Sheryl Sandberg and Gendered Expectations

Lean In, makes the point that women cannot ignore the many double binds they face in the workplace if they want to be successful, however they may define success. She makes a strong case and cites solid research about the importance for women of being likeable if they wish to succeed and the double bind this creates for women. One of the studies described by Sandberg was conducted by two professors who used a Harvard Business School case study that described a real-life entrepreneur. They gave the case to business-school students to rate on several factors. Half the students got the case with the name Heidi, and the other half got the same case with the name Howard. While the students rated both Heidi and Howard as competent, they rated Howard as a more appealing colleague, while Heidi was seen as “not the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” Sandberg notes that this study shows what many other studies have also shown: “When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.” In other words, “success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” The career implications are obvious. If we cannot get hired or promoted because our competence makes both women and men uncomfortable, we are in big trouble. If we play down our accomplishments and do not toot our own horn about our capabilities to level and be likeable, we cannot get access to opportunities. An additional research finding shows that one reason women are paid less than men for the same work is that women do not try to negotiate for compensation, benefits, titles, and other perks as often as men do. But as Sandberg points out, women have a good reason for not negotiating. We have learned that if we advocate for ourselves, we are often seen as too demanding or aggressive and not someone people want to hire or promote. An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (]]>