Working Women Stuck In The Middle – What Would You Do?

source: artist: graur razvan ionut I read “Speaking While Female” in the NY Times today, and felt a mixture of recognition, relief, frustration, and depression. Recognition – the stories told were all too familiar. Relief – that it wasn’t just me. Frustration – that nobody else seems to have solved the problem either. And depression – because it doesn’t seem like this is a problem that is going to change within my lifetime.

There’s this example from the article, to start. Something very similar happened to me at a meeting, just within the last week (not for the first time, either):

When a woman speaks in a professional setting … either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea.

It’s pretty frustrating to experience. If it happens too often, it’s easy to become demoralized and think “Why bother?”.

And even more depressing was this:

When male employees contributed ideas that brought in new revenue, they got significantly higher performance evaluations. But female employees who spoke up with equally valuable ideas did not improve their managers’ perception of their performance. Also, the more the men spoke up, the more helpful their managers believed them to be. But when women spoke up more, there was no increase in their perceived helpfulness.

So what is a woman to do? Speak up and be punished for upsetting the established power dynamic, or stay silent and locked in the status quo? Talk about a no-win situation. It’s no wonder that a woman has to work twice as hard to be thought half as good as a man.

Some have suggested the way out is for more women to start their own businesses. When you’re the boss, after all, the power dynamic is in your favor. And that solution may work for some women, but it doesn’t solve the issue for existing organizations.

Some companies (like Google) are starting to implement processes to try to deflect this built-in bias, but it remains to be seen if those tactics will work.

In the meantime, we working women are stuck in the middle.

What would you do?

Rambling Thoughts on Feminism and Politics

Not to make this a “pile on Hillary” kind of weekend, but a quote I saw a week or so ago has been nagging at me.

To feminist writer Linda Hirshman, Clinton’s likely defeat signals a harsh reality that future female candidates will need to consider.

“It shows how fragile the loyalty and commitment of women to a female candidate is. That’s a pretty scary thing,” says Hirshman. “She can count on the female electorate to divide badly and not be reliable.”

That’s a definition of feminism that I don’t understand. In act, it sounds a lot more like essentialism. As a woman who has spent a good portion of her life making her way in male-dominated fields – and as a Jew, to boot – I have an extreme distaste for any ideology that assumes that group characteristics are identical and unalterable.

And yet …. it would make me happy to see a woman elected President, I can’t lie. It would also make me happy to see a Jewish President, although frankly I think that’s even less likely to happen in my lifetime. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m going to put gender or religious characteristics ahead of everything else on the table. Especially when it comes to something as important as a Presidential election.

I’m one of the first generation of American women to be born and raised in a world where women actually had the option to escape the constraints they’d previously been limited to. Is that why I do not feel the pull of identity politics? I consider myself a feminist. Does being a “good” feminist mean that I must vote for a woman candidate solely because of her gender? I don’t think so, but clearly some other women do.

How did things get to this place? And more important, can we fix it?

Shouldn’t that be a Bachelorette of Arts?

This is pretty pathetic: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to offer academic program in homemaking. Yes, really:

A description of the homemaking program on the seminary’s Web site says it “endeavors to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture.

“This is accomplished through instruction in homemaking skills, developing insights into home and family while continuing to equip women to understand and engage the culture of today.”

The whole thing sounds like an expensive way to find a ‘suitable’ husband more than anything else. If you honestly believe that the role of a woman is to stay home and raise kids, why would you be getting a bachelor’s degree in the first place?

To be fair, at least not all Baptists share that college’s view on things:

The Rev. Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a frequent Southern Baptist critic, wrote about the homemaking program on his blog.

“At first it was almost incredible to me,” Cole said. “I thought this is not happening. It’s quite superfluous to the mission of theological education in Southern Baptist life. It’s insulting I would say to many young women training in vital ministry roles.

“It’s yet another example of the ridiculous and silly degree to which some Southern Baptists, Southwestern in particular, are trying to return to what they perceive to be biblical gender roles.”

Good for Rev. Cole.

Joss, What Took You So Long?

Joss Whedon, for those unfamiliar with him, is a successful and well-respected creator of several television series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

So Joss got a look at the Dua Khalil murder video that’s made the rounds of the Internet (and no, I am not linking to it, go find it yourself) and got a little upset, saying:

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence — is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.


It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted.

Call me ungrateful, but I have to wonder, why did it take him so long to get to this point?

Whedon is one of the few writers who’s been able to write a successful TV series about a strong female protagonist who doesn’t end up either dead or pregnant for having sex, a woman for whom rape is impossible. You’d like to think that he’s sincere when he says that this is an issue he’s thought about for a long time, but it would have been nice if he’s applied his massive talents to giving voice to the problem a bit earlier.