In her new book, Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand won't say which of her colleagues in the senate called her porky after the birth of her second child, or which one told her not to lose weight because he likes “my girls chubby" (as if). She doesn't have to name the guys, I'm just glad she's voicing the reality.
If you are a woman and get a funny feeling that you have just been "dissed" (compliments on your appearance, instead of your competence, and still asked to take notes? ) please remember: It is NOT THE RECEPTION ON YOUR SET. You are accurately perceiving a painful reality in the workplace: gender discrimination is alive and well.
Here's some recent evidence to validate. This week NPR reported on a study from London Business School that found when managers in the military held traditional gender attitudes, they gave women who were more competent and accomplished worse performance evaluations. I guess if a woman wants to move up in the military she had better take her performance down a notch.
But let's go to a field where objectivity is the foundation for decision making: science. According to U.S. News and World Report, women are three times less likely to become research scientists, largely due to negative stereotypes. The report, funded by the L’Oréal Foundation, found that women earn just 32 percent of undergraduate science degrees, 30 percent at the master's degree level, and 25 percent of science doctorates. One in 10 women in science hold the highest academic position in science disciplines, and only 3 percent of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women. I wonder why.
One answer might be found in a study reviewed by the Scientific American. It found that when Yale scientists were presented with applications for a lab manager position by candidates who intended to go on to graduate school, female applicants were rated significantly lower than the males in:
- whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student
Women scientists were equally likely to select men over women applicants. (Both the men and women who judged the applications more harshly did not site sexist reasons for doing so.)
It's real, it's out there, it's disheartening. When a "casual" comment feels like a demeaning experience, or a sexist joke isn't really all that funny, it's not because we lack a sense of humor. We've come a long way baby, but not far enough.