Law and business professors Lynn Roseberry and Johan Roos reviewed 60 years of gender-related research in history, law, psychology and the sciences and, after introducing data on the nature of the gender gap, they use each chapter to address a different common argument against “gender balance.” Their statistics are occasionally confusing or even a bit contradictory, but their discussions are impressive without being dry or boring.
The authors’ arguments against common gender misconceptions offer new insights into positive changes businesspeople can implement to address the gender gap.
Take-Aways from the book:
Women hold 10% to 20% of leadership positions in politics and the workplace.
“Gender balance” affects the bottom lines of businesses and national economies.
Today’s workplace replicates social and business practices of the 19th century.
A meta-analysis of scholarship on sex and gender differences found that 30% of studies showed no difference between males and females in relevant workplace traits.
Sex differences have to do with biology; gender differences have to do with culture.
Distinguishing between the two is often impossible.
Children learn gender roles as early as two years old and enforce them among their peers.
Adults cling to the gender profiles they learned as children; this leads to stereotyping.
The drive to succeed is built on ambition, which is made up of mastering a skill and gaining external recognition.
Gender imbalance takes a particular toll on men’s health.
Judges regularly dismiss discrimination cases that include evidence of sexist remarks.
Some interesting points in the book:
Seven common arguments against gender balance in the workplace are based on incorrect information, misconceptions or faulty logic:
Biology – Workplaces often mirror the gender imbalance produced by the mostly Protestant, 19th century industrial manufacturing society. However, no “logical or biological reason” exists to segregate jobs by sex.
Children – The erroneous concept that women are superior at taking care of children blocks workplace change. Males and females have an equal ability to care for others.
Competitive nature – Many wrongly believe that women prefer to nurture, while men are by nature aggressive. In practice, a woman may choose to care for children because her relative earnings are less than her spouse’s, while few men agree to limit their work.
Leadership – Studies of women and men in managerial jobs reveal an equal desire for positions of authority. It’s not true that “women don’t really want to be leaders.”
Self-interest – It’s equally false that women are the only ones who worry about gender balance. In fact, gender imbalance affects men’s well being, work and lifestyles as well.
“Special-interest issue” – Some argue that gender balance is a feminist issue irrelevant to the workplace; plenty of women oppose intervention. However, gender balance affects the best interests of individuals, families, firms and national economies.
Law – Anti discrimination laws are supposed to ensure fairness, but courts sometimes discriminate in gender bias cases. Laws aren’t all society needs.
Before the Industrial Revolution, women contributed to their families’ finances by cultivating gardens and producing preserved food, fabric, soap and other goods. When the market economy industrialised and subsumed these activities, a man’s ability to work outside the home became vital to the family’s financial survival. Women’s only remaining role was to raise children and tend the home. The phrase “self-made man,” first appearing in the 1840s, indicates this cultural shift.
Employers historically paid women half the wages they paid men, reasoning that young, unmarried women were under their families’ care until marriage.
In gender studies research, the term “gender difference” refers to differences of culture and upbringing, while the overarching term “sex difference” describes biological variations.
Some gender-based claims assert that women lack ambition, however research finds no gender-based “ambition gap.” Ambition is the product of mastering a skill and receiving recognition for that talent; external approval is an important factor in developing ambition. Yet typical workplace protocols require women to behave in a subservient way, and that works against getting approval for their successes. The lack of recognition diminishes women’s desire to be ambitious.
Recommendations from the book:
Overcoming gender imbalance in the workplace is possible, but it requires an active effort. Workplaces can fulfil three criteria to further gender balance:
Become a “gender-integrated workplace” – No “logical or biological reason” exists to segregate jobs by sex in any type of work.
Raise children equably – Society must recognise that male and females are equally able to care for children. The workplace must change accordingly.
Share power – Men and women must “share relatively equally the positions of power and decision-making in business, education, and national and local governments.”