Why ‘Flawed’ men outlast ‘Aggressive’ Women: It’s in the language

power poseAggressive. Aloof. A real bitch. There are a litany of derogatory words we use to characterise female leaders. Men are given more ‘wiggle room’ in terms of the behaviours we expect or sanction, but women have less latitude. As discussed in the recent Huffington blog post: This is how we talk about female leaders (Hint: It’s not pretty) , Nic Subtirelu, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University assessed the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) 450 million words of text from magazines, newspapers, fiction and academic text from the last two decades for gender difference in language.

Dismally, women were labelled ’pushy’ twice as frequently as men despite the fact men are mentioned nearly twice as frequently as women overall in the COCA. Subtirelu found men were more likely to be describe as “condescending”; a term which can only be applied to those who are or believe they are in power.  On the other hand, pushy is comparable to being obnoxiously forward or self-assertive. The article details what we see everyday: Hillary Clinton being described as shrill, aloof, ruthless, icy, angry and frumpy; Angela Merkel as ruthless and frumpy.

Jill Abramson was described as pushy, stubborn, brusque and condescending by the media following her untimely removal as the first female executive editor of The New York Times. Her high profile removal was a mirror to that of Amanda Bennett, who was described similarly several years before when editor of the high profile Philadelphia Inquirer. She was ousted after just 3 years in 2006. In a recent opinion piece “Pushed off the Glass Cliff” in the Washington Post, she noted the only thing that had changed in the 7 years between Abramson and her own departure was: ‘Women now feel not only resentful, but also finally, entitled. Entitled to lead…to be paid equally. Entitled to be flawed… and to be fired, but also entitled to point out the obvious fact: Men with even more spectacular and difficult flaws than ours get not only longer tenures but also softer and more dignified landings.’

Incredibly, despite his own evidence, Subtirelu stated in his blog ‘Linguistic Pulse’, he was ‘suspicious of the possibility that these descriptions had an element of gender bias to them’. Why do the media insist on using condescending and gender biased words to describe inspiring, strong females? And how low do we have to sink if the researchers themselves can’t see the biased writing on the wall?

 

How Sweet it is: Working Mums Grew ‘Green and Blacks’

working motherMany of Female Breadwinner’s clients, despite working to improve their gender diversity, find maternity leave to be a big challenge. Interestingly, the progressive men, often those whose wives work as well, notice that working mothers are some of the most conscientious employees. They don’t have time to waste and are incredibly efficient. A coaching client recently explained: ‘I was considered high-potential before I had children, but I’m actually more productive since I’ve had my second son. I just don’t have the hours to be anything else. The irony is that I know I’m no longer considered a rising star!’

Forward thinking employers recognise it’s well worth the effort to retain a long time employee now on maternity leave. Josephine Fairley, Co-founder of the rapidly growing Green and Blacks, points out the advantages in the misleadingly entitled Telegraph article Maternity leave is a nightmare for employers. Fairley explained: “…In my experience, female employees make up for lost time in the wee small hours to get a job done, if that’s what it takes (and without being asked). I had two fantastic single mothers working for me, Cluny and Gail, when I was running Green & Black’s – and my absolute understanding of the tugs on their time turned out to be repaid hundredfold in loyalty, over the years. I’d like to propose to any employer of mothers out there that a shift in attitude might very well deliver the same willingness and fealty.”

If taken up by men more equitably, we anticipate shared parental leave from April 2015 will make young women less suspect as potential employees.

I Do: Removing Wedding Rings as a Career Aid?

MP900409769Even in this day and age; ambitious women sometimes ask me: “I just got married. Do you think this will reduce my chances of securing a new promotion?” I empathise with the question; when I became engaged 10 years ago, I didn’t wear my ring except at the weekends. My employer knew my boyfriend was in the UK and it would have forced questions as to where we were planning to live that I wasn’t ready to answer.

Many working women feel that being married changes the way their employers perceive them; as if they are about to leave to have children or become ‘less committed’ now that there perhaps is another breadwinner on hand.

Clearly, this isn’t a question I’m alone in answering.  A recent survey in the UK on reasons why women remove their wedding rings showed 35% of women regularly remove their wedding or engagement rings at work, believing appearing single increases their chances of getting a job or being promoted. A further third take their rings off when going for a job interview.

The Telegraph commented on the survey, “The research suggests many women worry that employers or prospective employers interpret a wedding ring as ‘about to take time out and start a family’, making her an “unattractive hire”. Men who wear wedding rings, on the other hand, do not face the same fears.” In fact, we often view married men as the most stable and hardest working. After all ‘they have a family to provide for’ – a 21st century reality we overlook for women.

Have you ever hidden or been tempted to hide an impending engagement or marriage by removing a ring?

 

Clinton and Lagarde: Why do their hairstyles continue to make the news?

Hilary ClintonHillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde were recently quizzed about double standards in media coverage of women during the Women in the World Conference, moderated by Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs Columnist, The New York Times. During the discussion both women make sharp points about the persona and societal effect. Clinton said:“The double standard is alive and well. In many respects the media is the principle propagator of its persistence”.

Hillary Clinton referred to an article in which a new employee asked a newspaper column for advice on decorating a senior office. The columnist responded: “I can’t tell from you’re initials whether you’re male or female. A male should put their family pictures in the office, to show everyone they’re a responsible, reliable family man. Whereas a female shouldn’t because they’ll think you won’t be able to concentrate on your work.” Clinton explained: ‘It’s important we talk about them, and help men and women recognise crossover from an individual judgment about somebody, man or woman – into a stereotype, into applying some kind of gender-based characterisation of a person’.

A recent article about the Lord Leveson report in the BBC said powerful women were often absent from the press. When women make the news, the focus is on handbags or hair. Clinton and Lagarde empathised explaining that when Clinton met with a foreign secretary ‘he’d heard when my hair was back, I was delivering unpleasant news’. We can’t help but wonder: why did journalists ever feel the need the need to comment on her hair and what a certain style ‘might mean’.

Media’s coverage of women is often damaging, not only to the individual, but to society as a whole. Lord Justice Leveson’s report criticised the way women are depicted in the newspapers, saying newspapers: “often failed to show consistent respect for the dignity and equality of women”.Throughout the discussion with Friedman, which is available online, we see both women laugh, but, we’re sure the frustration we at Female Breadwinners feel is echoed by Clinton and Lagarde.

 

‘Women economists are cheaper than men’ – Alan Greenspan

equalpay-final_2There have always been canny employers who understand women are an undervalued talent, and subsequently value for money. Alan Greenspan, an American economist, in the 1980s employed mostly female senior staff, and stated:

“I always valued men and women equally, and I found that because others did not, good women economists were cheaper than men. Hiring women does two things: It gives us better-quality work for less money, and it raises the market value of women.’’

As Tuesday 8th April saw the 19th Equal Pay Day. This public awareness event was established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). Tuesday is symbolic of how far into the week a women must work in order to earn the same as her male colleague earned the previous week. It is disappointing that this is still the case today. The intransigent gender pay gap is still an issue and the fact that, in general, women’s pay is lower, does mean they’re a better deal for employers.

It is an unfortunate truism that women will often work for less money than men. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It is a huge injustice that women are still earning on average almost £5,000 a year less than men. This pay gap can add up to hundreds of thousands over the course of a woman’s career”.

The debate around gender diversity is not new but what is new, is the shift in impetus from discussion about the fairness and equality, to the fact that employing women can led to improved performance for organisations.

Numerous studies show that companies can increase profitability from improving the balance of women in their workforce, particularly at the senior levels. Papers such as “Innovation By Design: The Case for Investing in Women” summarise that companies would see advantages to employing women across the board and adopting diverse team dynamics. Advantages such as enhancing organisational performance and the companies reputation; increased innovation and new opportunities to capitalise on exceptional talent.

Taking all this into account, it is true, hiring women can boost the bottom line — they’re cheaper, but more importantly, they will make you money!

Every professional woman has ‘baggage’: What does yours say about you?

If you are a business woman who travels regularly you no doubt have a packing routine designed to save you time. But as a woman who travels to London from Scotland several times a month myself, I recognise the value of light, well-crafted luggage – and well co-ordinated items to go within them. Does your luggage enhance your image or scream ‘bag lady’. I asked Capsule Wardrobes to give me their tips – here’s what they recommend:

  • What does your luggage and travelling outfit say about your brand? Don’t forget from the moment you leave home you are representing yourself, your company and even your country. If you’ll be mixing with colleagues and clients from other countries, it’s essential think through climate (both indoor and out) and preferred dress codes. Always check before packing what your colleagues or clients wear in the office.
  • Buy a set of practical, visible and professional luggage. Business travel requires cabin-friendly cases. Opt for a wheeled case if you have a lot of walking to do either at the airport or from hotel to office. Take a coordinating bag that can hang over the top of the handle with more carrying power – without the extra weight. There are great options by Samsonite, Rimowa and Knomo that go beyond basic black. If I’ll be staying over a weekend, I’ll often take a second bag, so that I can use just one or the other.

business-travel-bags-women

  • Pack a capsule wardrobe. Lugging two or three suitcases for a 5 day trip just isn’t practical. Ruthlessly edit and be as decisive as you have to be at work. For example, when the Capsule Wardrobe team create light capsule wardrobes for clients they often remark that it’s the small details (read: light to carry!) that add style. For example, individual scarves and pieces of jewellery will say more about you than another pair of black trousers. Prioritise crease resistant viscose or silk jersey. You’d be surprised to see just how flexible a travel capsule wardrobe can be. Here’s one which has 12 outfits and fits into a carry-on bag.

business travel capsule wardrobe

  • Check the weather – with the horrendous weather over the last few weeks both here and in the US be prepared with boots and a warm coat that are functional but still smart in snow. Or include a smart trench coat and umbrella. Wear a pair of business appropriate flat shoes (the new pointed flat shape works well with skirts and trousers) to cope with walking long distances both at the airport and just in case there is a transport strike at your destination.

business travel capsule wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobes specialise in executive dressing for the busy professional woman.
What is unique about their service is that they focus on dressing ‘the personality’
of their clients, as well as considering their careers and lifestyles. Founders Maria and Caroline have corporate and retail backgrounds; Maria in IT project management then owning her own boutiques and Caroline with Saatchi, Harrods and House of Fraser. Together they have quite simply dressed hundreds of women and of all shapes and sizes. Find out more at www.capsule-wardrobes.co.uk

 

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