Another really interesting thing in the book was how we view aggressiveness in men and women differently. Sheryl Sandberg talked about this professor at Columbia who took a Harvard Business School study regarding Heidi Roizen who used her contacts to become a venture capitalist. The professor tabulated students’ responses to the same exact story of the businessperson. But in one story, the person was Heidi. In the other, the person was Howard.
Across the board – women and men – people reacted favorably to Howard. But people said they wouldn’t want to work for Heidi, and they wouldn’t necessarily want to hire her either. (Sheryl puts all of this a bit better in her TED talk.)
(One of the most striking ideas for me was, “What the data shows, above all else, is one thing – which is that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” That’s so horrible, yet I believe it’s true.)
One thing Sheryl said that I found fascinating was that when people were asked if they took gender into account – the more the person was sure they treated people equally and didn’t worry about gender, the worse they were about having feelings based on gender.
So, I am making a conscious effort not to have judgement of women being too aggressive. Now I always ask myself if a man did the exact same thing, would I have the same reaction? And I do my best to be as brutally honest as possible.
I’ll give you an example.
At work, we all recently joined the union. We were on a show that only recently went union. So, everything was new to a lot of people. Details were kind of explained to us little by little – some correct, some incorrect.
There were two different orientation meetings you could choose between. I went to the first one. Everything went hunky dory. I heard that at the second meeting, a female co-worker of mine asked all these sort of tough questions.
She asked if we could have a bigger discount on the initiation fee because of the discrepancy of fees vs. earnings between us and the people above us. (The people above us make a lot more than we do, but don’t pay proportionally more in the initiation fee.)
She also asked if we got Memorial Day as a paid holiday.
At first I was a little taken aback. “What? How could you possibly try to ask for a better deal on the initiation fee when our company already negotiated for us a lower fee than published.” And “Why would we get paid for the holiday we didn’t work? I rarely ever get paid for days I don’t work – no matter what the reason is that I didn’t work them (including holidays).
But then, I thought, “Why am I teetering on the edge of being embarrassed for/by this girl. Look at her! She’s being strong and assertive. She’s helping us. She’s helping herself.” We actually did get a full paid day off work for that holiday – and we most likely would’ve not otherwise known that that was something we were supposed to get.
It’s great that she leaned in.
And I’ll conclude my thoughts in this series tomorrow.