1. When men earn more than their wives do, they're happier. And it can't just be a little more income -- there has to be a big gap for a husband to feel "satisfaction." (Source: Study cited in Tuesday's WSJ.)
2. Women don't receive promotions, opportunities, responsibilities, privileges, exceptions, perks and benefits because... they don't ask for them. (Source: Women Don't Ask)
3. Female supervisors are expected to be more supportive and nurturing than male ones are. Those who are not are considered to be bad bosses. (Source: Study cited in MSNBC)
4. Women lose millions of dollars of cumulative lifetime earnings because they fail to negotiate their starting salaries. That single lost opportunity, which would require a few hours of research and ten minutes of talking during a hiring meeting, translates into a different income threshold for life. (Source: WDA)
5. And if you search for "female boss" and "male boss" in Google images, the top page is disturbingly quick to propagate damaging gender stereotypes: three naked women, Paris Hilton, a frustrated looking chick at a computer and a bunch of silly cartoons, versus lots of men in suits, including two ordering around female employees. (My own finding.) Here's one sample female boss:
(Cartoon from Woman Honor Thyself, about male versus female bosses.)In broad strokes, this is one aspect of the professional landscape facing working women in America today. In other countries, too, I gather, but I'll focus here on what I know firsthand. Of course there are exceptions. And speaking personally, I have been blessed for the most part to work with fair and enlightened employers.
But as a young professional about to start a full-time job search, this info deeply troubled me.
I had three concerns at the start of the project:
--Is it possible that I am being ripped off because of my gender, in professional or other contexts? What if I am, and I don't even realize it?
--Is it possible that I am aiming lower -- not asking, not seeking, not venturing -- because I'm a woman? Because I am socialized to be kind and thoughtful, or because I haven't developed the proper skills to identify opportunities?
--What would happen if I made a conscious effort to ask?
That last question led to many more: Would asking open doors? Would I be seen as pushy and bitchy? Would I be rewarded for my assertiveness? Would flirting be effective, and should I resort to that? Would my gender shape not only which methods I use to ask, but also how those methods are received? And how would people of each gender react to my asking?
Hence this project.
While gender wasn't a conscious concern while I asked -- I didn't stop think, "Hmm, I'm a woman asking a woman for a discount, how should I interact?" or "A new study says male bosses are more likely to promote female employees with morose humor, so let's see what depressing jokes I can make today!" -- I did collect enough data to come to produce some interesting findings.
But why am I calling this a "squirmy" question? Not because it makes me squirm, but because I think it's kind of slippery and elusive. Basically, these results raised a lot more questions than they answered.
In the next post, I'll break down this data. But I wanted to outline these concerns here, so you understand a little more about my approach.