Practical action you can take to create an inclusive culture for women at work (part 2): double standards in the workplace

Their whole lives women are taught to be nice and accommodating. To show empathy towards others and above all to nurture the men in their lives. The results of a lifetime of prejudice are noticeable in the workplace. The way women are viewed is very different from the way that men are viewed. Experiences of women who talk about gender inequality on the work floor mention how their ability to balance work/private is often questioned. A question that men do not usually get. A man with four kids is often seen as someone who needs a promotion whereas a woman with four kids is seen as not suitable for one because she probably won’t be able to commit a hundred percent.

But it’s not just the situation at home that raises doubts amongst co-workers about the ability of a woman to be successful in her career. Researchers have found evidence that women don’t only have to come across as compatible to be successful, they also have to be liked or likeable to be able to reach success. As well that as the more competent a woman is, the less her colleagues like her. But in order to be successful it is important to challenge others.

And why is it that often women aren’t liked in the workplace? One study shows that when women negotiate a promotion, they are 30% more likely to get feedback, stating that they are bossy, intimidating or aggressive. This in contrary to men who are in the same position, asking for a raise. So asking for a raise or a promotion isn’t always received well by the people around them.  And if you look at the available research, the effects are noticeable. Some researches, that look at how well women present themselves, show that women generally have issues with promoting themselves. It turns out that they have a tendency to give recognition to the people they work with, but often not themselves. And by not promoting themselves effectively, or by promoting themselves and being labeled in a negative way: that promotion will probably not happen.

A vicious circle which keeps women from doing what they need to do to be successful and when they do it, they aren’t liked. Which then negatively affects their chances on future success again. So what do all of these results teach us about what we can do?

  • When you feel like a woman should have been nicer to you, ask yourself if you would have felt the same way about a man saying this to you. Or whether you would have shrugged it off as a case of differing opinions.
  • When a promotion is available, ask yourself which women you might be overlooking for the job and why.
  • When you’re negotiating salaries with a woman, take into account tendencies which might sway you in the direction of having a personal idea about their attitude. Being determined doesn’t mean someone is bossy and being vocal isn’t aggression.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg made a powerful statement about how we should look at women and especially girls. She says that instead of telling girls that they are bossy, we should tell them that they have executive leadership qualities. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.