Are Good Manners Putting Our Daughters at a Disadvantage?

 This video turned up on the WSJ's blog  The Juggle and is above all else thought provoking.  Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of facebook and has a lot to say about why there are not more women leaders in the world.

From a mannerly mother's perspective it is interesting to think about how our treatment and expectations of daughters may impact some of the behavior by which Sandberg suggests women are sabotaging themselves.  A couple examples she gives of things women do are: not keeping one's hand up after a speaker has said no more questions,  being modest and saying things like "it was a team effort" or "I had great help." when praised.   Conversely a man might keep his hand raised until he is noticed and when  praised a man may say 'Thanks, glad you liked my work' (in other words good for you for seeing how awesome I am).

The HBS case study she discusses is particularly telling.  In 2002 a professor took a case about  Heidi Roizen a venture capitalist and changed her name to Howard.  He then gave the Heidi case to one group of students and the Howard case to another.  While students found Heidi and Howard equally competent  the students described Heidi as abrasive, out for herself and political.  The group that had read the exact same case with the character named Howard found him to be likable, 'a great guy', someone you would want to work for.

Sandberg points out that this result is just one more example of the positive correlation between success and likability for men and the negative correlation between success and likability for women.  No doubt a few readers have first hand experience with this paradox.

Is it possible that those qualities that make a woman likable also make her incapable of successful leadership?  Yet, when a man is both successful and polite he is considered 'quite a catch'. The question of how we as mothers embolden our daughters in business while at the same time helping them navigate the world socially is a tricky one.  "Be polite, don't brag, be kind, think of others, don't correct your elders, always work hard, do your best."  Is this how Jack Donaghy got to be the Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for General Electric?  Hardly.


Anonymous said...

We teach these same virtues to our sons" "Be polite, don't brag, be kind, think of others, don't correct your elders, always work hard, do your best."

The question is just why they are perceived differently in men versus women. Though, any man who "thinks of others' and tries always to put them at ease might also stumble a bit in the business world as well.

Kate said...

Gender differences have huge implications in the classroom as well as the boardroom. Leonard Sax wrote an influential book called Why Gender Matters that speaks to the ways boys and girls learn differently, and are ultimately treated different in classroom settings. It is enough to make you consider single sex education.

Lucinda said...

Whatever you think about their politics, women like Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton suffer from very high negatives among voters. Women in politics seem to draw out vitriol from voters in a way men do not. They are consistently demonized by the other party in campaign solicitations etc. If Sarah was Sam and Nancy was Norm, I think the rhetoric would be toned way down.

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