Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Looming Male Backlash - Rosalind C. Barnett & Caryl Rivers

Article - Barnett Rivers Anxious Men

George Diebold / Getty Images

Rosalind C. Barnett & Caryl Rivers, writing at The Daily Beast, propose that women should expect a "looming" male backlash - this conjecture is based on a recent study that suggests that young men who read about women’s success become nervous (not sure how they are defining any of these terms, but ok).

The authors believe this finding is further proof that "women still face serious obstacles on the road to equality." Apparently, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett are gender studies experts. I think they are manufacturing a "looming" crisis out of thin air, while actually ignoring a new and serious issue within their own ranks.

The Looming Male Backlash

A recent study revealed that reading about women’s success makes young men nervous—but the finding’s just the latest proof that women still face serious obstacles on the road to equality, say gender studies experts Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett.

You can’t miss Women’s History Month. Every March, posters, books, articles, films, and lectures celebrate female success. These pats on the back can only be a good thing, right?

Maybe not. According to a recent study, spotlighting women’s achievements makes some men very nervous. We might be better off whispering our kudos or toasting each other in out-of-the-way bars.

The research, published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, reveals a major gap in how men and women view female success. In a survey given to American college students, young men reported high levels of anxiety after reading census data that showcased the gains women have made over the past 40 to 50 years, like graduating from college at higher rates than men and excelling in historically male professions.

Seemingly threatened by this progress, the male survey-takers also reported feeling a strong sense of solidarity with their own gender—protective of it, even. And they tended to exaggerate how far women have come and how far behind men have fallen.

The findings are ominous: Despite recent headlines cautioning “the end of men,” women still have miles to go to achieve gender equality—and men’s uneasy response to female success hints at real-world challenges ahead. We know from prior research that when men feel threatened, they tend to energetically protect their status. No study can claim to predict the future—but having spent decades researching gender relations, to us, this new report suggests that men might be less likely to hire women, mentor them, or value them as colleagues.

Equally troubling: The study also found that many young women aren’t concerned about gender-based career obstacles. When female survey-takers read about current opportunities to enter previously male-dominated occupations, they reported low levels of threat as well as a diminished need to bond with their own sex.
Read the whole article.

Most of their argument is not at all new - same statistics (roughly), different year - and yes, this needs to change - but nothing about it suggests a looming backlash, more like business as usual:
This month’s report from the White House on the status of women showed that, at all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009.

Indeed, female MBAs earn, on average, $4,600 less than male MBAs in their first job out of business school. Women start behind and never catch up. Professionals are hit the hardest. The latest data show that female physicians in the U.S. earn, on average, 39 percent less than male physicians. Women financial analysts take in 35 percent less, and female chief executives, one-quarter less.

They introduce a new form of oppression, however, or at least it's new to me - they call it the glass cliff - "in which female business leaders are more likely to be appointed to powerful leadership positions when an organization is in crisis or high-risk circumstances."

So the idea is that things are going badly and they aren't going to get better, so let's appoint a woman CEO and then fire her when things get worse - we will look progressive for hiring a woman while also discrediting women as CEOs.

Seriously? We are supposed to take this seriously based on THREE examples?
Carly Fiorina (Hewlett Packard), Kate Swan (W. H. Smith) and Patricia Russo (Alcatel-Lucent) were appointed to top positions at a time of tumbling share prices. All were fired or pushed out of their jobs.
Show me 20 examples and I may believe there is a pattern. I don't know about the others, but Carly Fiorina is an idiot - HP should have fired her for being stupid and should not have given her a $21 million buy-out.

While the article essentially blames men for being nervous about successful women, and also being discriminatory in pay and promotions (none of which is new or news - yes, there is still work to do to get women equal pay for equal work), the article ends with a "real" issue - one that I think should be the focus of concern:
It’s not just men who propagate and accept workplace stereotypes, but women as well. New York University psychologist Madeline Heilman finds that women see competent female bosses as ruthless, strict, mean, and stubborn. But they see equally competent men as professional and capable. Too often, we have met the enemy, and she is us.
Why didn't they write an article about this? Unless this changes, it does not matter what men do or don't do - it'll be women who are holding women back.

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