How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake

Ellen Pao claims that Venture Capitalist Firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers,discriminated against her because she is female. They claim that she wasn’t a team player and lacked leadership skills. It’s highly possible that both Pao and the Kleiner Perkin leadership team are telling the truth.

How could that possibly be true? Because being a “team player” and having “leadership skills” can be somewhat subjective and you can honestly believe the that you are making a judgment purely on skill, when what you are doing is actually making a judgment based on your own prejudices.

I make no claim of special knowledge of the Pao case–we’ll let the courts shake that out. But, if you want to make sure you aren’t unfairly judging the women in your office, here are 6 things to do.

To keep reading, click here: How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake

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2 thoughts on “How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake

  1. The root problem is the basic lack of respect for women’s technical abilities. A man is given the benefit of the doubt, where a woman is assumed to be incompetent until proven otherwise. Thus the woman has to prove herself over and over and over again before she’s even considered “average”.
    I’ve seen this manifest in two major ways
    1) At conferences or when a woman introduces a new idea. If someone doesn’t understand the man, they say “Could you explain point B a little more?”. If someone doesn’t understand the woman they say “You expect me to believe that…” So the woman has to start the conversation from a disadvantage.
    2) The lack of respect means that people don’t listen to the woman, even if she is the subject matter expert on what is being discussed! The woman must push back against crazy ideas but is ignored (what does she know?). She is then forced to escalate the issue in order to get the correct technical solution. At that point she is “overly aggressive”. Is there any wonder why 70% of high performing technical women are labeled as too aggressive? Not when less-competent men refuse to listen to their opinions.
    What does this mean for the woman? It means that she has to spend 3, 4, 5 times the time and energy socializing an idea that a man would socialize in 1-2 meetings.. The energy of the woman is diverted into selling her solution instead of developing other ideas. So she’s less productive than the male.
    Until men and women respect women’s technical abilities you will never ever have equality.

  2. Great article, as usual!

    I especially like suggestion #1, not just in terms of considering whether gender is swaying your view of someone’s work, but whether their personality is, as well. (And obviously, perceptions of personality are mediated by gender too, but that’s another comment for another day.) For many people, considering personality might be a less loaded exercise than considering gender.

    As a young women, the issues at play in suggestion #3 have come up quite a bit for me. On the one hand, as you wrote, yes, women are less likely to negotiate starting salary than their male counterparts for a number of reasons, and yes, I wish more women would learn negotiation skills. I am intrigued, though, by studies that suggest that there is a “social cost” at work for women who negotiate higher pay for themselves, and that the most successful negotiations for women are couched in terms of relevance to the job (rather than the person herself, i.e., “I hope you’ll appreciate that my negotiation skills will also be useful in the role in x, y, and z ways” instead of, “I have been praised for x, y, and z, in the past”). In my opinion (and entirely anecdotal experience), these things make negotiation a trickier endeavor for women than men. I think your test of giving the candidate a list of department salaries is a good solution, but I’d also like to see the underlying biases that result in different negotiation experiences for men and women change.

    The article discussing the studies (with links) is here:

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