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Be alert to gender stereotypes

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When a man gets angry at work, he’s seen as powerful, but when a woman gets angry, she’s considered “out of control.” Why? Gender stereotypes.

People hold women to a different standard than men. Women are expected to be nice, but not too nice. Assertive, but not abrasive. Nurturing, but not to the point of being maternal.

A recent article in The New York Times points to ways women hold themselves back, often without realizing it. A few nuggets of advice from the Times:

Don’t be shy about negotiating. In a study at Carnegie Mellon University, volunteers were recruited to play Boggle and told they’d be paid between $2 and $10 for their time. When it came time for payment, each participant was given $3 and asked if that was enough. Men asked for more money at eight times the rate of women.

Study’s conclusion: Women are equally poor at negotiating their salaries and raises.

Keep in mind that dressing provocatively holds upwardly mobile women back. In a study done by Professor Peter Glick, respondents were shown a video of a woman dressed in a sexy blouse and snug skirt, and again in a conservatively cut skirt and blouse. Being provocatively dressed dramatically lowered the perceived competence of the female executive.

Provide an explanation if you lose your temper. Victoria Brescoll, a researcher at Yale, found in one study that while men gain clout by expressing anger, women who express it are seen as being out of control and lose stature. But when they tweaked the study to allow women to express their anger and then explain why they were reacting that way, the angry women were perceived more favorably.

Challenge others when they use biased language. Studies show that women are penalized more than men when they’re not perceived as being “nice” or having social skills. If a woman is described as “brusque,” ask the speaker for specific examples. Then ask whether the same word would be used to describe a man who behaved the same way.

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