It’s a myth that the gender wage gap exists because women are not as competitive as men. A recent McKinsey study found that women negotiate as often as men for promotions and raises, a form of competition, but they receive more negative feedback when they do. Coren Apicella and Johanna Mollerstrom’s new research, published in the New York Times, shows that while women and men do sometimes compete differently, women can be just as competitive as men.
Strategic Relationships at Work: Creating Your Circle of Mentors, Sponsors, and Peers for Success in Business and Life—A Book Review
Wendy Murphy and Kathy E. Kram have written an important book about why we all need developmental support networks for both career success and personal well-being—and how to develop those networks. The book is practical and easy to read, with lots of research-based examples and tips. Reflection activities at the end of each chapter encourage the reader to apply the concepts immediately to her own career and life.
What I found most interesting were these points about mentoring that I had not considered:
A friend and colleague, whom we will call Martha, recently voluntarily resigned from her new job because she felt disrespected and disliked by her new woman boss, who hired her. Martha is a senior human resources (HR) professional who, after a long and successful career in large multinational businesses, decided to move her career within a sector more aligned with her values. She was excited to be hired as the number two leader in the HR department of a respected academic community, but one year later she chose to leave. She explained that she simply could not continue to work for a leader who did not seem able to connect with her, acknowledge her work, show any warmth or caring toward her as a person, or give her performance feedback of any kind, and who discouraged teamwork as well. In short, Martha’s new boss lacked emotional intelligence (EQ).
I recently met a woman from India while we both waited for a train. The first question she asked me was, “Why have you never elected a woman leader in the United States, as we have done in India?” All I could say was, “That’s a good question.” She went on to ask, “Do you think Hillary Clinton will win the election this time? Is the United States ready yet for a woman leader?” I truthfully answered, “I really don’t feel confident that we are ready. The facts are not very encouraging—and I hope I’m wrong.”
While criticism from supervisors can be uncomfortable for both women and men, a new study reported by Tara Mohr in the New York Times shows that women have more need to be prepared to handle negative feedback. The study, conducted by Kieran Snyder for Fortune.com found that female employees were given more negative performance reviews than their male counterparts by both male and female managers. The nail in the coffin, though, is that this study also found that “76 percent of the negative feedback given to women included some kind of personality criticism, such as comments that the woman was ‘abrasive,’ or ‘judgmental,’ or ‘strident.’ Only 2 percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.”
In a recent New York Times article, Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg shared this brain teaser: A father and a son are in a car accident. The father is killed, and the son is seriously injured. The son is taken to the hospital where the surgeon says, “I cannot operate, because this boy is my son.” I confess that I felt stumped, but I could have kicked myself when I read on and saw the answer. Once again, I caught myself, in spite of all the work I have done on challenging gender stereotypes in myself and others, assuming the surgeon was a man—one of those enduring stereotypes about which gender belongs in a role. The doctor in this story was a woman, and the mother of the victim. This is a humbling reminder of how deeply embedded and unconscious the stereotypes we carry in us can be. Grant and Sandberg report that 40 to 75 percent of people today still can’t figure out the brain teaser above.
Many women believe if they put their heads down and work hard, producing excellent results, their value to their organization will be recognized, and they will be promoted. Yet both the experience of my clients and recent research show otherwise. Research conducted by Catalyst on 4,000 full-time employed women and men identified as “high potentials” found that women with the same education as their male counterparts, hired at the same time in the same roles, reported significantly less income, job satisfaction, and advancement within a few years of beginning their careers.
I was surprised to learn recently that the number of women in computer science has dropped off steeply in the last twenty years, while the technology industry has grown dramatically, and technology companies are complaining that they cannot find enough workers. Here are some interesting facts:
- In 1985, women made up 37 percent of undergraduates majoring in computer sciences. In 2012, less than 18 percent were women, according to the National Science Foundation.
- In 1990, 34 percent of those employed in computer occupations were women. By 2011, 27 percent were women, according to the US Census Bureau.
Recently a female coaching client, Gladys, who is a manager in a large government agency, came to me with a problem:
I really like one of the women I supervise, and we have become friends. We’ve started socializing outside of work, and I really enjoy her company. Lately she has been coming in late and leaving early. I feel she is taking advantage of our friendship, but it is awkward for me. I don’t know what to say or how to say it. I am really uncomfortable with confrontation, and I don’t want to damage our friendship. What should I do?
A recent Gallup survey confirmed that both women and men prefer a male boss. While the percentage who prefer a female boss has increased since 1953 when Gallup began asking this question, women would still choose a male (40 percent) over a female (27 percent) boss by a 13-percent margin. If almost half of the women in the workforce do not want to be led by women, this could pose a significant challenge for us as female leaders.