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"But I say, you have to put your ego aside and play by the rules so you can get to the top and change things."
October 6, 2012 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Female executives at Twitter, Yahoo and Google discuss work/life balance at the top of the tech industry, how women should negotiate at work, and whether women view job satisfaction differently than their male colleagues.

The Guardian article is an excerpt from Hanna Rosin's book The End of Men: and the Rise of Women, reviewed somewhat critically by Mary Beard in the Guardian ("This, I imagine, will come as something of a surprise to most women on the planet"), Christina Patterson in the Independent ("If Hanna Rosin really thinks this is the end of men, she can't have looked very hard at the evidence"), Bryce Covert in the Nation ("Dear Hanna Rosin: I'm Doing Fine! Love, The Patriarchy"), and somewhat more generously by Katie Roiphe in the Financial Times ("One of the things that makes her refreshing in a sea of boring pundits and feminist navel-gazers is that she is first and foremost a reporter").
posted by Catseye (57 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always thought I was ambitious, but it turns out I'm not. 1 am nightly calls? A rare night out with my husband spent on his-and-hers iPhones? Yuck. I had a "flexible aka work all the time" job once, and it just made me miserable. Maybe it would have been worth it if it had made me Google rich, but how many people really get that far?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:55 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ugh. I'm glad I'm irrelevant. Work culture in the U.S. is insane.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to note that someone believes that work/life balance means different things to men and women differently. You know, as opposed to it meaning different things as individuals.

But since I'm clearly not executive level material with that mindset, I'll just go back to my pre-defined holding area and resume my daily routine as a widget-producing-widget now.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:44 AM on October 6, 2012


"Your reputation is based on what you've done," White said. "It doesn't really matter what's in your pants."

Except that it obviously does, as can be seen in the tiny fraction of women in the upper echelons.

But yes, as noted above, reading about their lives is making me fantastically happy to have a job that mostly ends at 5pm. I earn a lot less than they do (as do their employees, who hopefully get to see their spouses in the evenings) but I have a lot more control over my time, and I'd say I have the better end of that deal.
posted by Forktine at 6:48 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Study after study found that women who did not conform to female stereotypes – who bluntly asked for a raise, self-promoted or demanded credit for work they'd done – paid a high price in the workplace. People judged them as harsh or unpleasant, and didn't want to work with them.

Researchers tested different workplace scenarios, always with the same result: women who speak aggressively get lower marks than women who speak tentatively. Women who self-promote are judged to lack social skills. Ditto for women who express any kind of anger in the workplace.


This is a phenomenon that drives me up the wall. My partner has to do these delicate linguistic dances to make sure that her (entirely male) supervisors don't get all butthurt when she asks for professional opportunities or makes a criticism. It's ridiculous, and takes time and mental energy that I don't have to expend to do the same thing.
posted by Forktine at 6:59 AM on October 6, 2012 [31 favorites]


It drives me up the wall too, WAY up the wall.

That being said though, I am so happy that we are finally beginning to acknowledge that society expects women to negotiate differently in the workplace and largely punishes women who negotiate like men do. For sooooooooo long, women were told that it was just our fault, that we just don't go ahead and ask for things, that we don't push, that we are just fearful wimps.

No, it was that women knew that in many cases they would get a different outcome from doing that then their male peers would. It was assumed, as ever, that women were just Doing it Wrong, were misunderstanding their own lives and circumstances, and needed to be explained to about how to get the most optimal results. Turns out, women were right all along about how to get the most optimal results in their circumstances.
posted by cairdeas at 8:13 AM on October 6, 2012 [27 favorites]


Researchers tested different workplace scenarios, always with the same result: women who speak aggressively get lower marks than women who speak tentatively. Women who self-promote are judged to lack social skills. Ditto for women who express any kind of anger in the workplace.

Well of course. Because everyone who behaves that way gets lower marks. These are unacceptable, asshole behaviors. Even the people who do act like this and get ahead, they generally didn't act like this when their superiors were looking. Or they work in an environment that perversely values those kinds of childish behaviors.

Not to mention, there is a difference between assertive and aggressive. Aggressive is almost always not the right choice. Self-promotion is different from reporting ones' successes. Anger is different from loud. Showing anger is losing self-control, and this is not generally appreciated.

I think the idea that these behaviors are valued in business is a strawman. There is an analogy to those gender-bending characters on Portlandia to be made here, but I can't work it out.

"Your reputation is based on what you've done," White said. "It doesn't really matter what's in your pants."

Except that it obviously does, as can be seen in the tiny fraction of women in the upper echelons.


Correlation is not the same as causation. Story after story shows that there are fewer women who are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to moving into the higher echelons of business. The idea that there is a significant percentage of people out there thinking "eew, ladyparts" when making hiring/promotional decisions is delusional.

What is obvious is that there is more work to be done. Both in making business nicer, but also in combating the highly profitable idea that discrimination is the driving force in today's society.
posted by gjc at 8:21 AM on October 6, 2012


And it SUCKS, because having to constantly do the dance of Female Enough vs. Professional Enough vs. Assertive Enough takes time and energy that, as Forktine points out, you then can't spend on other things. It also ensures that only women who are extremely good at sorting through that kind of social nuance have the capacity to make it to higher levels of management.

On preview: No, gjc, it is not true that "everyone who speaks that way" gets lower marks. Men are consistently rewarded for the same behavior that women are punished for, and then women are punished AGAIN for their lack of success by being told that it's their fault for not acting more like men. Even when the same behavior gets different and less desirable results. It's maddening.
posted by KathrynT at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2012 [25 favorites]


Because everyone who behaves that way gets lower marks.

Did you read the article? This is incorrect.
posted by cairdeas at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


Story after story shows that there are fewer women who are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to moving into the higher echelons of business.

I know, right? It's like, oh my gosh ladies! Just let your husband stay home with the baby like he keeps asking to do! But mommas gotta mom, amirite?
posted by prefpara at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


[regarding women being assertive without triggering sexist negative reactions] The key was to meet the stereotype halfway.

I'm guardedly hopeful that this means things are changing. Certainly that line of acceptability has changed drastically just in the last 30 years.

The real patriarchy is not this meritocratic willingness to burn the candle at both ends. George W. Bush and Mitt Romney didn't get where they were by showing up for 1am calls to Singapore every night.
posted by straight at 8:33 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The idea that there is a significant percentage of people out there thinking "eew, ladyparts" when making hiring/promotional decisions is delusional.

Absolutely - they're not thinking "eww, ladyparts." I actually get an ear on the kinds of things that are said all the time, in my workplace (which I love in every other way), and which is ostensibly one of the most progressive workplaces evv0rrr. At the very, very top of the org, there are 7 men and one woman. The woman is in a "making it rain" position and has made it rain to a degree that this organization has never come close to before. However, the men are ALWAYS sniping about her behind her back.

A sampling:

-The most common one I hear is "she has no idea what she's doing." Jaw-dropping.
-"She makes everything way too hard for herself."
-She doesn't know how to talk to people."
-Various compound-words including the word bitch - "uber-bitch, psycho bitch, turbo bitch."
-"She forgets where her place is sometimes and you have to remind her." Another one where my jaw actually dropped when I heard this man say it.

But yes, you're right gjc, I've never heard anyone negatively cite her lady parts while slamming her.
posted by cairdeas at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2012 [31 favorites]


How’d the Guardian get the photo caption so wrong? “Marissa Mayer … now the first female CEO of Yahoo.”
posted by migurski at 8:37 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


My partner has to do these delicate linguistic dances to make sure that her (entirely male) supervisors don't get all butthurt when she asks for professional opportunities or makes a criticism. It's ridiculous, and takes time and mental energy that I don't have to expend to do the same thing.

and

And it SUCKS, because having to constantly do the dance of Female Enough vs. Professional Enough vs. Assertive Enough takes time and energy that, as Forktine points out, you then can't spend on other things. It also ensures that only women who are extremely good at sorting through that kind of social nuance have the capacity to make it to higher levels of management.

I wonder if this isn't more along the lines of ask versus guess culture. That the act of worrying about negotiating these expectations makes things worse. I don't know.
posted by gjc at 8:42 AM on October 6, 2012


gjc, as someone who has personally experienced this, I can assure you that no, it is NOT along the lines of Ask vs. Guess, it is a real and terrible phenomenon in which women are punished for acting in the same ways that reward men. You have articles that go into greater objective detail, as well as several personal anecdotes that back the articles up; what will it take to get you to agree that this phenomenon actually exists?
posted by KathrynT at 8:46 AM on October 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


gjc, I suggest you listen more to women telling their stories and sharing their experiences.
posted by cashman at 8:46 AM on October 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


"I wonder if you're just misunderstanding what you observe, and the trouble you're running into is really your fault. I don't know but I will talk like I understand this better than you do anyway." As ever, as ever.
posted by cairdeas at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2012 [28 favorites]


there is a difference between assertive and aggressive. Aggressive is almost always not the right choice. Self-promotion is different from reporting ones' successes. Anger is different from loud. Showing anger is losing self-control, and this is not generally appreciated.

sexism slips in when observer thinks they are unbiased but happens to categorize most self-promoting women as aggressive and most self-promoting men as assertive. also see hillary clinton= shrill. it is not an accident that she doesn't remind women voters of their nagging mothers.

The idea that there is a significant percentage of people out there thinking "eew, ladyparts" when making hiring/promotional decisions is delusional

have you *met* us? and by "us" i mean the world. it's a mess of ignorance, opinions without data, assumptions without reflection, just one big confirmation bias-y mess of the uninformed.

it's true that i need breakfast. anyway on preview cairdeas' anecdote was much better. ipad sucks for commenting...
posted by twist my arm at 8:51 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


an excerpt from Hanna Rosin's book The End of Men: and the Rise of Women

I really, really dislike how these things are so often framed as an either/or, or a battle - if things are going better for women, it's because it's to the detriment of men! I understand it's because dramatic pronouncements draw eyeballs and clicks - but it makes it that much harder when you have to keep explaining no, women do not want to RULE men, women want EQUALITY, and that involves men giving up some extra privileges they've had all this time so we're all on the same level; but it doesn't mean that in order for women to not be inferior, men have to be inferior instead.

The dominance narrative is poisonous and very counter-productive.
posted by flex at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


Well of course. Because everyone who behaves that way gets lower marks. These are unacceptable, asshole behaviors. Even the people who do act like this and get ahead, they generally didn't act like this when their superiors were looking. Or they work in an environment that perversely values those kinds of childish behaviors.

That's totally false. I can walk into my supervisor's office, set up a meeting with him and the next guy up the chain, and directly talk about my compensation, job duties, and promotional path based on my track record and strengths. I know I can do this because I did it last week. And I can do this without worrying that I will be seen as "aggressive," a "bitch," "shrill," etc.

I wonder if this isn't more along the lines of ask versus guess culture. That the act of worrying about negotiating these expectations makes things worse. I don't know.

You are right, you don't know. It really does take the level of linguistic care that the article describes for women to have those same negotiations succeed. We have been talking a lot about this in our household this year because we are nerds that way and because it is interesting, but also because otherwise you just get angry and frustrated, so why not intellectualize it and look for openings instead.

And it's easy to run little experiments: this week try asking for some small thing using one approach, and a few weeks later do it again with different language. Unfortunately, what matters are the big things (negotiating starting pay, negotiating a raise, negotiation a promotion) and those you can't test repeatedly.
posted by Forktine at 9:02 AM on October 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


I have one more thing to say on this topic before I go play with my dog. And it is about Battlestar Galactica. There was some interesting writing around Admiral Cane that reminds me of this. Admiral Cane was written as a powerful, intelligent, aggressive, dominating woman. Male characters were written as wanting to stop her and/or kill her, or passively going along with her. The characters who actively admired her and trusted her were female. I thought that was a pretty perceptive bit of writing. In so many of these situations, I meet the aggressive hated bitch of the organization, and I think, "wow, this woman is really extraordinary, she is the most competent person here and not a bitch in any way."
posted by cairdeas at 9:06 AM on October 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure what's happening here or why, but it's clear I am not welcome. If your goal was to make me feel bad for expressing myself, and to make me feel like that frightened, bullied kid in grade school again, you've succeeded. Seriously. I hope you'll examine your preconceptions and behavior.
posted by gjc at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2012


There's a difference between expressions of disagreement and bullying.
posted by prefpara at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


You are welcome to express yourself, as you have been. But when you tell female readers that obviously their experiences haven't played out the way they've seen them play out, that is going to be read as invalidating and you should expect to get some pushback.

If you are uncomfortable participating in this thread unless your statements are guaranteed not to be met by critical feedback, then probably bowing out is the wise choice, because that's not how Metafilter works in my experience.
posted by KathrynT at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


On the subject of work-life balance and families and culture, I just encountered this paragraph in a NYTimes article on Twitter CEO Dick Costolo:
Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and an early investor at Facebook, once said of Twitter: “You could throw a grenade into Twitter’s offices after 6 p.m. and the only person you would kill is the cleaning lady.”

Not anymore, Mr. Costolo says.

“It’s really difficult to change a company’s culture, but I did this by making sure I stayed late,” he says. “I’d go home, have dinner with my kids and then come back into the office. People knew that if they were in the office at 10 p.m., I’d be here, too, and that’s when I would go around and talk to people and answer questions.”
I’ve heard basically the same story about Zynga. It seems unhelpful to have an executive making a special effort to push worktime into the evenings, just because noted wingnut Peter Thiel thinks people shouldn’t leave by 6pm. No one can sustain that kind of effort, and while I’m the kind of person who often works evenings I view it as a form of heroics that papers over process and budget failures.
posted by migurski at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure what's happening here or why, but it's clear I am not welcome.

What happened was you started with a comment that made it pretty clear you hadn't read the links. You offered your opinion as though it were fact. And now you feel "bullied" because people said "Dude, read the links and listen to the experiences people here have had."
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2012 [19 favorites]


> "I'm not sure what's happening here or why, but it's clear I am not welcome."

What's happening here is that you made an assertion that is both factually incorrect and, to those who have experienced the precise problem you claim does not exist, rather enraging.
posted by kyrademon at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


So I want to address the pull quote - "But I say, you have to put your ego aside and play by the rules so you can get to the top and change things." I'm a woman in tech and I have career ambitions not unlike the women in the articles. And I am like that young girl one of them talked to who was worrying about how she was going to manage maternity leave well before she was every in a relationship where kids were a likelihood.

First off, can I say how incredibly tiring it gets to have people tell me things like the pull quote, or that I just have to "get in there and be great and set an example and then change will come"? Because that's just more telling women to shut up and be passive and wait for others to recognize their merit. We know that doesn't happen in the business world. Yes, once you're at the top you may be able to change some things, but there's a whole lot of years of frustration and anger in there before that happens that I'm not content to sit back and let happen while I "set a good example." And then, god forbid you fret that a decision you've made maybe makes you a bad example, because you put family before job, or didn't grab at a promotion that you might have, because then you're told "Don't care what others think." Well, either I have to consciously and very carefully set an example and passively teach people that you should go against stereotypes and hire women without worrying they'll leave the moment they're married or pregnant, or I have to pretend I don't care if I do one of those things. Can't do both. When you're painfully conscious of the stereotypes and your need to show everyone that you, on behalf of womenkind, don't fit them, you end up scrutinizing every decision you make in that light and it can drive you crazy and keep you from making decisions that are good for you. So I'd appreciate not having to passively lead by example on behalf of 50% of the population all the damn time, and that starts with not always relying on "change from within" and explicitly putting the burden on individual women to lead the way for their gender within their companies.

Look. I have been, literally, a poster child for women in engineering. And I love trying to help younger women get into the field and feel confident about what they can contribute to it. And I know part of that responsibility, as a mentor, is to be an example and take the good with the bad on that. But when you tell individual women who are frustrated with the state of things that it's all on them to lead the change within their school, or their company, or their industry, because gosh, can't change society, or you criticize what they are doing to try to work within the existing rules (like "hilariously" planning for kids before they even have a serious partner), you're discouraging them. You're discouraging them greatly. And I genuinely feel it's halting progress.

And secondly, while "Don't leave before you leave" is reasonable and sage advice, the fact is that the type-A women who do make it up these sorts of ranks are the type to plan compulsively. I plan like a mofo. Whenever I've had to consider job changes, grad school, whether or not I was going to move to another continent for my partner, etc, "when do I think kids will come into the picture and is there a better way to "time" things because of that?" has always, always been in the back of my mind. And yes, I know kids do not always come when planned, and yes, maybe kids will never happen, maybe my partner and I won't stay together, maybe we'll be hit by a comet, who knows, but the NEED to have that plan, to account for the possibilities, is always there for me. And most of that reasoning is because a lot of women of my generation (currently reaching or at age 30) watched the Gen-X women above us put off kids, rather than plan for them, and now we hear so many stories of them struggling with fertility in their late 30s and early 40s. Most of my female peers who are similarly career-minded, also all in the tech industry, all have their "babies" plan in their heads and 100% of us all are trying to make sure it happens before we hit 35. So it feels a little patronizing to hear the Gen-X women telling us not to worry about when we'll have kids, because to us, their solution isn't something we accept. And in a bigger picture sense, we're not satisfied that this is something that really, only my female peers are worrying about. My male peers are not. We want to change that conversation, too.

And to an unrelated point, I think the "Woman who wants to have it all as CEO of [tech giant]" and "Woman who wants to have it all working a minimum wage job for 60 hours a week" are two really different problems to be solved. But they both require understanding and acceptance on the part of the society to realize that kids don't all grow up dysfunctional without their mothers there 24/7, and that there need to be more social supports for women to earn the livings they need or want to earn while still raising families. But to dismiss the plight of women playing the CEO game because they have "nannies and house cleaners" is unfair to the vast inequality that exists at that level of business. So that needs to be remembered, hand-in-hand with the understanding that nannies and cleaners aren't the solution for all the women who want to "have it all."
posted by olinerd at 9:37 AM on October 6, 2012 [28 favorites]


It should probably be pointed out that some (not all, but some) of the "having it all" problem would be solved in the U.S. if it instituted sane maternity and paternity leave provisions like every other civilized country on the damn planet.
posted by kyrademon at 9:44 AM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


"But I say, you have to put your ego aside and play by the rules so you can get to the top and change things."

I would be curious to know of one single example in the history of the human race where a person got to the top of the pyramid and changed everything around for other people's benefit. That statement is a reductio ad absurdum. The people I have known who have done the best in terms of money and power and prestige are unanimous in their opinion that the system works pretty well.
posted by bukvich at 9:56 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There was a discussion about many of these issues on CBC yesterdaywhich was pretty interesting. It's titled "Are long maternity leaves a good idea?", but it's focussed on Marissa Mayer and other executive women and the implications of short maternity leaves
posted by sneebler at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That statement is a reductio ad absurdum.

To me it sounds yet another example of The Grand Old American Way Of The Individual Over All Else - I'm being sarcastic, but what I mean is the idea that the individual can and should bootstrap themselves up and quit whining if they can't. It puts all the work on the shoulders of individual people rather than societal changes like, for instance, Norway's mandating that women hold at least 40% of board positions in publicly-held companies. I feel like it's a manipulation of the many by the few so that the many don't feel entitled to get societal changes that will benefit them at the expense of the few (who like things to be just the way they are).

On preview: I posted this on Facebook the other day -
Readers' Digest - How maternity leave is failing Canadian women
posted by flex at 10:05 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not so much a comment on the state of women in the workplace, but just a comment on the state of the workplace in Silicon Valley as talked about in the article: it's like this for men too. 1am calls to offshore teams, viewing going home at 5:00 so you can go back to work at 8:00 as a concession, long commutes and little time spent with your family, these affect everyone, and they affect the people higher up the corporate ladder more than people at the bottom, but even at the lower levels you definitely feel the impact here.

The reason that places like Google and Facebook give their employees free meals isn't because they're super nice to their employees so much as its because then they only stop working from 6-6:30 instead of from 5-8.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:06 AM on October 6, 2012


Hanna Rosin's book The End of Men: and the Rise of Women,

The Myth of Male Decline - article in New York Times by Stephanie Coontz about the, uh, myth of the male decline.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:06 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm constantly confused, there's this huge critical mass of people that believe that The Management actually sit there in the boardroom constantly twirling their moustacheios and figuring out new ways to screw over women and their salaries.

Most of my female friends earn the same amount of moolah that I do, some even make more, but then there's a few peeps (hetero, non-hetero, female and male, all persuasions basically) in our circle of friendship, that don't. Guess what the differentiating factor is? Lack of experience and/or education together with not having ever actually negotiated their salary.

Otherwise, cool beans, i'll buy the book.
posted by xcasex at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2012


OMG Men!
posted by infini at 10:28 AM on October 6, 2012


xcasex:. Maybe you'd like to go back and read all the links and then try that comment again. Nobody here is talking about evil management twirling mustaches. Most of this is not about overt bias at all, but implicit bias.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:32 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hydropsyche, nah, i'll just leave that there as a sign of confirmation bias :)
posted by xcasex at 10:33 AM on October 6, 2012


But I say, you have to put your ego aside and play by the rules so you can get to the top and change things

This really bothers me. Who ever got to the top by putting their ego aside? Thinking about prominent CEOs, their names are practically synonymous with "Ego."

Once again, we have to do it better, backwards, and in high heels. Pffffft.
posted by ambrosia at 11:30 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do all these articles about "women in tech" end up being about a bunch of 1%-ers?

Sheryl Sandberg isn't a woman in tech. She's a woman in business. Marissa Mayer might have started out as a software developer but she got promoted out of it into CxO-level management.

Props to them, I guess, and to Katy the "executive at Google," and to the "assistant vice-president in an aircraft company," but what does this have to do with female employees whose career is computer programming?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:32 AM on October 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm constantly confused, there's this huge critical mass of people that believe that The Management actually sit there in the boardroom constantly twirling their moustacheios and figuring out new ways to screw over women and their salaries.

I'm confused how someone could even skim over this conversation and think that's what people believe.
posted by straight at 12:06 PM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


There is a fundamental difference in the role work plays in people's lives. For some people, work is what they do and everything else is simply waiting to get back to work. For others, work is something they are forced to do to finance everything else.

I don't think this really breaks down by gender. I think there are plenty of women for whom work is their life. The problem for those women is that society tells them it is wrong for them to feel that way.

Let's be real, most people who spend 14 hours a day in the office and have 1 am conference calls do it because they want to. This goes for men and women.

We aren't talking about women working shifts in the coal mine here, we are talking about execs who can influence the corporate culture and deprioritize the kind of "iron man","last man standing" types of shenanigans that people play out at tech companies.

"having it all" isn't the problem, the problem is society telling people "you should want these other things". The problem is much more acute for women.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


To me it sounds yet another example of The Grand Old American Way Of The Individual Over All Else - I'm being sarcastic, but what I mean is the idea that the individual can and should bootstrap themselves up and quit whining if they can't. It puts all the work on the shoulders of individual people rather than societal changes like, for instance, Norway's mandating that women hold at least 40% of board positions in publicly-held companies. I feel like it's a manipulation of the many by the few so that the many don't feel entitled to get societal changes that will benefit them at the expense of the few (who like things to be just the way they are).

I think this is because realistically, the only person you can control is yourself. You can't make all of the people in society change things to make your life easier, or at least it's incredibly damn difficult to do so, even when you get hordes of people on your side. "Bootstrapping" to me sounds easier than "change all of society to give us universal decent health care, fat parental leaves, and letting everyone go home at 5 and stay there with no penalty." In the end, everything is going to boil down to "It's YOUR problem and YOU are the only one who can solve it, or more likely, figure out how to deal with it within the confines of your work box."

I'm not saying it's right, but I think it's understandable that we're a "bootstrap" society. We aren't a collective people here, so what else are you going to do in the end?
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2012


I wonder if this isn't more along the lines of ask versus guess culture.

I've always been bothered by the uncritical acceptance of the idea of Ask vs. Guess Culture here, because it often seems to work out like this: the "ask" person is in a position of more power and feels comfortable being blunt and direct, the "guess" person in a position of less power and does not, but we can ignore the power differential altogether and instead behave as if they are from different "cultures".
posted by Ralston McTodd at 12:50 PM on October 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I think ask vs guess is a little simplistic too. It may be true among equals but in a work situation an "ask" is almost never a request, it is almost always a tell. You can say no only if you don't want to compete.

Another issue is that most real work and alliance forming gets done outside the office. In more traditional companies women may get invited to happy hour but they never get invited to the after drinks drinks. That is when the real shit does down. That is the glass ceiling.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:16 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


i feel like ask vs guess as an explanatory model works best in an all-else-being-equal type situation? i don't remember exactly but didn't it come up in an askme about social norms? it was much more an issue that kicked in between equals/friends/family members than say an office environment between management/employee.
posted by twist my arm at 1:17 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


shit, what he said.
posted by twist my arm at 1:29 PM on October 6, 2012


I'm not sure what's happening here or why, but it's clear I am not welcome. If your goal was to make me feel bad for expressing myself, and to make me feel like that frightened, bullied kid in grade school again, you've succeeded. Seriously. I hope you'll examine your preconceptions and behavior.

I honestly find this reaction to be incredibly fascinating, because it is a perfect example of *the exact phenomenon that we are talking about, which you believe to not exist.*

Hanna Rosin and several MeFites wrote about their beliefs, opinions, and experiences on this topic, and beliefs/opinions/experiences of women they have spoken to about this topic.

You replied with strong disagreement, including saying that a certain idea held by other people was "a strawman." You also included some extremely negative and disrespectful terms - going so far as to call other people's opinions "delusional." You also called other people's opinions "highly profitable," with the implication that they are stated out of avarice rather than good faith.

But to you, this expression of strongly negative and at times disrespectful disagreement with Hanna Rosin and with fellow MeFites is a perfectly normal and acceptable way for you to engage. (FWIW, I personally don't have a problem with it either.)

Okay, it's all good. Fine. But then -- people (mostly women) disagreed with you.

Some people disagreed strongly, as you did. But nobody called your opinions "delusional" or did any other name-calling. Nobody implied that you were stating your opinions in bad faith with some kind of ulterior motive.

But these people, mostly women, who disagreed with you. For disagreeing with you, they're bullies. By disagreeing with you, they're making you unwelcome. You strongly imply that they had an ulterior goal in disagreeing with you, which was to make you feel bad about yourself. By disagreeing with you, they're behaving in a way that is akin to picking on "a frightened, bullied kid in grade school."

But even though these women are big bad mean bullies, you speak to them in the manner of a father scolding naughty 8 year old girl: "I hope you'll examine your preconceptions and behavior."

I am sincerely wondering - do you really not see the double standard here? The difference in what you believe is an acceptable level of assertive, negative disagreement coming from yourself, and the level of disagreement coming from others (mostly women) towards you? Do you not see how this directly relates to the topic of this thread?
posted by cairdeas at 1:35 PM on October 6, 2012 [70 favorites]


I'm not sure why we assume that everyone wants to be at the top, male or female. Genuinely asking women in the thread who've experienced the ceiling, is the ultimate goal to be at the top? Is it to have the equivalent paychecks of your male counterparts (all else being equal)? Is it something else, & if so what?
posted by yoga at 2:32 PM on October 6, 2012


the assumption is not that everyone wants to be at the top, the assumption is everyone wants to be treated fairly whatever the circumstances may be. being able to get to the top through merit is fair. making the same amount of money for the same amount of work is fair. not being called names for working hard and exhibiting the same behavior as male counterparts is fair.
posted by twist my arm at 2:49 PM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Coming back to the original topic, i.e. the content of this FPP.

This crystallizes several ongoing queries that were in my mind: basically for business-minded women like myself, the goal is to mellow out while strengthening our position in the market.
Despite that I'm in a completely different boat from the examples in this article because I founded and manage my own business, it's undeniable that to win contracts, to build friends and allies in your industry, a woman figurehead has to convey competence as well as an aura of "nice to do business with her" especially with regards to other women.
In my experience, this can be hard if you don't share the same "bonding language" of children-issues, of current fashion or other womanly topics that I'm expected to be knowledgeable about by virtue of my sex. For me the solution was to embrace a more female/ lady-like persona. I went from aggressive tom-boy to well dressed female figurehead in about 5 years. I'm afraid I still don't have children, so I can't bond over what's the best choice in terms of nanny or daycare, but I coo over them in sufficient amounts to underline my maternal side. ;)

yoga: This is a good question! However it can be asked of everyone who strives to reach a lofty goal, be it to be the top grossing exec on Wall Street or the top ballerina. I suspect some people never grow out of their childhood fantasy that they will change History, or that they were put down on earth for some reason above and beyond their little selves, so they work in a trance-like state to make their vision come true or they die trying. ;)
posted by ruelle at 4:45 PM on October 6, 2012


There are lots of factors that fall into this. At Google, for example, the system is based around "self-nominating" for promotion. Basically, when you think you're ready you say so and go through a process that involves one or more committees (your manager has some influence but does not make any decisions regarding promotion).

It turns out women, especially at lower levels, self-nominate at a lower rate than men. Their chance of successfully being promoted is the same or higher, but they simply don't think they're ready at the same pace men do.

Also, the work-life balance thing ebbs and flows in the tech industry based on your position and ambitions. Early in your career, you tend to work a LOT, although this can often be as much from excitement and lack of family as anything else. If you want to be senior management / exec, you will work a lot forever. But if you want to be a solid dev, you can absolutely find jobs at the big companies that have not-unreasonable hours (maybe you work like 50 hrs, and check/respond to email sometimes outside of work, but given the pay that can still lead to much less overall life stress than a 40 hr job where you have to worry about money).

Looking at the top of the ladder is interesting, but irrelevant to most people. You only get there if you don't care about anything but work, and thats nothing new nor is it gender-segregated. Whether you get there by internal promotion or by starting a company, you have to sacrifice your life to it, and most people don't want to do that. At least in tech, you can still have a great career without doing that.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looking at the top of the ladder is interesting, but irrelevant to most people. You only get there if you don't care about anything but work, and thats nothing new nor is it gender-segregated. Whether you get there by internal promotion or by starting a company, you have to sacrifice your life to it, and most people don't want to do that.

Yet a large majority of the men at the top have multiple children. By what gender-neutral magic do you think they manage to keep those children alive despite working non-stop?
posted by prefpara at 5:20 PM on October 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


White came up with this term after she finally managed a night out alone with her husband, and they spent half the dinner staring at their iPhones.

My wife is a journo and we tried to do this once, when she was on night shift and has to take calls.

Lets just say:-

a) I've learnt to put the iPhone away in the presence of anyone I want to have a real conversation with (not just because its rude and stuff otherwise, but also because there is absolutely no way you can actually listen to someone if you're being distracted by a shiny screen) and

b) without being entirely schizophrenic about it, my wife brings a different energy when she's being professional and when she's being a sweetie. It was stressful for her when she tried to 'merge' them together.

A better strategy is for to have a real dinner with real conversation and no distractions, but make that a timed affair if there's some pressing work.

And oh, I find it best to take 1am calls from an offshore team away from the bedroom, and in another room where I can connect the phone to a speaker system. I find it extremely stressful to cradle a phone for more than five minutes, and that often affects the quality of my participation in the call. Find it more productive to simulate a room-experience, if you will; so it's not just being on a speakerphone, but getting your team mates' voices channeled through speakers in front of you and behind you.

(I also find it unproductive to do calls at 1am Singapore time, except with European teams :) The best possible time for a global call is 600-730am Singapore time; it's 600-730pm in New York, a shade before 12am in London depending on daylight saving time, 8-930am in Sydney/ Tokyo and around 4am in India. Of course, if there's no team in Europe listening in, you can bring the time forward.

Teams in India are generally amused and come on board when I call it the Suprabhata Seva (or the Azaan) call, because 4-5am is about the time temples in India open their doors and 'wake up' the gods with a service called Suprabhata Seva, just as mosques have their first Azaan of the day at that time)

posted by the cydonian at 8:34 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've always been bothered by the uncritical acceptance of the idea of Ask vs. Guess Culture here, because it often seems to work out like this: the "ask" person is in a position of more power and feels comfortable being blunt and direct, the "guess" person in a position of less power and does not, but we can ignore the power differential altogether and instead behave as if they are from different "cultures".

I totally agree. And even more, in terms of this FPP, women are in the position of needing to "guess" (meaning find the exact right phrasing that hints at their needs without aggressively demanding) while their male colleagues can "ask" like regular, empowered people.

Personally the ask/guess thing doesn't resonate with me, but it has certainly gotten huge traction on MetaFilter, and a fair bit of attention elsewhere, too, so it clearly speaks to people.
posted by Forktine at 8:48 PM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sorry, Feminists
posted by homunculus at 10:17 AM on October 8, 2012


Yet a large majority of the men at the top have multiple children. By what gender-neutral magic do you think they manage to keep those children alive despite working non-stop?

Oh, I think they are generally terrible parents, actually. A rich woman could have a kid and let nannies raise them too. I think it is socially more acceptable for men to ignore their kids than women, and thats definitely a factor. But "equality" here would probably mean more women being bad parents too, rather than men actually raising their own children.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:46 PM on October 10, 2012


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