Saturday, 3 November 2007

NYT article: The Feminine Critique

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this story in the New York Times. What has been your experience with competition in the workplace? Would you attribute your ability/inability to inspire, delegate, compete, and negotiate to gender, or to personality/experience, etc? Finally, what female leaders have been role models for you?

(As a side note, Lisa Belkin, has written books and scores of articles about her "Opt-Out" theory, which argues that women aren't professional equals of men because they simply don't want to be.)


Monica said...

Ah yes, another comment way after the fact, but hey, nobody's posted anything new yet, so I figure I'm still okay. Anyway, on to business...

Reading this article brought up a lot of memories for me of a year I spent working while my husband finished his bachelor's degree. I was promoted to the position of Loss Prevention Supervisor (supervisor of the security department essentially) at the hotel where I worked and when I read the following quote from the article, one particular experience immediately came to mind:

“Women have to choose between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked.”

I don't believe this to be entirely true. I think you can balance this out and be a good boss, have the respect you deserve and still be liked by your staff. I don't really believe that it must be one or the other.

So, here's my story:
We were in a department meeting and there had been an incident the night before about which I had received two different stories - one from my night security officer and one from the manager for the night of the bar and restaurant. Well, I made a decision about what I thought most probably happened from the two stories and discussed it briefly in my department meeting. My night security officer immediately began arguing with me about the circumstance, showing absolutely no respect. Up until that point, I had been "nice." I like to be liked, and I was, but I found in this particular discussion that what I was losing was respect. Not only was I a woman in a supervisory position that was almost always held by a male (I mean, those of you who know me - just imagine it - me in a dark suit with an ear piece and I big flashlight taking care of security, noise complaints, drunks, trespassers and emergencies), but I had just a few weeks before been at the exact same job level as this man. And he had been working there much longer than I had. And my entire department was all men. So... Well, as he just railed on me, I realized that I needed to stop playing it nice and take charge. I immediately took control - not angrily but sternly, and he backed off. One of my other employees told me later that he really admired how I handled a very difficult situation, and I learned that being the boss means being the boss and taking charge, even when people don't like it. I know that the particular employee I had that encounter with (the one who was going off) never really liked me per se, but after that he definitely respected me. So, I guess that question would be, did I really give up being liked for gaining respect? I don't think so - everyone else liked me just fine and respected me, and in that job that felt like a pretty challenging point to get to. A tall order, if you will. But, being a boss just carries some of that with it. There are going to be people who rub you the wrong way and vice versa. But I don't believe that as a woman you completely have to sacrifice one for the other. Granted I am not working in corporate America, but that was my experience.

Oh, I'd also be interested in seeing more of that forthcoming study on hostility toward men in the workplace because I feel that in some respects, we're coming full circle in terms of negating gender roles. It seems more and more that men are being demasculinized for the sake of gender equality, which does not seem to be equalizing the genders at all, but rather categorizing men as being inferior to women. Any thoughts anyone?

Courtney said...

Very interesting story! I agree with what you summarized-- the people who liked you to begin with probably liked you more when you stood up for yourself. The other guy probably wouldn't care one way or the other, but you did get his respect in the end.

I also agree that there is often a switch of sexism when fighting for gender equality. I am not as familiar with it in the workplace, but I am particularly sensitive to it in the media-- and it really bothers me. Instead of truly fighting for equality, it's almost a sort of fight for revenge in putting men down in order to bring women higher. It's quite bothersome.