Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Glass Ceiling

We interrupt this angst-ridden man-hating vacation to bring you this headline: Study: Women Create 'their own glass ceiling'. The mindless poll, promised for today, will have to wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we can ponder this excerpt from the article about the study:

"Women have imposed their own glass ceiling, and the question is why," said Scott Taylor, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management who conducted the study.

No, Scott, the answer is why you chose to interpret your results that way.

Taylor says the findings could indicate why many women don't rise to head companies or why there is a wage disparity between men and women.

That's a bit of a leap. All we have to do is ask and we can get paid more and promoted more? Problem solved? How cool is that?

And apparently middle aged and older women are better at creating their own glass ceilings than are younger women. That's encouraging, sort of. In the article (not the study), there are some incoherent quotations from people who say that the media images of glamorous and dumpy older women make real women not ask for raises. Or something like that.

The basic findings of the study are not surprising: women underestimate themselves and are less assertive about asking for raises and so on. But it does not follow that women are therefore creating their own glass ceilings. And I don't think a blame-the-women approach should be repackaged as "let's try to understand all the factors" (that contribute to disparities between how men and women fare in their careers).

Taylor will present his findings Tuesday in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management..

If anyone is going to be at this meeting in Chicago today and if it's not too late, maybe someone can ask Professor Taylor if he has any alternative hypotheses that might also explain his data.

18 comments:

dunelady said...

To some extent it sort of makes sense, although I agree that it's only part of the problem. There are perception issues in all of us that go beyond another person's behavior. I know this because I've caught myself being more critical of a woman's work, and I am a woman myself. If even I'm doing it, so is everyone else.

If women tend to undervalue themselves relative to men (or perhaps men overvalue themselves relative to women), then women will be relatively less likely to ask for raises or apply for jobs. This (relative) lack of confidence may also keep them from performing as well in job interviews or performance reviews.

I know that I sabotaged a few of my own interviews when I was an undergrad. It was only because a helpful older (female) colleague read my grad school application essay and insisted I use the word "tenacious" when describing myself that I probably got into the schools I did. I felt very uncomfortable using that word, even though it's true. I also know that these are mistakes that men I know would never have made -- they didn't need those experiences as undergrads to teach them these lessons.

Like FSP, I don't understand the connection between the glass ceiling and media portrayal of older women. It seems to be unconnected to the main point.

postdoc of real science & engineering, not surveys. said...

if you look at his resume, you will note his B.A. in Spanish from Brigham Young university, and his interest in "church and community service" at the end of his *13* page resume as an ASSISTANT professor (of 1.5 years) at a 2nd tier school....

take what you will from these conclusions:
mormon, egocentric, young.

Anonymous said...

This isn't even a very original finding. Similar results are described in detail in "women don't ask" http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d.html/ref=mp_s_a_1/192-6760960-3302027?qid=1249977981&a=0553383876&sr=8-1
which also has ideas for how to overcome this problem.

doityourself_hammer said...

Just to say that even when I have asked about promotion I was met with a flat 'no'. Not a 'not yet because of xxx and this is what you can do to help the situation', not 'no, we haven't got any money, but make sure you have this and this lined up for when we do'. Just no. and then no again. So I've applied anyway, and we'll see what happens ...

(lets just say that certain other (male) colleagues have been more actively encouraged to apply in the past).

Bee said...

Hi Professor,

Let me add a word on the alleged glass ceiling. I know several women who didn't want to be promoted to what would technically seen, in a men's world, be a higher stage of career. It's not that they undervalue themselves, it's that they know what is important for them. That are mostly cases in which a promotion would have meant more administration, less contact with pupils/students/customers, more office work, etc. While there are certainly the cases in which women are on a disadvantage, I think one should keep in mind that looking at the statistics doesn't tell you how happy people are in their job. Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to be careful when we judge interpretations of research from news sources. I'm not saying Dr. Taylor did or did not interpret his research the way this article or the MSNBC article has described it, but I think we really have to go back and read his own publications-- find the assumptions, arguments, implications, and limitations he carefully constructed based on that research. It's too easy for MSNBC to miscontrue the situation from isolated quotes and pseudo quotes. I can actually imagine someone reading this blog entry and then going off and saying that this research was about how women "want" to be undervalued in the workplace. Misinformation propagates.

Aurora said...

This seems to be a societal issue more than a gender issue. Youth and vitality are respected more than age and wisdom for both men and women. Women face the worst of it and are more under-valued. In this sense women may be creating their own glass ceiling.

That said, I don't think Scott Taylor provides an astute analysis of his own study.

Peggy said...

To anyone who has read much gender literature, these results are not very surprising. Virginia Valian, author of Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women, would say that women as well as men are subject to gender schemas, cultural constructions of how women and men should behave. Alice Eagly (http://www.wcas.northwestern.edu/psych/people/faculty/faculty_individual_pages/eagly.htm) has a recent book called Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders that addresses similar issues.

Jeremy D. Young said...

Reading the article, it said that women tended to think that men perceived them as less than they really do. This would lead them to not risk requesting the new tougher assignment, or seeking promotions or raises as aggressively as the egotistical males around them. It's not just asking, it fighting for the raises and promotions that makes the difference.

Who do you think is more offended by the women that fight for their fair share? The women who weren't willing to fight, the men who weren't willing to fight, or the men who were willing?

Just don't get trapped into believing that only one problem is at play. The business world is definitely a different place than the academic world.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness we have Assistant Professor Doucheknuckle to set us straight!

Anonymous said...

Here's the result:
"Women managers underestimate how highly they are valued by their superiors (especially older women), when compared to male counterparts."

Dr. Scott interprets:
"Women have imposed their own glass ceiling, and the question is why?"

But, we could as easily interpret the same data in this way:
"Male bosses fail to communicate to (older) female manager-employees that they are valued, and the question is why?"

Or:
"Male managers are flaming egotists compared to their more modest female counterparts, and the question is why?"

So, why did "Dr. Scott" choose to focus on how this is the fault of women managers? Hmm...?

lusenok said...

I agree with Dr. Taylor that the effect of women undervaluing themselves is real.
But the news article is written just like "oh, these stupid chicks make all the troubles themselves. This explains everything!"

Science journalism fail...

Doctor Pion said...

Postdoc @ 2:55AM missed the two years as an Asst Prof at Boston University (starting ABD) before his first year at UNM. And that he only worked one year under a female PI before picking his major prof at Case.

Jeremy @ 8:30AM left out the possibility that a woman who did fight for a raise might get treated even worse by upper management. The study is not complete, and Dr. Taylor's conclusion is not valid, without looking at that possibility. Better a job with no raise than no job at all.

Also, I thought the key word throughout was ASSISTANT, and that he may or may not have done a good job marketing himself to get that word changed in a few years. Most universities like getting their name out in public, so there is also a very real possibility that we are reading what UNM wrote to get him and them some attention.

steph said...

Um, you mean men are often too cocky and women are often not cocky enough? First of all, this is an old result. Also, do you think that might be a result of socialization??? duh. Plus women are judged more harshly than men, no matter the gender of the judge. Sucky.

I prefer to underestimate myself than to be an egotistical jerk who steps on other people, like some men I know. Maybe that's because I was socialized to think that way. But at least I only harm myself that way. Some men are like drunk drivers with their egos, whoever gets in their way is smashed up to pieces.

But, at least we are allowed by society to have feelings and can generally form more close relationships that may contribute better to our long term happiness than a pay raise or a promotion.

Insecure Prof. said...

Why aren't high-achieving women as confident in their abilities as their male counterparts?

Why do I suffer from debilitating self-doubt in my capabilities even though I made my goal of obtaining a tenure-track position at an R2 research university before I was 30?

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned this before, but Scott Taylor needs to go read Women Don't Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever - particularly the chapter "Scaring the Boys". He has misinterpreted/misunderstood several facets of the "glass ceiling".

Kea said...

Er, so why don't women complain more? Duh. Because complaining will get you piles of shit bulldozed on top of you.

zoelouise said...

Too lazy to search right now, but there has been considerable research to support the finding that men who negotiate are respected more, while women who negotiate are viewed negatively. A guy who asks for more is a stud; a woman who asks for more is a shrew. She's caught between a rock and a hard place.