It's Just 'Cause

By Allison Pfotzer

We’ve all heard that “Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus,” but with the explosions of discussions on gender in the last few years, it’s become a lot clearer that we’re all from the same planet. So what are the differences that separate men and women in pay, opportunities, and treatment? And what can describe the vast separations in test scores and women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs? A variety of social scientists have looked into this phenomenon in reject of the famous study by Harvard President Larry Summers, who declared that biological ability was the reason behind the male-female divide in the STEM fields. These researchers found that if you compare the standardized test math scores to a country’s level of gender equality (measured by political-empowerment index, and how many women are in the labor market), the gap completely closes—and in some cases women out perform men—in nations with higher rates of gender equality. So what is this?

It’s power: When people feel more powerful and have more opportunities they flourish. Fact.

And across the board this is the case!

·      In sports: The ranking of FIFA women’s soccer teams can be accurately predicted by examining the country’s gender equality measurements. With opportunity and support, a country’s female soccer team has a much higher chance of success.

·      In pay: Women are significantly less likely to negotiate a higher wage when offered a job. In Women Don’t Ask, by Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock, one of the main reasons for why women make 77 cents to ever dollar a man makes is the fact that female are less likely to ask for more money. A survey found that 52% of male MBA grads were likely to negotiate wages, while 17% of female graduates would negotiate.

·      In relationships: Men are notoriously stereotyped for being more unfaithful than women. And while there have been a range of explanations for this, Joris Lammers, of the University of Cologne, found that increased levels of feeling powerful led to increased rates of infidelity. And this phenomenon is across the board, thus the higher numbers of men with power mean that more men will be unfaithful (with regard to Lammers’ findings).

·      With other women: We’ve all heard of the “queen bee phenomenon,” where a strong woman is so territorial of her space (or office!) that she will not hire any other females, and in fact will be harsher on all other females in the office. Michelle Duguid of Washington University in St. Louis found that on a hiring board whenre there was only one female committee member from a higher status; the female member was more likely to vote for a man than a woman for a job So as women climb the ladder of hierarchy they often reject and even push other women down the ladder from their fear of loosing their place. Duguid found that when women were made to feel more secure in their positions (and therefore the longevity of their place of power), they were more likely to support other women. And even more likely to support women who could be a threat to them.

The problem that persists though is that we are continually in a double bind: of societal expectations in addition to our own actions; thus when women feel and project power they’re punished. We are then fighting both descriptive stereotypes of what people are likely to do, and prescriptive stereotypes of what people should do.

So, how do we make progress?

By accepting that gender differences aren’t innate or biological, it becomes realistic to expect companies and businesses to promote gender equality.

Methods of improvements can come from ideas such as:

1.     Establishing criteria for male-female ration hiring in advance.

2.     Monitoring and reporting hiring, salaries and promotion of all employees.

3.     Instituting mentoring programs, and making them inclusive and proactive.

4.     Trying to blind oneself (as a company and an individual) to gender.

5.     Encouraging an “us advocacy.” This is the idea that we can promote female empowerment as a collective group, fighting for all women, not just ourselves. Because there’s strength, safety and more progress in numbers. Georgetown’s very own Catherine Tinsley found that “us advocacy” allows a woman to fight for her own interests while fighting for others, without suffering backlash.

In fact promoting gender equality is better business. Olympic medal studies have shown that male athletes do better when women have more social power in their nations because their societies then value all people more and tap into a much wider pool of abilities and talent. In 2012, a Credit Suisse Research Institute study found that shares of companies with both man and women board members outperformed those companies without both genders on their boards.

So just for capitalism’s sake, let’s step it up!

Based on the article and research of “It’s good to be the Queen…but it’s easier being the King,” by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer.

Allison Pfotzer, a member of the GUWIL Writing Committee, is a sophomore in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown with a passion for women’s human rights in all sectors of the developed and developing world.

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