5 Shockingly Outdated Problems Modern Women Face At Work
Working women have come a long way from the days when fetching the boss a scotch and getting a smack on the ass was considered team building. Sure, there's still the odd awful incident, like the case of a woman who was fired from her job for being too attractive, but in general, women can consider themselves equal to their male colleagues in every way. Except for all the ways they still aren't.
Now, there tends to be a knee-jerk reaction to lists like this from many readers, often because dudes can read these as personal accusations. ("I've never sabotaged a woman in my life! Stop yelling at me!") But we're not accusing anybody here. Most of the headwinds women face when trying to advance in the workplace exist due to cultural inertia. This is how we've always done it, and fundamental habits are hard as shit to change (for evidence, read the comments on any similar article).
But regardless of who is or isn't at fault, the data says ...
Women Get Stuck With "Office Housework" Which They Can't Refuse Without Damaging Their Careers
Everyone in your department's gathered for a meeting, when someone points out that there's no coffee. A meeting without coffee is like a wedding without an open bar, but the secretary's on the phone with a client and the unpaid intern is out in the woods somewhere looking for leprechaun gold for the amusement of the rest of the office. So the task inevitably falls to whichever woman happens to be closest to the coffeemaker, regardless of whether they're the newbie or the highest-ranking person in the room.
It's called office housework, and it also includes meeting preparation and notes, party planning, convincing people that the party won't be a tedious waste of time, etc. Basically, it's all the crap that no one wants to do but is absolutely essential for keeping an office humming along smoothly. The problem is that women get stuck with it disproportionately, even when their pay grade should put them far beyond menial duties. Yeah, that murder trial tomorrow is important and you should prepare for it tonight, but Steve's birthday cupcakes aren't going to bake themselves!
"Please try to save one; my client's going to need some cheering up when he gets the death penalty."
It's a subject no one wants to put any thought or effort into, so women get stuck with it by default because we still see housework as a woman's chore ... even if said woman could be making a few hundred bucks spending an hour with a client instead of explaining to her underlings that eight cheese dips and 12 deserts don't constitute an appropriate potluck.
These are utterly thankless responsibilities that stick women in a no-win situation. Sure, Steve will have nice things to say about your cupcakes, but unless he's on the compensation committee, that not's going to do any tangible good. Women don't get brownie points for doing office housework, but they will get called out if the quality of their real work slips because they've lost a few hours to putting up the office Christmas decorations. But if they turn down these extra responsibilities, they're viewed as selfish by their colleagues, while men can say no and suffer zero consequences.
"You want me to make cupcakes? Like, with my penis? Don't be absurd!"
As with much of this list, there's no conspiracy or even malicious intent here -- men simply figure that if women didn't enjoy these extra tasks, then they'd just say no. So unless they want to bluntly spell out the problem to their co-workers, women essentially have to resort to trickery, like making themselves scarce when an assignment comes up or volunteering for a new task and then introducing a rotation system as part of their approach. Alternatively, they could start gently poisoning the cupcakes.
Women Lose Their Workplace Ambition Much More Rapidly Than Men (Because They Are Constantly Discouraged)
Seeing as how there's a good chance that you're reading this at work, you're well aware that a person's passion for a job tends to fade with time. Whether it's people getting promoted ahead of you, no one appreciating your contributions in last year's laser tag challenge, or simple burnout, a worker's ambitions tend to slowly wither as the months and years go by. And assuming you've been paying attention, you can probably guess how this varies by gender.
Women with under two years of work experience start out slightly more ambitious than men, but that hopefulness is quickly drained out of them, as if by a sad vampire. After two years, the average women's aspirations and confidence plummet by 60 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Men, meanwhile, only experience a 10 percent drop, possibly because they see all their female colleagues losing interest in getting promoted and figure that it improves their odds. Senior managers of both genders fare better, but when it comes to upward mobility, men are almost twice as confident.
"Soon, I'll be assistant head mail room boy. Suck on that, Susan."
Why the disparity? It's not due to women getting married and having kids. It seems to come down to workplace culture. Most companies are run by white men, who tend to celebrate the hard work and achievements of their bros. New workers of both genders say that they fit the model of success for their employer and that their supervisors are supportive of their career goals, but after a few years, women report their feelings of support as having dropped significantly, while men lose almost nothing. Some women are told they're not cut out for high-level work, or that they "don't really want it," because there aren't already enough examples of women being told what they really want. Two-thirds of male managers don't even like giving career counselling to younger women because they figure it's a waste of time.
"Your work, training, and actual requests say 'promotion,' but your slightly slumped shoulders are bumming me the fuck out. Sorry."
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Companies are run by men, who equate the stereotypical manly traits that got them their jobs with what it takes to be successful. So they focus on promoting men who share those traits, which discourages women, which makes them less ambitious and more likely to lose their loyalty to a company, which reinforces the belief that only men are cut out for the job. Then there's the still-prevailing attitude that women need to make career sacrifices for their families, whereas men do not. This often ends up being the case -- because of the aforementioned wall that women hit in their careers that their husbands don't experience, they wind up getting put in the housekeeping role by default. Again, cause and effect are backwards.
To reiterate, there's no cabal of males meeting in backrooms trying to find ways to keep women out of the corner office (or if there is, they're not the bulk of the problem). It's just easy for men to say, "Well, I'm good at my job, so my replacement should be someone exactly like me." And that unbroken chain of men putting their careers before their families becomes proof that only men who put their careers before their families are fit for leadership positions. Women look at that chain and can't help but lose confidence and ambition, whereas the men in the chain have their beliefs confirmed, and the cycle continues until we either get serious about addressing it or all get replaced by robots.
"ManagerBot 47 Alpha only promoted Worker Bot 1837 Gamma because
they were manufactured on the same assembly line. This is such bullshit."
Women Are Judged Negatively When Taking Credit For Their Work
Asking workers in group projects who contributed the most will start more controversy than if you ask everyone to share their thoughts on abortion. People are great at overestimating their contributions, as anyone who went to college and stayed up all night doing an entire project while their "friends" got drunk and then bragged about the "A" knows. So when it comes to figuring out which employees are the most valuable, things are messy from the get-go because of our own biases. We can turn to neutral bystanders to monitor projects and resist the allure of vending machine bribes, but women face extra obstacles when it comes to promoting their hard work and taking credit for a job well done (or at least less lazily done than everyone else).
When a dude and a lady work together on a project that requires stereotypically masculine qualities -- like leadership, decision-making, or farting -- observers of both genders tend to give the woman less credit. To add insult to insult, observers also rate women as less competent than their male partners. Past successes help offset this bias (that is, women are assumed incompetent until proven otherwise, while a man with a blank slate is given the benefit of the doubt), but don't even think about bragging about those past successes if you're female.
"I got to work on time and had a healthy lunch!"
"Your car and salad were both made by men. Nice try, Sheila."
Immodest women (which in this context refers to women who are open about their contributions; not women who roller skate into the office wearing nipple pasties and Daisy Dukes) are penalized in the workplace. This is doubly crippling when you consider how self-promotion is an important way to move up. After all, five minutes after you leave your busy manager's office, he's going to forget that you hit that tight deadline or took that bullet for him unless you constantly remind him of it. But women who are modest about their contributions get paid more than women who self-advocate, even though the opposite is true for men. Women who act as their own hype man are seen as more competent, but they're also rated less favorably in "hireability" and "social attraction," because ultimately we don't want to work around people who make us uncomfortable. And in this world, ambitious men are seen as badasses, while ambitious women are frigid shrews.
You might have picked up on that recently.
No one wins here. Women have to stay quiet about work they're proud of and hope that someone important takes notice, and everyone has to put up with the loud braggart of the office getting rewarded for stuff he didn't truly accomplish. But while women take less credit when they work with men, that gap disappears when it's only women collaborating. So we guess no good work goes unrecognized at all those major corporations dominated by women.
Successful Women Complicate Relationships
Men in relationships still associate masculinity with being the main breadwinner, possibly because on some level organizing spreadsheets is the closest thing to stabbing a saber-toothed tiger to death that modern-day providers experience. Even though 37 percent of wives now make more than their husbands, men still feel like they need to be the primary providers. That's not inherently wrong, but men are much more likely to feel bad about themselves if their female partner outperforms them on a task, and they're also more likely to cheat on a female partner who's making more money than them (the effect gets worse the more the woman makes). Because if you can't provide for your family, then you might as well be having as much sex as humanly possible.
"If she didn't want me to do this, then she shouldn't have paid for this flannel."
The sweet spot for men is bringing in 70 percent of the household income. More than that, and they start to feel like they have the power to cheat (their wife isn't going to walk out on a husband they can't pay the bills without, and affairs committed by high-powered men are so common in the media that it almost seems normal). Women, however, don't feel any worse when their partner outperforms them. Furthermore, women are less likely to cheat, both when making far less than their husband and when making far more.
Women who are the primary breadwinners are well aware that society still considers them unusual and a threat to their husband's feelings of self-worth, which leads to them suffering from anxiety and insomnia. Like, more than having a stressful, high-paying job usually produces. They also tend to overcompensate for their success by downplaying their accomplishments, deferring to their husbands in non-professional matters and doing far more housework. (See how all the stuff on this list starts to tie together?) They're trying to compensate for threatening their husband's masculinity, rather than encouraging their husbands to redefine that masculinity. Which is understandable, considering "redefine" apparently means "go have sex with other women".
"What if I'm too awesome? I better clean the bathroom again to be safe."
So men who make the big bucks feel powerful and virile, while women end up feeling anxious and needing to overcompensate, lest their emasculated husbands stray to another bed. On the bright side, it's incredibly difficult for women to reach the point of "primary breadwinner" in the first place. So that should be a load off of everyone's mind.
Yes, The "Wage Gap" Exists (But It's Complicated)
The wage gap -- a phrase guaranteed to liven up your Facebook wall -- absolutely exists, and it absolutely affects black, Hispanic and native women on a disproportionate level. And despite what some current presidential hopefuls would have you believe, it has nothing to do with women pursuing less ambitious careers. A study of almost 10,000 MBA graduates, most of whom were young and childless, found that women were getting starting salaries 15k below what men were offered. This trend holds true for pretty much all professions, even in traditionally female-dominated fields like nursing. Men get more, despite having the same jobs, education, and experience.
What about women who work part-time (if at all) to raise kids? Is that skewing their numbers downward? Nope. Even putting aside the issue of asking women to take pay cuts so they can raise the generation who will be looking after us in nursing homes one day, the gap begins right when childless young women come out of college. They start off making less, then suffer a "motherhood penalty" if they have kids and continue to work full-time. Employers get cause and effect backwards -- they assume that a woman raising a child won't be as focused on the job and won't work as hard, so they pay them less, rather than waiting to see if they work fewer hours and then adjusting their salary.
"I'm sorry, but that dog you adopted looked too needy for you to have earned this raise."
This is, of course, assuming that women even get the job in the first place -- male applicants are consistently rated as more hireable than women. Whatever secret magical powers a penis gives you must be impressive, because on average, men also earn raises two and a half times larger than what women get. And that has nothing to do with the myth that men are better negotiators. At best it's flat-out not true, and at worst the average skill difference isn't nearly enough to explain the average wage gap, unless women spend every evaluation meeting throwing handfuls of shit at their bosses.
So should women speak up about this? Sure, as long as they're not "assertive" -- here meaning "as long as they don't speak in a way that might get attention." As we alluded to earlier, assertiveness is seen as a negative in women, and their value to their employers plummets accordingly when they demonstrate it. Assertive men can be looked down on too, but not nearly as much. The guy's just a little too loud, but the woman is letting down her entire gender.
""I know you're in the middle of tense sales negotiations that could determine your professional future, but would it kill you to smile?"
Women are also told to pipe down and stop being so critical during performance reviews. While men tend to be praised or given legitimate constructive criticism, women are called things like "abrasive," "bossy" and "judgmental." And of course, if they object to that criticism, they're labelled "irrational," which honestly serves them right for getting their dumb vagina emotions all up in a performance review that's going to determine their financial future. Hey, did we mention that women tend to struggle with poverty more in retirement?
"Ugh, I can't stand my boss, she's always bossing me around and judging me."
On the plus side, the wage gap isn't nearly as bad as the commonly-cited statistic of 77 lady cents to the dude dollar, and there are some factors beyond pure employer discrimination. Also, the gap is shrinking, meaning that if worldwide trends hold, men and women will achieve total salary equality by 2133. Mark your calendars!
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