Many of my female coaching clients are told in their performance feedback that they need to be “less emotional” and to “smile more.” This feedback occurs so often that my colleagues and I joke about it when we talk about the unfair feedback that our female clients receive.
I admit that I got nervous when the Trump transition team demanded that the State Department submit details of programs and jobs dedicated to promoting gender equity. Given Donald J. Trump’s history of demeaning and assaulting women and his sexist behavior during the presidential campaign, it seems quite possible that his administration will pursue the elimination of all funding for women’s empowerment programs in the same way they have planned to defund Planned Parenthood, which will deprive poor women of basic healthcare services.
Misogyny is a difficult and important concept to understand if we are to grasp many of the challenges that women face in politics and in the workplace. One source of confusion is that misogyny is actually an umbrella term that encompasses multiple concepts such as sexism, patriarchy, gender-based oppression, and internalized oppression. Both women and men participate in perpetuating the misogynistic attitudes, behaviors, and practices motivated by hatred or distrust of women. Such concepts are largely unconscious in individuals and often institutionalized in the policies and practices of organizations and societal institutions. I wrote about some post-election examples of misogynistic behaviors in a recent article.
Examples of sexism are rampant in the United States as demonstrated in our presidential contest, sexual harassment scandals, and other public-sector examples like the gender-wage gap. Let’s be clear—both women and men can hold sexist attitudes about women. Sexist attitudes usually include negative stereotypes that create barriers or unfair double standards for women. I have written about many ways that internalized sexism makes it difficult for women to support strong women leaders in my book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together. Below are some examples of sexist attitudes currently on display.
According to Donald Trump and others on the right like Rush Limbaugh, Hillary Clinton is playing the “woman card.” What does that really mean? Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times explains that the implications are that women, and in particular Hillary Clinton, have some kind of unearned advantage because they are women. Kristof challenges this assumption with the following facts:
- There has never been a woman president of the United States.
- Only one-fifth of senators, 20 out of 100, are women.
- Women earn 92 cents to a male worker’s dollar.
Why is the gender gap so persistently stalled at annual median earnings for women of about 20 percent below men’s? It has been 53 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed by the US Congress in 1963, yet women still don’t get equal pay for equal work. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports on several new studies that reveal a core reason for the pay gap—work is valued less when women do it. Miller notes that a number of factors once thought to explain the gender wage gap are no longer true, yet the gap remains. For example:
It is really significant that two women ran as candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign. Kelly Ditmar, writing for Ms. magazine notes that while Hillary Clinton felt she had to prove that she was “man enough” to be commander in chief in the 2008 campaign, both she and Carly Fiorina ran on their own terms in 2016, “disrupting the images, tactics, and rules of the game that have been determined by men.” Neither woman denied the influence of gender on her experience:
- Carly Fiorina talked about how being a woman informed her bid for office. She also shared her own battles to overcome sexism in corporate America as an example of her toughness.