Gender Challenges

Below are gender based challenges that research and experience have indicated women commonly face in the workplace. Do any of these resonate with you?

The Mommy Wall

  • Belief that “Good mothers are 100% focused on their children, good employees are 100% focused on their jobs”
  • Given less opportunity – “I didn’t consider you for this because I know you won’t want to do that much travel and leave your kids”
  • May be judged and disliked when seen as not nurturing mothers – “I don’t know how you leave your kids!”
  • View that moms “opt out” of the workforce to raise babies
  • Work / Life Balance – Juggling priorities, challenges with childcare, trying to be at kid’s activities

Performance Attribution

  • Men tend to be  judged on their potential and women on their past accomplishments.
  • Male success is often attributed to their own skills, female success is often attributed to help from others, getting lucky and working hard
  • Women tend to not self promote – they focus on doing a great job with the belief / hope that someone will eventually recognize their talent and reward their efforts. Women tend to disguise statements as questions and to give credit to the group. The impact is often:
    • Not getting the same credit for accomplishments
    • Less likely to receive credit for their ideas – “stolen ideas”
    • Less likely to have influence in groups – interrupted more
    • Given greater blame for mistakes

Confidence Factor –

  • Myth of Perfection – Women feel a need to be uber prepared and to always have it together.  Often suffer from “pretender syndrome” never feeling like they are good enough
  • Women assert themselves and “sit at table” less often & raise their hand less
  • Misdiagnosed Lack of Ambition – Women tend to be much harsher with their self-critique and are often seen as lacking confidence because they don’t necessarily toot their own horn, go for the big promotion, etc. That leads to women often being dismissed because they are seen as not wanting “it” or not having the guts to go after “it” – when that is not necessarily the case.

Mentors & Champion

  • Men look for mentors to help them learn how to manage a business but women are looking for someone to teach them to manage a career
  • Mentors select proteges based on performance, potential…and often how closely they see themselves reflected. Common interests and styles provide a natural connection point for a relationship.  It is more difficult for men to see themselves reflected in women.
  • High-ranking men tend to avoid being alone in an informal setting with a woman who is at a lower level. The close mentoring relationship can look a lot like dating to an observer who doesn’t have context.

The Likeability / Competence Tightrope

  • Women regularly given feedback on their personality and not their results
  • Women Exhibit Feminine Traits – Judged high on warmth so treated kindly but not taken seriously
  • Women Exhibit Masculine Traits – Judged as competent but low on emotional intelligence (Edgy, a Bitch)

Emotion –

  • Passion – Leaders are often passionate, and women leaders are no different. However, passion in a women is often misinterpreted as being emotional and inappropriate.
  • Fear the Tears – the fear that giving a woman feedback of having a difficult conversation will result in her crying.  If she does cry, it can make people very uncomfortable and / or lead to the perception that she is week
  • Women are expected to exhibit positive facial emotion and are often told to smile when they simply have a neutral / resting face
  • A strong woman who is pulled together and assertive can be very intimidating to both men and women

Financial –

  • During a lay-off or career transition – Assumption tends to be that the males needs to support his family so a job is critical but a new job is seen as less urgent for a women with the assumption that she will probably enjoy the down time with her kids / volunteering
  • The wage gap that exists between males and females in similar roles
  • Mommy tax of lower pay & slower advancement for moms who took time off
  • Women are viewed as having skewed priorities if they focus on salary
  • Salary negotiation catch 22 for women

Traditional Gender Roles –

  • Traditionally, men are seen as protector and woman as nurturer
  • It is human nature to want to categorize people to better understand how to interact with them.  Men tend to unconsciously “label” the professional women women they work as wife, daughter, sister, mother
  • Office housework (taking notes, cleaning up, organizing social events, etc) tends to be done by the women in the workplace.
  • Safety (Physical & Emotional) is often in the back of most women’s minds and something they are quick to pick up on.
  • There is sometimes an elephant in the Room – attraction
  • Wardrobe