How to Manage Those Women Folks

So, Jason Shen, a BigWig at Etsy, wrote this article about managing women. Now, to be fair, “he means well, but he don’t know.”* In his attempt to point out that we shouldn’t discriminate against women, he pretty much invokes every negative stereotype out there.

In response, I’ve penned some advice on how to manage humans, which includes women here: The Real Way to Manage Female Employees (Start With Talking to Them)

*The first person to identify this quote WITHOUT GOOGLING (Or using another search engine) wins a free resume review for himself/herself or a friend! Answer in the comments and it’s totally the honor system, because how can I tell if you’ve googled? And I’m only accepting the “right” answer, although it appears in many places. So, you have to recognize the quote and recognize it from where I know it. Heh. I’m like a bad 11th grade teacher.

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24 thoughts on “How to Manage Those Women Folks

    1. Me neither. I get where EHRL is coming from, but in my experience many of the trends talked about in Shen’s letter have indeed happened and been along gendered lines. Maybe not so much for entry level employees but definitely by the mid levels.

    2. As a woman in tech I think Jason’s letter is great. It points out several reasons why women get frustrated:
      * Being held to a higher standard. That means lower relative performance ratings and lower raises and less shots at promotion
      * Being penalized for the same behavior as men – labels too bossy too aggressive when the same behavior is encouraged in men
      * Having to prove yourself over and over to get a promotion when your male coworker is promoted based on potential Vs performance
      * my favorite: if you nailed it then the project must have been easy (Vs you worked hard and smart). If you struggle then it’s because you’re incompetent (Vs an impossible project)
      * the default assumption that a women is incompetent until proven otherwise where a man is competent until proven otherwise. Then the woman has to spend wasted hours proving her work product is good

      There are now plenty of studies showing that there are huge gender based perception biases in tech. Those biases are why women earn less than men even when in the same job category.

  1. “He means well, but he don’t know” – Dick Deadeye says this in act 1 of HMS Pinafore. (“When people have to answer to other people, equality’s out of the question.” … I may have the first part of the follow-up slightly wrong.)

    Only I feel fine about my resume. 🙂

    1. Yay!!!! You’re awesome.If you have a friend who is in need the offer stands for him or her.

      Life is much better with HMS Pinafore quotes thrown in randomly, right?

      1. Thanks! I will ask around.

        (And yes, I mean, obviously. [This from the woman whose dad trained her when she was a small child to say she was never disobedient or anything like that. What, never? No, never. What, *never*? … Sigh. And yet I still love it.])

  2. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s “When people have to take other people’s orders, equality’s out of the question.”

  3. The place where Shen gets his ideas is the same place I get my ideas. Experience. I’ve seen it done so many times. The man gets a promotion for showing up and exchanging a few bro jokes. The woman works hard, half runs the dept, and gets told there’s no money for raises. I think Shen was spot on.

    1. Or actually been in the position of moving from one role to another role in your department and having three men take over your old position(s)!!!!! Yes. That happened. To me. And it happened to me after I had spent more than a year expressing concern about my workload and being told that I had to deal with it because everyone else was also experiencing the same thing. Well, obviously not everyone because no one else had their job divided when there was a reorg. That was demoralizing and frustrating for so many reasons.

  4. If this letter was on Ask a Manager certain regulars over there would be throwing an absolute fit about how everything is “gendered.”

    1. Just curious, have you ever been paid 20% less than men at your level, despite having significant accomplishments (a lot more delivered than said folks with Y chromosones!) When you see men all across your industry given the opportunities that women don’t get, and when people with Y chromosones tell you that’s all in your head, it gets pretty irritating.

      1. Was this supposed to be in response to me? I was making a dig at another similar site because their threads on these topics are so off the wall but the comments here are normal.

        1. A more active comment section has a lot of people chiming in. Some of the regular commenters over here are also commenters on that other blog. And when there are posts discussing sexist things that happen (because they do happen) and the response is something like “that happened to me, that burns me up” there are perhaps reasons behind those comments.

  5. Yeah, his letter completely resonated with me – I don’t think it was sexist at all. I absolutely have been talked down to, condescended, patronized, lied to (because my male manager thought I was too stupid to know better), etc. because (some, not all) managers think of me as a little girl or something. Someone who won’t cause trouble. Once I figured out I was being paid a lower rate than a barely competent guy that I had been promoted over twice – I was out the door as soon as I could.

  6. Ugh, decent points in his article but really, women are not exotic animals that require a “care and feeding guide”. I found that whole tone pretty insulting. A more useful post might read: Identify and reward your best employees without regard to gender, and then stand back and let them excel.

    1. Jennifer – I’m sure all the managers would say they are doing just that.
      The issue is bias in evaluating quality of work. Women are held to a higher standard. Studies show that even when women excel they will receive lower reviews. The factors used for evaluation will be changed to favor the male. Women are marked down for behaviors that would be complimented in a male. In short, it is NOT a meritocracy.

    2. I would agree that tone is the issue with the original article. And the assumption that all the managers were men, ever.

  7. I have to confess that, while I didn’t love the way it was presented, the situations in the article by Jason Shen ring true for me. I am an HR professional at a tech company and I see how women are viewed through a different lens than men when it comes to evaluating performance. Especially leaders. I think his intention was good and I am glad it has started this conversation. The only way to stop unconscious bias is to draw attention to it. We all have it and it’s good to be aware. I wish women and men of all ethnicity were treated equally, but they’re not. Thanks to you both for highlighting this. It goes a long way to solve the problem.

  8. I didn’t think his article was sexist…I think it reflects reality in engineering and programming. In fact, that article could have been written about my last job at an environmental engineering company, run by Texas men. When I left, my job was absorbed by twelve different people. And I left for a 20K raise. Texas &co had given me a 2% raise the previous year, and told me I should be grateful. Most of the men got 8% or more.

  9. This seems to be endemic among too many industries, unfortunately. Even orchestras (

    The funny thing is that orchestras are trying to do something about it whereas my profession (software) has lots of ways of measuring productivity accurately (defect rates, lines of code, bugs raised on your changesets, etc) and yet doesn’t use them in terms of eliminating gender bias, which seems a bit short sighted (to say the least) to me.

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