To Know a Female Boss is To Like a Female Boss


Results of a Gallup poll released today indicate that those who currently report to a women are just as likely to prefer a female boss as a male boss.  The bad news is, in general, Americans still have a strong preference for male management.  Gallup has been conducting this poll on boss gender preference for over a half-decade, and the good news is that things are getting better for women.  In 1953, 66% preferred a male boss, and only 5% preferred a female boss.  Today 35% prefer men and 23% prefer women to tell them what to do at work.

My own research, along with collaborator Janet Lever, found a similar preference for male bosses, but we also uncovered another silver lining.  When asked about their current bosses, employees liked their male and female bosses equally.  So, in real life, there is no preference for male bosses.  It’s when people think about male and female leaders abstractly that male bias prevails.

Why this bias in the abstract, and not for those we know well?  For those we don’t know well, or when we think abstractly about male and female leaders we tend to use stereotypes.  For those we know well, the use of stereotypes is minimized.   Characteristics stereotypically associated with men – competitiveness, aggressiveness, ambitiousness – are also typically associated with great leaders.  So, when asked who we’d prefer to work for  – we typically apply stereotypes and say men.

In reality, research indicates that women are just as good as men when it comes to leadership.  This makes sense given we like our actual female bosses as much our actual male bosses.  And the more experience people have with female bosses, the more they appreciate them.

Unfortunately, according to Gallup, only 30% of Americans currently work for a female boss.  As more women break through to management levels, this discrepancy between men and women is bound to decrease.

Think Lauren Bacall, Not Marilyn Monroe – Firm Warns Female Lawyers







Last week, the prestigious international law firm, Clifford Chance, e-mailed a memo to female employees on improving presentation skills.  The 1950’s-esque, women-have-no-idea-how-to-appear-professional tone of the memo has caused it to go viral.  In case you missed it, the memo encouraged women to:

Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.

“Like” You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You Know,” “OK,” and “Like.”

Don’t giggle; Don’t squirm; Don’t tilt your head.

Practice hard words.

Watch out for the urinal position.

Wear a suit, not your party outfit.

No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage.

Don’t dress like a mortician. If you’re wearing a black suit , wear something bright.

Make sure you can stand in your heels, not trip.

There are more goodies, but you get the idea.  Condescending remarks which imply women are clueless in the workplace.

What’s most surprising is who created this memo.   Probably some old white male lawyers dictated the list, thinking they were doing something really special for aspiring female partners, right?  Wrong.   The memo came from Clifford Chance’s Women’s Committee.  This is advice from women to other women.  How is that possible?

It’s actually very common for female executives at the top of their game (think Sheryl Sandberg) to think women should be blamed for their own lack of progress at work.  These women have succumbed to what social and organizational psychologists refer to as  “queen bee syndrome.”  Queen bees typically propose that the forces holding women back are not structural, and, instead, are based on women’s lack of skills.  (See blog post for more info on queen bee syndrome).

In order to “help” these poor women who are launching their careers, queen bees write books about how women need to lean in, and e-mail memos suggesting female lawyers shouldn’t show cleavage.  By distancing themselves from other women, and pointing out differences between themselves and other women (e.g. unlike me, other women frequently say “um” and giggle and squirm), they elevate their own status.  Or so they think.

Here’s my memo to senior women who want to help out more junior women.  Think Gloria Steinem, not Benedict Arnold.  Tout the strengths of these junior employees, don’t point out their weaknesses.  Raise awareness of the accomplishments of these women to other senior managers.  Provide information about job opportunities to these women.  And if you can’t do that, then just keep quiet.


Chivalry isn’t dead…. Unfortunately

music class

My ten-year old son was discussing his day at school.  He and his friends were complaining that they had to sit on the floor during music class.  When I asked what happened, it seems that the classroom was short on chairs that day, so boys had to sit on the floor, leaving the chairs for the girls.  I’m sure the teacher thought she was teaching the boys to be chivalrous, but she was really doing a disservice to the girls.   I explained to the boys that girls are just as able to sit on floors as boys.  They’re not more fragile, weaker, or less flexible.  They don’t need to be cared for by boys.

Chivalrous behavior, where men help women solely because of their gender, is a form of benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism consists of positive feelings toward women, and the belief that men should protect and provide for women.   The problem with this type of sexism is that is accompanied by the belief that women are less competent and need men’s help.  Benevolent sexism is not only endorsed by men, but women express benevolent sexism as well ( a recently published study found that women who felt entitled were more likely to endorse benevolent sexism).

What’s wrong with women wanting to be taken care of by men?  Studies show women who want men to take care of them tend to have less personal ambition, defer to their partners when making career decisions, and feel that the role of women is to help their partners’ career.

In other words, we can’t have it both ways.  We won’t make it to the boardroom if we can’t open our own door.  We won’t be in the C-Suite, if we can’t wait our turn to get off the elevator.  And we won’t be running corporations if we can’t sit on the floor in music class.

Why Are All the Top Hairstylists Men?

IMG_1227I’m getting highlights at the famous Chris McMillan Salon in Beverly Hills.  McMillan, stylist to the stars, is best known for creating Jennifer Aniston’s famous Rachel cut.  He now pockets for $600 for a haircut from those lucky enough to snag an appointment (Just FYI, I’m here to see someone else).   There’s no questioning McMillan’s talent, but I can’t help wonder why the current phenoms of the hair world are all men.  With the exception of a few token female stylists (Sally Hershberger is the only one who comes to mind), lists of the most highly-paid or celebrity stylists are almost exclusively male.  McMillan is joined on these lists with fellow hairstylists like Orlando Pita, Frederic Fekkai, Cristophe, and Jose Eber.  I understand why the top levels of some occupations may be male-dominated, but hairstyling?

Women have so much more experience with hair than men.  Obsession with hair starts at a young age for girls.   Little sisters of the boys on my son’s hockey team fix each other’s hair while their brothers slam into one another on the ice.  As a teenager, I spent hours with curling irons, hot rollers and blow dryers.  In fact, when it comes to hair, I have certainly exceeded the 10,000 hours rule.  No doubt, most of my female friends have as well (In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that after roughly 10,000 hours of practice you will achieve mastery in a field.) It’s not that women aren’t entering the profession,   The Bureau of Labor Statistics  reports that 85% of employees in “personal appearance” occupations are female.  What’s keeping these women from reaching  the top?

I asked world-famous Cristophe why so few women made it to the very top of his profession.  Cristophe told me that women are the primary consumers of expensive haircuts, and they’re not just paying for a good cut.  They want to feel beautiful, and a man is more naturally able to provide this experience to women.

That makes sense, but I can’t help think there’s more to it.  After all, men beating women at their own game isn’t limited to hairstyling.  Men outearn women in other female-dominated areas as well.   Look at secretaries and nurses, two of the most female-dominated professions.  Female secretaries earn only 90.6% as much as male secretaries, and female nurses earn just 86.5% as much as male nurses.   In other words, for every dollar earned, male secretaries earn about ten cents more than female secretaries, and male nurses earn almost 14 cents more than female nurses.

Perhaps it’s the ol’ boy network in action.  Maybe male hairstylists have more access to funds to open their own salons, networks to promote their business, and contacts to get them that celebrity client who will put them on the map.  At least that’s the theory as to why male nurses get ahead.  They’re able to befriend the male-dominated senior management, and use these connections for promotions and pay raises.

In the case of hairstylists, I get that women (myself included) perpetuate this problem by laying out big bucks for beauty – but why women do that is a subject for a future blog post.   This one’s about why men are beating women in professions that should be a slam-dunk for women.

Gender-neutral O Canada

Canadian flag


A group called Restore Our Anthem has launched a campaign to make the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem, O Canada,  gender neutral.   Although, I live in Star Spangled Banner territory, I was intrigued by the Canadian effort. The campaign is backed by some of Canada’s most influential women, including former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell and renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood.  They just want to change  two words.

True patriot love in all thy sons command

True patriot love in all of us command.

A recent on-the-street poll of Canadian attitudes toward the change revealed mixed results.  Some thought it was about time, while others weren’t so sure.  One woman suggested, “Some things should just be left as is.”  Perhaps she was referring to the centuries of male dominance.   We wouldn’t want to touch that type of tradition.

Male dominance is so widely accepted, that sometimes overt sexism doesn’t seem so bad – even to a feminist.  One easy way to perceive the sexism in a situation is to substitute racism.   If the anthem lyrics included, “True patriot love in all thy white people command, “  would the reaction be the same?   Some things should just be left as is?  It would obviously be deemed too racist.

So why is it so difficult to understand that the term “sons” is sexist?  Male dominance is so embedded in our culture that often it’s tough to notice even when it’s right in front of us.  If the race example didn’t convince you, imagine explaining to a four-year-old girl just learning the anthem, why the lyrics contain the word “sons” instead of “daughters.”    Your explanation might go something like this – “They say sons, but they mean sons and daughters.”  Or, “People use boy words to mean both genders.”    And what message do you think that sends to the four-year-old girl?  It sends the message that boys are more important to Canada than girls.

Still hanging on to the tradition argument?  According to a youtube video posted by Retore Our Anthem, the original lyrics to O Canada were gender neutral, and “in all of us” was changed to “in all thy sons” in 1913.

And what about the line in question in the French version of the anthem?  That line translates to “Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.”  Not even close to the words in the English version of the anthem.

The campaign for change is encouraging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian government to act on this issue.  Canadians, they claim,  “sing [O Canada] proudly without pause.  But perhaps a pause is exactly what we need.  A pause to consider the power of words.”   I’m happy our neighbors to the north are pointing out this injustice.  Starting a dialog is the first step toward change.

Are Hubbies Holding Women Back?

A young caring doctor


Are you a married woman applying for a new job?  You’d better tell your employer that you’re a single mom.    A new study reported in the journal Academic Medicine revealed a large discrepancy between the salary of new male and female physicians, with men taking home over $10,000 a year more than their female counterparts.  Age didn’t explain the difference in pay, nor did specialty, academic rank, work hours, time spent researching or any of the many other factors they examined –except one.  One-third of the gender difference in pay was explained by spousal employment.  Basically, If your spouse is employed, you make less money.  The study’s authors suggest, “Employers may feel that men who are supporting a family deserve a higher salary than women whom they do not view as principal breadwinners.”    In other words, pay is not dependent on performance or credentials, but instead on gender-based assumptions about providing for a family.

Pay discrepancies that start early on in a career are likely to get larger with time, and, unfortunately, these pay discrepancies are not limited to the medical profession.  Women, find out what your worth, and make sure you’re getting it before you take that job.  And, most of all, don’t mention that you’re married!


Taking back the armrest


I’m always searching for strategies to keep the seat next to me on the bus, train or plane vacant.  Intently searching through my backpack resting on the vacant seat, is my go-to.  Coughing and sneezing might work too. Recent posts on Tumblr (Men Taking Too Much Space on the Train) and  (On Planes and Trains, Everyone Prefers to Sit Next to Women. Lucky Us.) lament that on public transportation men tend to plot themselves down next to a small women, dominating more than their own share of space.  It’s not that women don’t like men, the men just take up too much space.  Their legs sprawl well beyond the limitations suggested by their seats.

But the biggest beef with male travelers is they hog the armrest.   In most modes of transportation there is only one armrest to be shared between two passengers, and the armrest is only large enough for one arm.  So, who gets to use the armrest?  Everyone already knows in mixed sex situations the guy gets the armrest, but there is actual research support for this phenomenon. Researchers examined 852 airline passengers, and, no surprise, men had a much greater tendency to command the armrest  than women.  Also, no surprise, the researchers found that those denied armrest access by their seat companion were angry about it.

OK, you say, men are typically bigger than women.  It’s all about size not sex.  You’re wrong.  The airline study controlled for the size of the passengers and obtained the exact same results.   Even when a female passenger was the same size as the male traveler next to her, the armrest was usurped by the man!  It’s not about men’s larger size, it’s about men asserting their power over women.  Sadly, they probably don’t even realize their doing it. How do you get the armrest back?  You need not win an elbow struggle for armrest dominance, just call out the armrest hog.  Tell him he’s had the armrest for half the flight and now it’s your turn.  It’s time to take back the armrest!

Was Colin McGinn Encouraged To Resign Because He Was Disliked?

smiley face   If  Colin McGinn was generally well-liked, would he still be employed?  McGinn, the star philosopher from the University of Miami, resigned after his research assistant alleged McGinn sent her sexually explicit e-mails and texts.   There is no question that McGinn crossed a line, and should face some consequences– but how much did negative feelings toward this guy make his situation worse?

Just to fill you in, McGinn and his research assistant were working on a book on the human hand.  Thus, McGinn felt justified in sending her the message:  “had a hand job imagining you giving me a hand job.”  According to McGinn, the two were involved in a consensual intellectual romance, and his comments were merely referring to a manicure.  McGinn also allegedly sent an e-mail suggesting the two should have sex over the summer.

What seems strange is the total lack of support for this guy.  Isn’t it possible that he really believed he and his graduate student had some kind of special relationship?  One exception, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote a letter in McGinn’s defense, but after tremendous pushback, he seems to have changed his perspective.   By contrast, the affable Anthony Weiner, who developed a habit of sexting women, still garnered almost 5% of the vote in the New York City mayoral primary yesterday.  And it took 17 women coming forward with sexual harassment allegations  before Bob Filner submitted his resignation as mayor of San Diego in August.

I don’t know McGinn personally –  but the arrogance that oozes from his blog provides clues why he might rub some the wrong way.  On one blog post, he defends the inappropriate messages sent to the grad student using philosophical arguments and proposes there’s a big difference between “suggesting” an action and actually “entertaining” it.  Titling his book Mindfucking also suggests he may not be a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. Nonetheless, an obnoxious or arrogant personality should not impact the severity of his punishment.  If McGinn was extremely well-liked by his colleagues and his university president, would he have still been pressured to resign?  Sexual harassment should not be tolerated, but awarding more severe punishments to jerks perpetuates stereotypes that sexual harassment charges can be used to target disliked coworkers.

Steven Pinker, suggested that a severe punishment for McGinn would put a chill on future communication between faculty and graduate students.  Pinker wasn’t suggesting that it’s OK to send sexually inappropriate texts to students (as suggested in a New York Times op-ed last week).  Instead, he was pointing out that men are already nervous interacting with female coworkers and students, and the belief that disliked men can be targeted for extreme punishments could further chill these interactions.

It’s not ok to sexually harass, but it’s also important to offer due process to everyone.

10 Reasons to Select the Next Fed Chairman Based on Gender


                                    Janet Yellen              vs.                   Lawrence Summers

Recently, many have suggested that the selection of our next Fed Chairman has come down to gender.  The top contenders, Janet Yellen and Lawrence Summers, both have impressive qualifications, yet some have suggested that Yellen should be selected precisely because of her gender.  After all, they say, she’d be the first female Fed Chairman, and Obama has not promoted enough women to top positions.

Initially it may seem absurd to select a critical decision-maker, such as Fed Chairman, based on gender alone – there is certainly no research that supports gender-based differences in ability to run the central banking  system.  In fact, you may think our goal should be just the opposite – to entirely ignore gender in the selection just as we would ignore other characteristics such as eye color or hair color.

However, keeping an open mind, I decided to take a closer look at well-documented gender differences to see if they would favor Yellen or Summers.  It turns out there is substantial research that indicates that gender may play an important role in the job.  It’s a close call, but if we’re using gender to choose the next Fed Chairmen, then Yellen seems to be the candidate of choice.

  1.  Women live longer.  Given Alan Greenspan was Fed Chairman for almost  20 years,  Obama should choose the candidate most likely to be around for a while.  üYellen
  2. Women worry more.  Women produce only about half the serotonin that men do, and as a result women tend to worry more.  Worrying about the economy and the economic forecast would be a positive characteristic for a Fed Chairman.  üYellen
  3. Men tolerate lack of sleep better than women.  The Fed Chairman will most likely have some sleepless nights, and women who miss sleep are more likely to exhibit negative health symptoms than men.  üSummers
  4. Men more likely to commit white collar crimes.  It would be embarrassing if our Fed Chairmen was stuck behind bars. üYellen
  5. Women make less money than men.  On average women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.  The Fed Chairman makes about $200,000.  So, we’d only have to pay Yellen $154,000, saving taxpayers $46,000 per year.  üYellen
  6. Men have more physical strength.  After a controversial decision the Fed Chairman may need to battle/run from those who oppose his or her reforms.  A man would be stronger and faster in these self-defense measures.  üSummers
  7. Men are more likely to eat fast food.  That leaves more time to focus on important economic policy. üSummers
  8. No gender differences in sexting.   We don’t want any nude snapshots of our Fed Chairman floating around, but gender doesn’t seem to play a role in this behavior.
  9. Men are better at spatial relationships.  If an economic forecast graph is presented upside down, Summers will still be able to tell if the forecast is positive or negative. üSummers
  10. Women are better at remembering where things are.  (As gatherers in hunter/gatherer civilizations women evolved to remember landmarks).  Thus, Yellen is less likely to get lost on her way to work. üYellen

 Summers photo courtesy of and Yellen photo from

We’ve All Evolved to be Shallow

dustin marion bartoli

Perhaps the BBC commentator who criticized Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli’s appearance should have played Dustin Hoffman’s role in the 1982 comedy Tootsie.  An interview with a teary Dustin Hoffman went viral this week in which Hoffman reports how portraying an ugly woman in the film (his own description) underscored for him how much he had judged women by their physical appearance throughout his life (http://   Since it seems to be a week highlighted by male shallowness, it’s only fair to point out that women can be equally judgmental in their interactions with men.

In the AFI interview where Hoffman conceded he avoided interactions with unattractive women, Hoffman described the female character, Dorothy Michaels, he portrayed in Tootsie as follows: “ I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party I wouldn’t talk to that character… There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”

Dustin was not brainwashed, he merely evolved.  Evolutionary psychologists suggest that humans have evolved to spend time with those people who offer the greatest potential mate value.  Attractive women tend to be healthier and more likely to produce healthy offspring, and thus possess a higher mate value for men.  Our male ancestors who chose to spend their time chatting up disfigured or sickly women were less likely to pass on their genes, and thus, over millions of years, have been removed from the gene pool.

Although we like to criticize men who judge women based on their appearance, women have also evolved to be judgmental.  Much like men, women seek attractive mates.  It’s sad but true.  What woman would choose to chat to the overweight balding man over the Brad Pitt look-alike?   Also, sad but true, women tend to seek out rich men.  Evolutionarily speaking, since women have more invested in our offspring than men (women can only produce about one offspring per year, whereas men could father many children in the same year), women tend to be attracted to men who have the resources to support a future child.  Therefore, it’s the poor, unemployed bloke who may garner less attention from women at a party.

Fortunately, we can control these tendencies (apparently BBC Wimbledon reporter John Inverdale cannot, but most of us can).  The BBC apologized for Inverdale’s remark regarding Bartoli, and Hoffman seems to have seen the light.  Awareness of why we behave the way we do, does not provide an excuse for that behavior, but, instead, can help us identify and curb our judgmental and shallow responses toward our fellow humans.