.

Males are biologically more vulnerable to infections and conditions associated with prematurity and development. Before 1970, the reasons for male infant mortality were due to infections, and chronic degenerative diseases. However, since 1970, certain cultures emphasizing males has led to a decrease in the infant mortality gap between males and females.

So infant males are more fragile, more vulnerable to disease, but thanks to modern medicine, we have more of them surviving to become fragile boys and men.

We can assume the upper body strength advantage of men will continue, despite the failure of civilization to allow the weak males to die, but these are only averages, but there's still bell curves to consider.

Maybe the nerdy 90 lb weaklings who should have died are not really men by the old standards, but as long as the testosterone inspired bullies eventually get on in life digging their ditches for us all, we'll all get along fine with our unequal "constitutions."

So the next test will see if there is a "testosterone bias". We know women have testosterone also, in lower amounts, but to higher relative effects.

But lastly, I think the purpose of recognizing bias isn't for political correctness, but personal wisdom. Like if men known they act stupid around attractive women, then they should try to compensate for this deficit by various defensive strategies, especially keeping their wallets closed. And if women know they act stupid around testosterone-inflated men, they should make similar allowances in their weak moments.

I've also wondered why most babies are so cute, and it makes sense parental judgment is also biased against their best life decisions, like how much debt to get into for their little pumpkin's future happiness.

priss rules said...

A man hitting a woman is regarded worse than a woman hitting a man. All would agree.

If that is sexism, then I'm all for sexism.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The issue is not bias. Bias is inevitable. We are human beings. We make judgments. It's part of life, whether right or wrong. If we try to police human judgment as an action of the mind, we will get thought control.

The issue is: what are the remedies for bias? Are we to do nothing? Are we supposed to have centralized planning to correct it? Those are the key questions.

If we do nothing, what happens? If we institute bureaucratic regulatory mandates, what happens?

The human condition is real. Man is not perfectible. Life is not perfectible. The temptation is to think it can be. Or the other option is to learn, like orchestras have done by imposing their own blind auditions. The EEOC or OSHA did not come in and tell orchestras they had to do this. They chose to do it, and are ostensibly better for it.

That is the question: is justice to be realized through awareness, leading to better choices and better outcomes? Or is it better that it is imposed by political judgments, legal/regulatory pronouncements and police power?

For enduring, positive social change, I believe choice is the superior option.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

To add one more thing to my comment...

What's driving the deep political and philosophical division in the United States is a belief that we are losing our unique culture. Read any (reputable) guide for foreigners who are going to be traveling to, or living in, America. We have a culture that built this country into a great power, and it is worth preserving and bettering rather than radically transforming. This is true

Here are some examples referencing the USA (and of course this applies to "most" Americans):
- Most diverse nation in the world, built by 500 years of immigration waves
- It is difficult to define the "typical American"
- Americans work hard during the weekday and look forward to weekends, and plan them ahead
- The country is geographically disconnected from most of the world (and why Canada and Mexico are largest trade partners)
- Most Americans are proud of their country, and consider themselves patriots. Do not make fun of the US.
- It is easy to adjust to American society and its people, because of its diversity
- Do not be too personal too soon, as privacy is valued. Don't just show up at a person's home without prior notification.
- Americans have fun and enjoy their free time
- Women and men are active in the business world
- Americans are impatient, but orderly. People are frustrated by queues, but do not try to jump ahead
- If you bump into someone, say "excuse me" or "beg your pardon"
- People will say hello or ask how you're doing, but this should not be taken seriously as an invitation to talk
- Americans do not make racial remarks or prejudicial cultural assumptions aloud
- Life is fast-paced, busy, even hectic. It is all about earning and making money though personal industry.
- People don't want to waste time on anything. Always be punctual. It is very rude to be late for any business appointment.
- America is generally casual in dress, and don't wear a lot of jewelry
- Americans see their country as "the world," and may not have an accurate sense of your country or follow foreign news
- Americans are conspicuously generous, and believe everyone should have the opportunity to succeed

Do we have biases? Sure. Ever lived in another country? They have them, too. It's human. My concern is that this Lefty desire to turn rotten old America into heaven-on-earth will come from government action. It's nonsense. In trying to make everyone's outcomes equal and everyone's dreams possible, we will destroy everything that America is. That's what's at stake.

It's not gender bias that's a problem. Of course it exists, and of course it is real. The question is: What do we do about it? I know I am sick of the do-gooders in government thinking they can regulate us into a just, moral and mindful utopia. They have biases, and don't know any more than anyone else. It would be refreshing if they just had the humility to admit it. This government of ours is too big, and it spends too much... to the point where it spends money it doesn't have.

n.n said...

I have one mommy and one daddy, and so did every other human life. While I was conceived by my mommy and daddy, my mommy carried me for the first 9 months of my life, and my daddy worked to support us. When it became necessary to defend mommy and me against invading alien people, my daddy left our home and joined with other men to act in self-defense. My daddy returned. The child matured. My mommy returned to school and work. The sex bias is intrinsic to human nature, and is the primary determinant of gender.

David Foster said...

"Forceful and assertive"....I think a lot of people got their ideas on executive behavior by watching JR Ewing on Dallas reruns. Most real-life successful executives possess considerable qualities of diplomacy and emotional intelligence.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Agreed... many people get their ideas of executive behavior from Randian novels and reality TV shows, too. See my latest post.