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BEHAVIOUR – – Month 4 – – #FeministFactFriday

Theme #4 for Feminist Fact Friday

I’m back from my break and so is Feminist Fact Friday!

This month (with a significantly reduced number of Fridays, so I’ll have to make it count) I’m focusing on BEHAVIOUR. 

Why?

An article I read recently in HBR described how “Companies Drain Women’s Ambition After Only 2 Years.” *

As the article stated:

Bain & Company recently launched a study that asked more than 1,000 men and women in a mix of U.S. companies two questions: “Do you aspire to top management within a large company?” and “Do you have the confidence you can reach top management?”

Women with two years or less of work experience slightly led men in ambition. But for women who had more than two years on the job, aspiration and confidence plummeted 60% and nearly 50%, respectively. These declines came independent of marriage and motherhood status, and compared with much smaller changes for men, who experienced only a 10% dip in confidence.

So, how does this drop in confidence happen? The typical refrain that we hear all the time, ‘if you can’t see it you can’t be it’ is one of the biggest causes. The people at the top look nothing like the women at the bottom of the ranks – and that’s particularly true for women of colour.

One woman recounted her firm’s recent management retreat: “Watching middle-aged white male after middle-age white male tell their war stories of sacrificing everything to close the sale was demoralizing, I just kept sinking lower in my chair and thinking that I would never be able to make it to the senior ranks if this was what it took.”

I’m focusing on BEHAVIOUR this month because it’s become clear over time that it’s not enough for women to simply ‘lean in’. In fact, when women display characteristics and behaviour that typically belong to men they’re usually penalised for it. The consistent narrative that women just need to become more confident, speak up more, assert themselves or sing their own praises often backfires in a way that it won’t for men. Women’s behaviour is interpreted differently. 

This month I’d like to offer a few examples of the ways in which this happens so that you can either be aware of it yourself and work on how you’re perceived, or become aware of the ways you might be judging men and women differently so that you can try to break out of that. 

Before the first week kicks off I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of The Glass Wall by Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob. It’s such a helpful look at the ways in which life differs for men and women in the workplace. It gives great advice to both on how to be conscious of their behaviour and make change happen.

What is Feminist Fact Friday?

Needing a quick refresher? Read up on what this is all about in my Introduction to #FFF.

Sources

Orit Gadiesh and Julie Coffman in Harvard Business Review Companies Drain Women’s Ambition After Only 2 Years 18 May 2015