Saturday, September 22, 2007

Women leaders, where art thou?

Apparently, not only do we not want a nurturer as President, we also do not want a nurturer in the boardroom. Well, at least we are up on other countries as far as going beyond the token woman.


La Pobre Habladora said...

Just this week, I've had two women whom I respect tell me stories of bosses who make advancement in business harder for women than men. In one case, a friend of mine in business reports that her boss keeps much closer tabs and sets higher goals for women than she does for the men, as well as simply treating the women with a more condescending attitude. Another friend of mine was reprimanded by her boss for wearing clothes that were too revealing despite the fact that she wears the same styles from the same stores as the other women in the office, it is just that my fried is more well endowed. This sort of harassment can be hard to confront since it is hard to prove the discrepancy, but it does have a very real impact on women in the workplace. Some find it difficult to advance in the face of such discrimination, others lose valuable time when they get fed-up and switch companies in an attempt to find a more equitable environment.

So although we've made great advancements, we ain't out of the woods yet.

Agincourt said...

First, let me say I'm not comparing women who can't get ahead in the boardroom here to women who can't drive a car on the streets or go about uncovered. Women who can't drive, or can be stoned to death for adultery, or who are passed to the nearest living male relative if their husband dies, win the 'sucks to be woman sometimes' sweepstakes, hands down.

However, this example of your friends reminds me of the dynamic that can often exist in an exaggerated form in a society where women have...well, pretty much no expectation of or entitlement to power at all, much less in the world of business. Rather than helping or *gasp* treating at least fairly those below your level, you isolate them and maintain your power over them.

Overseas in the muslim country I grew up in, there were stories of muslim women who ran households were were just as mercilessly cruel (physical and verbal abuse, confinement, forcing them to 'satisfy' their husbands etc) to their women house workers, as the men could be. By the way, these were never citizens of that country of course, but workers from abroad. Not to excuse that behavior, but clearly they were acting in the only tiny realm of influence they had. And yes, of course, that is a cross-gender dynamic of course, for the almost powerless to pick on the really truly powerless.

It just always irks me that women can often have such a push me - pull you tendency when it comes 'sticking together'. And it always disturbs me to see what seems to be that instinct play out in small ways elsewhere. Like your friends' bosses.

It is always troubling to be reminded how well practiced we are at dividing and conquering ourselves.

How kind of us to save others the trouble... It must be our nurturing side coming through.. :-/

Mächtige Maus said...

Well done Agincourt! Certainly this opens a whole new realm of discussion when one focuses on the plight of women elsewhere and how they go about "securing" themselves in the only manner open to them.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Agincourt, you've left me speechless. That is one of the bleakest stories I've ever heard.

It is true, though, that I have noticed some women or minority bosses that treat unfairly the very employees with whom you'd expect them to feel some since of solidarity. A former boss of mine once asked me "How can a woman be sexist against women?" and said that it is impossible. He seemed to understand best when I told him that anyone could be a sell-out, but it isn't really that simple. We internalize so many of the destructive gender roles that we're taught that it takes a huge amount of self-awareness not to propagate them despite ourselves. In an ironic twist, that same boss (an African American male) sacked the only other African American on our team when the company wanted management to lay off some employees - and this was despite the fact that my coworker's numbers were some of the best.

Why we sometimes face targeted animosity from the very people that most understand the challenges we face, I'm not sure.