The Sciences

Women On Top

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumFeb 12, 2008 8:26 PM


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Nicholas D. Kristof has an interesting Op-Ed in The New York Times 'When Women Rule'.

While no woman has been president of the United States -- yet -- the world does have several thousand years' worth of experience with female leaders. And I have to acknowledge it: Their historical record puts men's to shame.

After citing many examples, down the page he describes the 'Goldberg paradigm':

..people are asked to evaluate a particular article or speech, supposedly by a man. Others are asked to evaluate the identical presentation, but from a woman. Typically, in countries all over the world, the very same words are rated higher coming from a man.

Sound familiar? He also points to several studies that have suggested it's a disadvantage for a woman to be physically attractive when applying for a managerial job because she's pegged as 'stereotypically female' and therefore 'unsuited' to becoming a boss. Translation:

Whether we acknowledge it our not, subconscious cues about the way we look are going to play a role in how we're perceived

. Further, research shows that promoting one's own successes is a helpful strategy for the guys, while ladies who highlight their accomplishments are a turn-off. Yes, even in the 21st century, these studies suggest we have a long way to go. sigh...

This creates a huge challenge for ambitious women in politics or business: If they're self-effacing, people find them unimpressive, but if they talk up their accomplishments, they come across as pushy braggarts.

Now in my opinion, the same can be said for the fellas, and I'm certain a heck of a lot more goes into the big picture than there's room to explore in a single Op-Ed, but Kristof does raise some very thought-provoking questions about successful women. He writes:

The broader conundrum is that for women, but not for men, there is a tradeoff in qualities associated with top leadership. A woman can be perceived as competent or as likable, but not both.

Gosh I hope that's not true... What do readers think?

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