Employers to Women: Could You Be Any Dumber (Please)?

Yves here. So maybe not getting a JD/MBA wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

In all seriousness, this study provides yet more evidence that meritocracy is a myth and that bias is deep seated. See this article for a further discussion. I am sure readers can look past the bouquet to Hillary Clinton at the end. Since when was Clinton’s problem that of being too smart, and not, say, her $325,000 speeches at Goldman or her open contempt for blue collar voters?

Recall that Elizabeth Warren is far more academically accomplished than Clinton. Clinton failed the Washington, DC bar exam while Warren came up the hard way, from what was then a second-tier law school to become the top bankruptcy law professor in the US. Similarly, Clinton’s career at the Rose Law Firm looks to have been largely if not entirely dependent on her being Bill Clintons’ wife, as opposed to her having any noteworthy legal or commercial acumen. Warren is also a more popular politician despite, or maybe because, she’s hard edged in Congressional hearings (she’s become more impatient over time as she’s faced with regularly digging through loads of steaming bull) and doesn’t happen to be a relentless grifter.

By Kali Holloway, a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet. Originally published at Alternet

In yet more evidence that oppression is the business model and the entire economy is based on fuckery, a new study finds that being an academic superstar might actually hurt women’s job prospects. (Breaking news: Men, not so much.) The study also found that while men’s employability is determined by their level of capability and dedication, women were judged on their “likeability.”

The conclusions of the study from Ohio State University suggest that companies are responsive to women who do well, as long as they don’t do too well. Ohio State sociologist Natasha Quadlin created resumes for 2,106 recent college graduates. Using an online employment database, Quadlin sent “two applications—one from a man and one from a woman”—to entry-level job listings. An Ohio State article about the study notes that “both applications included similar cover letters, academic history and participation in gender-neutral extracurricular activities.”

Quadlin found that fictional male applicants received responses expressing interest at the same rate across GPA levels. But as the pretend women’s GPAs increased, there was a correlating drop-off in the number of callbacks they received. In fact, high-grade-scoring men were 50 percent more likely to get a response from a potential employer than high-scoring women.

“We like to think that we’ve progressed past gender inequality, but it’s still there,” Quadlin said in a statement. “The study suggests that women who didn’t spend a lot of time on academics but are ‘intelligent enough’ have an advantage over women who excel in school.”

For women in science, technology, engineering and math fields, good grades were particularly harmful to post-collegiate career success. Men with high GPAs in those fields were three times as likely to get a response than their female academic peers.

“There’s a particularly strong bias against female math majors—women who flourish in male-dominated fields—perhaps because they’re violating gender norms in terms of what they’re supposed to be good at,” Quadlin noted.

The findings, which are as surprising as that part in a movie when the ugly girl turns into a hot chick when she takes off her glasses and scrunchie, were further driven home by the second part of Quadlin’s study. The sociologist surveyed 216 hiring managers and found that they looked for “competence and commitment” in male applicants, while prioritizing “likeability” in women job-seekers.

“This helps women who are moderate achievers and are often described as sociable and outgoing, but hurts high-achieving women, who are met with more skepticism, the study found,” the OSU article points out.

There’s no indication of intersectionality in the study’s notes—meaning that indicators of race or other factors might have weighed on outcomes—but previous studies have indicated that job-seekers with names perceived to be black or Hispanic were less likely to get callbacks from hiring managers. Quadlin’s study more generally jibes with prior research indicating that successful women are perceived as being less likable. An oft-cited 2003 study at Columbia Business School found that when presented with a hypothetical successful male and female venture capitalist, identical in every way but their gendered names, students found the woman “significantly less likable and worthy of being hired” than the man.

Power and success are seen as masculine virtues, and women who possess one or both are penalized for essentially not staying in what’s perceived to be their lane. This is what New York University psychology professor Madeline Heilman labels “lack of fit” between gender-based behavior stereotypes that leads to “gender bias in judgments” when those behavioral expectations are defied. Sociologist Marianne Cooper, writing at the Harvard Business Review, explains further.

What is really going on, as peer-reviewed studies continually find, is that high-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success—and specifically the behaviors that created that success—violates our expectations about how women are supposed to behave. Women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. Thus, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she “should” behave. By violating beliefs about what women are like, successful women elicit pushback from others for being insufficiently feminine and too masculine. As descriptions like “Ice Queen,” and “Ballbuster” can attest, we are deeply uncomfortable with powerful women. In fact, we often don’t really like them.

Somewhere, Hillary Clinton is reading about Quadlin’s study and sarcastically muttering, “You don’t say.” So is Michelle Obama, maybe in a room with her Harvard and Princeton degrees hanging on the wall, only she also understands how those sexist descriptors mingle with racist ones—“uppity,” “angry black woman”—when success and power are mixed with black womanhood. In any case, the obvious answer for smart women is not to dumb it down, but to rev it up.

“These are the people who will be advocates for you throughout your career,” Quadlin offered as a reminder, “those who support you early on and appreciate your intelligence and hard work.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Luke

    Perhaps the employers were figuring that the higher-GPA women applicants would be more likely to sue them over a perceived sexist slight? There is usually a reason for what appears to be irrational behavior.

    I am reminded of how laws and regulations making it more difficult or costly to fire someone in a “protected” group commonly results in it becoming less likely that such people will get hired in the first place, even by employers that previously had nothing against applicants from such groups. Unintended consequences are often the most important ones.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, you really need to stop rationalizing bias. It doesn’t help your credibility.

      I don’t know where you ge the idea that it is hard to fire women in America. America has just about zero labor protections and in an “employment at will” situation, the boss can fire you for no reason at all, like he was he first person he saw when he looked around the room. If you aren’t in a job protected by union or civil service rules, or aren’t a whistleblower, or have a contract that was violated, you have pretty much zero chance of winning a wrongful discrimination suit. Well, to be precise, 1%:


      So to argue that fear of losing a discrimination suit down the road…assuming one ever happens, is a rational motivating factor is utter bullshit.

      Similar studies (sending out identical resumes save with the name at the top) have found recruiters stop reading if they see an obviously black name, like Kinesha or Jamail.

      Another study that has repeatedly gotten the same results is the scoring of writing samples. A writing sample attributed to a male name gets better grades than if attributed to a woman.

      Women are supposed to be dumber. You need to get that and not deny that cultural bias.

      1. vlade

        There’s definitely a cultural bias, but I’m afraid it often starts way earlier than employment.

        Few decades ago, I worked in IT under a boss whose female hiring policy was “I’ll hire every female I get a CV of” (hint – it wasn’t because he was a womanizer, he genuinely believed that women can significantly contribute towards what we were doing, in all positions).

        During my time there, that was a total of two CVs, compared with dozens of male ones. And he did not even require any prior IT experience, he was happy for them to be trained on the job (he used to say that anyone who wants, can be a good tester, and then we can take it from there to dev/PM/other types of jobs).

        1. Carolyn Clark

          You cite a personal anecdote from several decades ago in an effort to disprove the findings of a study which provides evidence of widespread bias against successful women students among corporate HR personnel. Minorities and women are quite familiar with this fallacious debate ploy. It betrays the sense of desperation some people experience when confronted with the fact that white males, far from being the victims of affirmative action some amongst that group loudly proclaim themselves to be, are in fact privileged recipients of societal bias.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I have yet to see a company where HR professionals have anything to do with hiring. Their job is policy. HR Is just about the weakest and most detached corporate function in America.

              The person for whom the person will work makes the hiring decision. In all the companies I worked for, HR never got close to any hiring decision save the Japanese, where personnel is a powerful function. Even there, they were not involved in the recruitment or screening of candidates.

              1. Steeeve

                HR does the screening (after the algorithm kicks anyone out that doesn’t tick every single requirement box), which is what this study studied – responses to applications. You have to get through HR to get to the person making the hiring decision so I’d say quite a bit of power as far as deciding who even gets in the door for an interview.

                1. jrs

                  It probably depends, I don’t even know what happens between submitting a resume and not being contacted and there may be a layer of recruiters between there if the resume was submitted to a recruiting firm and most jobs seem to go through recruiting firms. But if contacted sometimes even the initial phone screen is HR.

                2. JTFaraday

                  If you let your resume sit in HR, then you don’t want the job. Who doesn’t know this?

                  Yes, when you look for a job, you are obligated to run the risk of looking pushy, (yet another look that wears better on men than women).

                  Sit down.

              2. Indrid Cold

                HR people uually exist to screw employees out of benefits and pay and to cover the Boss’ backside. My wife almost got a job at the local World Famous Advertising Agency because old colleagues brought her in an organized an interview. Toward the end, the (female) HR ‘Professional’ appears and complained that no one had notified her. My wife got no job and 5 years later is still trying desperately to hustle freelance gigs in Portland, competing with pliable and cute green haired millennial chicks from Brooklyn Heights. . And me, the horrid white male, got edged out of a crap bartending job because the manager wanted a lot of fresh young ladies in my place to assuage his liberal cis-hetero guilt complex. So I should just go die I guess and my family with me. Maybe it should be like Logan’ RUn and jut kill everyone at heir 30th birthday.

                1. JTFaraday

                  He has some kind of guilt complex for hiring young women for the customers to harass?

                  You people are getting more and more “creative” all the time. It’s a mental illness.

              3. Oregoncharles

                (@Yves at 11:11) “The person for whom the person will work makes the hiring decision.”
                So, first-order guess, male bosses (more complicated if female) don’t like women who are smarter than them working for them. Lingering male pride. Not rational – after all, to some extent he’s going to get credit for her contribution.

                The role mismatch is a more general explanation, but I’d be surprised if mine isn’t a factor.

                Partial solution: have a mail clerk remove names from application materials, use numbers. Will work only until there’s an in-person or on-the-phone interview, but at least it gets her in the door – and protects the company’s presumptive interest in smarter employees. (Odd, especially in this context: “employee” is the only word I know of where the feminine form is the standard.) Might help with the racial discrimination, too.

                Should probably be required by law.

          1. a different chris

            ???? Please read his (her?) post again. It doesn’t say what you claim it says.

          2. vlade

            Please, did you READ my post? I’m afraid, you are showing a bias “hey, someone’s quoting an anecdote, I speed read it, and they said there was not enough women, so they are idiots who are against me”.

            If you don’t want to re-read the post, for your benefit I’ll repeat myself:

            “There’s definitely a cultural bias, but I’m afraid it often starts way earlier than employment.”

            I’ve even helpfully bolded out the relevant sections.

            And if you want to have explicitly stated the point of the anecdote, I can do that for you too – that the discrimination against women starts already in education, with them being almost actively discouraged to be good at maths, science or IT (they are allowed to be good at languages say, or some soft social sciences). Employment is way too late to look at this, because by then a lot of smart women were already discouraged.

            Next time, please do involve basic reading comprehension. Otherwise you’re not doing your cause much help.

            1. Oregoncharles

              True, but I, also, saw your post as somewhat ambiguous – for instance, it could have meant self-screening by women avoiding some occupations. Better to make your point explicit.

              1. vlade

                TBH, I believe that women do self-screen – because of the cultural pressure put on them from relatively early age in education. That’s really part of the “cultural bias” I see.

                The fascinating thing to me is that when you look at it historically, one can say that the things changed significantly for women in the last 100 years or so. But it seems to me that the devil’s in detail – so when you look at the change between 1900s and 1950s, the change is probably much larger than between 1960s and now (not that I can really compare not having lived in either). Maybe not in the USA, when in 50s the woman was still expected to be housewife first and foremost (I guess), but in Europe it changed a lot between pre-WW1 and post WW2. Not sure that much has changed since 60s though.

                1. Oregoncharles

                  The 50s were a special period, because of the end of the war. During WWII, millions of women moved into industrial and even management jobs because there was a shortage of men. But when the soldiers came home, also in their millions, there was a campaign to free up those jobs for veterans. Women were pressured back into the home. That’s when the Baby Boom was born.

                  Women’s Liberation in the 70s, inspired by the prior civil rights and antiwar movements, was a reaction against the stultifying lives their mothers had been pushed into. (Digression: I’m enough of a Marxist to think that economic and technological factors, like birth control, had also proceeded to where that movement could succeed.) That was more or less exactly my cohort, though some of the leadership were older. Yves would have come in on the tail end of it.

                  Don’t get me started on the “Women’s Movement,” which I think was a serious wrong turn. I don’t think it had all that much effect on employment, but it may have made the personal and cultural adjustments more difficult. But that’s just my personal, jaundiced POV.

                  To bring all this up to date, I think we’re dealing with unfinished business and the new problems that arise from the degree of equality we’ve achieved. For instance, who’s taking care of the children?

                  And that’s my living history for the day.

          3. Jean

            We are neighbors of a family that owns a contracting business.
            They go out of their way to hire ex-cons because they are tough, need a second or sometimes third chance, and are desperate to make it in society. A weirdly disparate bunch of employees with everything from dreadlocks to white power tattoos–but, they work well together, get the job done, are well paid and treated with respect.

            I asked her why they don’t hire women and was floored by her response.
            “We used to but now they are more likely to sue over sexual harassment.”

            1. Oregoncharles

              Early on, Women’s Liberation (that’s the original name) writers pointed out that special protections amounted to subordination. (Digression: this is a general political principle, the reason police and military are dangerous to democracy.) You offer one example: they make it more difficult for the protected class to get hired. They are also psychologically infantilizing.

              It’s a complicating factor, because some protections are actually necessary – sexual harassment being one of them.

              And in the particular case you describe, their hard-ass crew may well make the problem worse, so they finally just gave up. Conflict of principles.

        2. Knifecatcher

          This is a topic that hits close to home for me. I’ve got a 16 YO daughter who is very bright and stresses constantly about her grades. She’s also the only girl in her AP Computer Science class. Even though she knows more tech than just about all the boys she still has to deal mansplaining nearly every class period, which is even more repugnant coming from an idiotic teenage boy.

          The good news is that she’s enough of an iconoclast to push through regardless because she enjoys the subject and has inherited a stubborn streak from somewhere (ahem).

          In my experience once women manage to break through the obstacles and carve out a position in tech they can do very well. In fact quite possibly the two brightest engineers on my extended team are both women, and I have no doubt the company would dump me in a hot minute if they had to choose between us. One of the two is currently on maternity leave. When I asked her manager if his team was going to survive without her he just said “Hah! No.”

        3. jrs

          Wow this really was decades ago. Training on the job …

          Considering how little relevance that is to anything today (job training doesn’t exist, they will only hire if you’ve done that exact job), I wonder what else isn’t relevant either.

  2. Expat

    Frankly, men don’t know how to deal with all this. It appears that men and women split into different roles in the human species long ago. Men assumed a physical, social and political dominance over women. Societal changes over the past few hundred years do nothing to alter the basic genetic make-up of both sexes. And while you can argue that our rational brains should be beyond such petty, barbaric inbred behavior, we know from science that people are not rational or scientific despite their efforts or views to the contrary.

    Men feel threatened by smart women. This statement is apparently a fact, not some misogynistic construct. Even men who make an effort to be “modern”, “liberal” and “enlightened” feel threatened by successful, powerful, and smart women. Our society is attempting to do away with bias, prejudice and racism, but these are powerful behaviors which have a more fundamental nature than merely growing up with a racist, sexist father.

    Women interpret this bias or prejudice as an attack on them, an attempt to keep them in their place. Men see this more as a defense of their hierarchy and role in society. Men are terrified of being emasculated or relegated to inferior positions. We see this fear transformed into hatred in the battle of the sexes as well as the battle of races. (As an aside, I am curious to know if a redneck would prefer a white woman boss or a black male boss).

    There are other, more factual, considerations. Women, on average, work shorter hours than men. They take maternity leave. They leave their careers earlier (retire earlier or stop working to raise a family). There are obviously exceptions but that is anecdotal.

    I would like to see a study which breaks out hiring of women by women.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Men do a mere 42 minutes on average more of paid work than women, based on self-reports since the BLS does not track this information. And the researchers point out that men tend to overestimate their contributions in other areas, and this could be another one, so the actual difference if anything is likely to be lower.

      This shows that your vaunted maternal time off makes perilous little difference in how much paid work women do…despite the disincentive of lower pay plus the added burden of being expected to be the primary child carer and for single women, elder carer.

      1. a different chris

        I would modify this post slighty to say “men spend 42 minutes on average *more time at work*” — for white collar jobs, much of what you do is BS that didn’t need to be done, or at best what we ruefully call “learning experiences”.

        Having your face in the office is a way to get noticed, not a way to get useful work done. There is only so much you can accomplish before you start tiredly and unknowingly sabotaging your own work.

        And, anecdotally, there are few things as impressive at work as somebody back from maternity leave, refreshed and willing to be there. (Note; I work in a high-level professional environment, so useful spouses and good daycare underlies my observations. YMMV)

      2. Expat

        I am not saying that as a society we should not value the contributions of women in having children, raising them, and managing the household, but for now we have decided that these issues are not the responsibility of the employers.

        42 minutes a day adds up. This amounts to 14 hours per month or 21 days a year. If you take a manager earning 75,000 dollars per year, that works out to about $6000 worth of salary a year, or 8%. This in itself neither explains the pay gap of 21% nor says whether or not men or women are more efficient. Men may simply stay later just to be seen to be staying later and work less hard since they intend to spend more hours.

        Again, society needs to make a judgement on the contribution of women to society. Scandinavian countries are the forefront with extensive paid maternity leave and equal wages on top of that. France has laws that requires women to be re-employed at their previous level and salary after even extended maternity leaves.

        Men have the psychological burden of being the bread-winner and alpha. Men die younger from heart attacks and have much higher suicide rates. I know plenty of millionaires and billionaires in my field. They, and I when I was among them, wake up screaming every work day. I don’t know if it the same for women, but if that is the equality they want, they are welcome to my share of it.

        I don’t think that women deserve lower pay for equal work. And I believe that the contributions of women outside of work are grossly underestimated and undervalued. Our neo-liberal capitalist society is working towards finding some sort of fairness, but it will take activism by women or legislation to get it done. Or we need to change the metrics. But for now companies look at things like length of career, hours worked, and availability.

      3. larry silber

        i respect your opinions and certainly understand where youre coming from, especially considering on this subject youre it. A meritocracy this aint! In a perfect world sexism shouldnt matter. Im definately no right winger, but at the end of day women and men are very different. How this is going to eventually play out in our wonderful workplaces is a work in progress; because afterall this social experiment, where many women of their own accord have entered traditionally male dominated carreers to compete with men, has been happening for only a bit over 40 years. Obviously we dont have all the answers or have dealt with the social ramifications and unintended consequences of most everybody working, specializing, and paying someone other to do what in the past was considered a “stay at home wifes” chore. Please dont castrate me, im unmarried and have no kids, but if i did, it seems undaunting bringing up kids with both parents having careers where they spend 50 plus hours a week trying to excel. Sure the families can switch the traditional roles for the sexes, but im not sure if in the larger context thats so good. Again, the genders do obviously have biological and behavioral differences. Sure the’re exceptions, and as individuals people should be able to persue whatever careers they choose given the aptitude and ethic, but in that same context, the biologic differences between the sexes and how those distinctions play out in a competitive artificial work place is going to be a challenge. You can take it to its extreme- what about combat platoons in a horrible war environment? Should women really be considered on the same grounds as men, understanding again that there are exceptions? Something that would probably rarely ever occur if women ran the world and humans had matriarchical societies like elephants and many cetacians. Funny- other extremely intelligent social creatures are matriarch bound, but primates arent.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t buy this “men and women are very different” view. It’s another rationalization for bias. Cultural pressures, starting with girls being pressured to be nice and passive even in toddlerhood v. “boys will be boys” and having aggression not just tolerated but viewed with amusement has a ton to do with it. For instance, in my family, where my parents were remarkably gender-blind in how my brothers and I were raised, I was not interested in dolls and my brothers were. In any “normal” household, the latter would have been regarded with horror and discouraged. My parents, by contrast, were happy to have us interested in any toy and out of their hair.

          1. Expat2uruguay

            I used to think there was no inate difference between the sexes. So when I had my first child, a boy, I was determined that he would be raised gender-blind. I bought him dolls and an easy bake oven and cars, but the truth was, when we went to the park, he would pick up a stick and pretend he was shooting. And this was from the age of four or five, so he wasn’t yet watching shoot-’em-up movies. You can call it antidote, but I prefer to speak from my own personal experience rather than claim to know the truth for
            I am a civil engineer, and I was the oldest, followed by my sister and then my younger brother. When I was eight year old my mother became a lesbian, so the entire power structure in my house growing up was female. I guess this may have something to do with why I became an engineer. In addition to my son, who is now 24 years old and studying to be a history teacher, I have two girls. My middle daughter is 21 and studying to be a structural engineer and my youngest daughter is special needs and will hopefully find a satisfying career and Veterinary assisting, but she’s only 16 right now.

            1. saurabh

              Examples like this disprove themselves but the author is unable to see because of wilful blindness.

              Do you think your son, at four, knew about guns because of some evolutionary propensity? News flash: there were no guns in our evolutionary background.

              Socialization starts at birth. Gender modeling also starts then. Your son learned to shoot from books, TV, other people and maybe even you, despite your best intents. The claim that this is biology is nearly impossible to prove, because removing socialization is impossible.

          2. Arizona Slim

            Yves, were your parents and my parents separated at birth? Because the similarities are striking!

          3. larry silber

            “Very different”, no, but different enough, and its obviously subjective and varied between individuals. In the larger context I dont think our differences in sexuality are so minute that the nurturing and maternal hormanal influences stemming from that X chromosome dont alter the psyche of women and men enough, such that a profit oriented enterprise wont differentiate the pluses and minuses of a male or female in some position that isnt necessarily proportionate with their qualifications or aptitude. I suppose when it happens theyll be called out, but that doesnt mean gender bias wont occur. Again im not so sure its that great to break down all the prior traditional gender identities that at the end of the day I as a male find attractive in a female, and visa versa. Isnt that where strident femminism goes at its ultimate conclusion, breaking down all gender identities to the point there is no difference? Men act feminine, woman act masculine, some take on both attributes. ? We as a society should do everything possible to insure women get a fair share to persue anything they please. But the idea there wont be biases based on gender isnt practicle. Plus both sexes will use their gender biases, for women its probably attractiveness , to get what they can. A beautiful woman probably will in a work place environment use her sexuality to charm a man to get as much as she can out of a situation imaterial her specific competence relating to that role or promotion. Pretending women and men can compete against one another in a profit motivated environment without the differences in gender playing some undesired function seems a little naive. Some jobs are gender neutral, probably most, but there are plenty that still favor masculine or feminine attributes. Maybe we ascribe these charachteristics to the biological gender we always have. That doesnt mean in doing so misogyny results. As an aside, my mother loved Hilary, because she was a woman. In the same breath , because my mother was a woman, she expected her husband to take care of her financially. Sure she was old school, and it sucked because she brought my sister up with that same mindset. In the end it really failed my sister, she struggled to survive after her youth was gone and her confidence to manipulate men waned. . Point im trying to make, my mother couldnt explain why she thought a woman would make a good president when she also thought women should be treated a certain way , which was put on a pedestal, supported, and fawned over. I wouldnt want to be married to a woman like my mom. Just saying, there are still plenty of women like my mom. Because of that, maybe it is difficult to navigate gender neutrality in the work environment

          4. gepay

            anecdotally speaking from my parenthood experience, my son and daughter exhibited typical male and female attributes from somewhere around 2 on. An example – my 3year old daughter was enraged. She picked up a teapot and threw it to the ground. She was aghast that it broke into pieces. My son was playing out of hand, threw a tennis ball at a window and it broke. Put into timeout he could be noticed smirking . I don’t hunt or fish but my son does. Being a musician by trade I stayed at home during the day and was a house husband. My wife worked full time as a teacher making much more money – somehow arguments about money always came down to – “I make most of the money.” My daughter made excellent grades – graduated college with honors – biology – didn’t have a problem getting jobs – she is likeable and well thought of by everybody who knows her so maybe that overcame the possible bias noted in the above study. She is now a veterinary pathologist. She had no problem getting accepted into the pathology program of her choice (most older veterinary pathologists are males). Or getting hired where she wanted to .I doubt this would have been the case in the 1950s or early 60s

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              See the comment above. Acculturation starts even before toddlerhood, basically as soon as parents interact with their children.

              And I loved breaking things as a toddler. My favorite toy then was a crash car. I was also loud and disruptive to the point I was expelled from kindergarten and was a discipline problem in first grade too. Had to be beaten with a belt for me to learn to behave.

              The point is your examples can’t factor out acculturation. Women are under tremendous parental and social pressure from early on to be docile.

    2. someofparts

      The assumption that male dominance is universal is an especially ugly lie. I could point you to matri-local communities in Maine, where husbands are expected to live near the family of the wife. Russell Means, Lakota activist, cautioned his daughters against marrying into our culture because the Lakota are matriarchal. Those are just the examples I can think of without doing any searches.

    3. Carla

      “As an aside, I am curious to know if a redneck would prefer a white woman boss or a black male boss.”

      I’ll bet it depends on the redneck.

      1. flora

        an aside: The word “redneck” is so interesting. It originally meant white men and women who worked in outdoor jobs; farming, fishing, construction, etc. They were sunburned in summer and, hence, had “rednecks”. The word is a pejorative implying backward social outlook, lower economic class, and little social power all based on one’s job. It’s pejorative in much the same way the ‘N’ word or ‘S’ word or ‘W’ words are pejorative; which words no one would think of using on the NC comment threads.

        One of the things interesting about the word is the way it subtly splits urban and rural constituencies; I do not think this is by accident. In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s the prairie populists and progressive movements were taking hold. TPTB at the time worked hard to make sure urban voters did not see any commonality between their urban horrible working and finance conditions and the rural voters horrible working and finance conditions. Both GOP and Dems still use a modern form to split urban from rural progressive voters to prevent them from becoming an effective voting bloc, imo.

    4. someofparts

      The assumption that male dominance is/has been universal is a bit of zombie disinformation. I could point you to matri-local communities in Maine, where husbands are expected to live near the family of the wife. Russell Means, Lakota activist, cautioned his daughters against marrying into our culture because the Lakota are matriarchal. Those are just the examples I can think of without doing any searches.

  3. Eric Patton

    This is how authoritarian systems operate. Don’t like it? Be a pareconist. Not going to be a pareconist? This is what you’re going to get. So make a choice.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Direct recent experience with an intelligent woman in her early 30s … one can attribute what happened to her, however your political bias spins. But what happened is, she didn’t use the existing power system correctly. Rule One … never embarrass your boss. Rule Two, make your boss look good. This applies to everyone. The proper behavior in any political economy is machiavellian, not naif, not militant … The Prince is timeless advice. Wanting the existing power system, in whatever clique you swim in, to be different … isn’t going to happen. You adapt or move on. She chose to move on.

  4. reason

    I like Elisabeth Warren,
    but I think she is too old (the US seems to be in the process of becoming a gerontocracy). She might be a good VC Candidate though.

    1. Stephen Gardner

      Oh, good grief! Discriminating against Elisabeth Warren for her age isn’t any less disgusting than citing her sex as an impediment. Why can’t we just evaluate people based on the qualities relevant to the job? 70 is the new 50 for crying out loud.

      1. Kurtismayfield

        Only if you are in the top 1% is 70 the new 50. I know plenty of her and heptegenarians that workedreal physical careers that are done.

  5. kevin

    Doesn’t this trend occur for both sexes? Companies don’t want to waste time with someone they think will leave shortly. There’s a number of forums on “Dumbing down” ones resume at Indeed, etc. If companies value diversity, a smaller pool of highly qualified women means less of a chance a particular company could hire/retain them compared to an equally qualified man. If that’s the case, why waste resources?

    1. Stephen Gardner

      So many contorted excuses for bad behavior like sexual discrimination. Stop make excuses people. They are all bullshit. Despite the fact that it is the 21st century people have some pretty ugly stereotypes floating around in their heads and it doesn’t help to find excuses for these dumb ideas. This “why waste resources?” excuse reminds me of the old austerity theme that is what is starving all but the top fraction of a percent. Efficiency isn’t everything. Sometimes some inefficiency is inevitable to provide a good life for all of us.

  6. Anti-Schmoo

    Please give me one smart woman over 6, self identified, smart men.
    Hopefully you’ll know what I mean…

  7. leondarrell

    I wonder if this whole issue isn’t rooted in our hunter-gatherer set-up. If the hunter gatherer distinction is accurate, then the labor division maybe resulted in a rough gender equilibrium. Even pastoralism might have had some equilibrium as well.
    It’s when the jump to ag then industrial societies occurred that men-in-charge happened. Anyone with a better background than mine on this have a different observation? Also, I’ve noticed more fluidity at my employment when the youngers are being hired (I ‘m Medicare eligible in a yr, thank Jove).. They seem to be less hung-up on these issues.

      1. Oregoncharles

        No. Classical Greek divinities, for instance, were pretty equal-opportunity (aside from the top guy), but gender roles were unequal almost to the point of harems. Outside of Sparta, oddly enough.

        The usual theory, I think, is that gender roles diverged sharply with the domestication of large animals; that is dangerous work, and thus men’s work. A further factor was urbanization and accompanying large-scale warfare. Again, if it’s dangerous, it’s man’s work, with only occasional exceptions (the Vikings).

    1. Stephen Gardner

      Good grief! “Hunter gatherer”? Humans are supposed to be adaptable and that is the reason we survived in a world that is full of much larger predators. When are we going to adapt to NOT BEING HUNTER GATHERERS anymore????

        1. JBird

          Not really. It depends on the particular culture. This is especially if just surviving is difficult. In that case, you will work hard when it is needed, not when your supposed status says.

          That is also true on whether it is matriarchy or a patriarchy. Sometimes it’s both as the power is split into different areas where a particular sex has (sometimes absolute) control regardless of general equality or the lack off.

          The modern Western/Asian civilizations’ patriarchies in which women do most of the work and have little power is somewhat usual.

      1. Expat

        It is very hard to issue a diktat that goes against thousands if not millions of years of evolution, even if the diktat is rational, reasonable and fair.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          That is such complete bullshit. Matriarchal societies predate patriarchies. So if you are gonna try “state of nature,” women should be in charge.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Maybe women like Madeline Albright and Nikki Haley and Leona Helms and Golda Meir and Ann Coulter and Pelosi and Diane Feinstein and Angela Merkel and Maggie Thatcher and Theresa May and such should be in charge? Rotten vicious self-serving humans come in all modalities,

            Are the issues just more money and more status and more power and the anger and frustration of frustrated ambitions in all the power relationships in the corporate/government/every other part of the world? Does not seem like there’s too much about organizing and working together toward making a more stable and sustainable world, which this male chauvinist pig seems to recall was part of the message of the pioneering feminists not only from my own youth in the ’60s and ’70s, but way back in the day.

            I recall a bumper sticker on a VW beetle decorated with plastic sunflowers, there in Seattle in about 1995: “ALL MEN ARE PIGS, BUT SOME MAKE GOOD PETS.” Seems to me there’s a clue in there somewhere about framing and structure and meaning in all this.

            But then it’s apparent that there’s no agreeable organizing principle that embraces “better” and “good enough” and “sufficient” for everyone — the basic vector is mostly in the direction of “MOAR for ME and MY SET.”

            I need to add a bumper sticker to my pickup’s tailgate, right nest to the “BERNIE 2016!:” : “PEOPLE ARE SH!TS. NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS.”

  8. Alex V

    “Women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. Thus, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership”

    What gets me is that that the traits assigned to “successful” men are characteristics I generally despise in any gender. Men should also be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing – the world would not end, and would likely be a better place. Disappointing that this piece continues the thinking that everyone should become more like “men”, instead of just becoming better humans. “Male” competition, bullying and impulsive behavior have so far gotten us nowhere.

    1. Stephen Gardner

      Yup. So called “male characteristics” are highly overrated and I think it is because the domineering sociopaths that have usurped the control of everything like it that way.

    2. Grebo

      Totally agree. My advice to ambitious women is don’t try to out macho the men. Men don’t like men who are like that and women who try it are unlikely to get better results.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I fear that both history and current events disagree with you – granted that that’s mostly in politics. I think nurses are more popular than doctors, for instance.

        1. JTMcPhee

          RE doctors versus nurses:“All generalizations are false, including this one.” This”male nurse” will be happy to testify that nurses are as variegated as doctors, some of whom (male and female) are sort of saintly, and some of whom of the various chromosomal distributions are real pr!cks.

          There’s a phrase in nursingdom, “nurses eat their young,” to signify the ways more senior nurses, woman nurses, treat novices. And one might also note that both male and female nurses, the ones who kind of take their Florence Nightingale calling seriously and actually try to work as a health care team, refer to the nurse’s station and break rooms as “estrogen-enriched environments,” and not in a kind way. The contrasting notion (“locker room effluvium”) is known as “testosterone poisoning.”

          And I’ve noted here before that many of the “continuing education” course offerings for nurses include a heading for “workplace violence,” including bullying. https://www.americannursetoday.com/break-the-bullying-cycle/ Can’t get away from humans being what they are…

    3. Eclair

      Yes, Alex V. Competition taken to an insane level, performance and its metrics, forceful, take-no-prisoners leadership, have given us late-stage capitalism and the likes of Walmart, Amazon, Uber, and the earth-swallowing Google. As well as ‘forever wars,’ mass extinctions of everything from the white rhinoceros to insects, and enough WMD’s to annihilate a large part of the solar system.

      And, having spent my post-WW 2 adolescence labelled as a ‘brain,’ which in my small town pretty much iced my social life, I know what it is like to be ignored and denigrated by males whose egos were threatened. As well as limiting the development of women whose talents lie in a more analytical direction, our society’s dismissive attitude toward the ‘feminine’ characteristics of fertility, submissiveness, nurturing, warmth, cooperation spill over into our exploitation and ruination of our planet and of the natural world.

      Perhaps it’s time to ditch the binary, and binding, concepts of ‘male’ and ‘female,’ as well as of the supposed characteristics that define them. And, as Summer pointed out, above, let’s bring back the goddesses.

      Our yin and yang are out of balance.

    4. jrs

      Some of it is ok, assertiveness can be useful, leadership and even decisive leadership can be useful. Competition I agree is NOT useful. And some of the other things depend on how they are implemented.

      1. gepay

        Competition is useful in sports to gain higher performance quality. Friendly competition in music does make one try one’s best. competition among car manufacturers has made cars that last many years longer. Cooperation among car manufacturers in the US hindered safety features and increased gas mileage.
        When one desires a real meritocracy – one encourages competence (granted, hard to measure – the judgement susceptible to bias) – to get the most competent one should have equality of opportunity – which is different than Equality Of Outcome. EOO is impossible if one wants to reward competence – as this is never equal. 99+% of the world’s population is not equal to me as a clarinet player. If you want the clarinet played well in the appropriate musical situation – equality of outcome is not possible in hiring practices. Is it misogynistic to wonder whether the performance of a woman brain surgeon would be affected by her menstrual cycle? As a male without I know I have my good days and bad days that often affect my performance in varied activities. it is good for patients that I never desired to be a brain surgeon.

  9. Hana M

    I suspect there is a difference between patterns of initial hiring (such as this one) and patterns of career advancement once hired. The women I know who have risen to the highest levels (both in terms of power and pay) in the career tracks I know (Wall Street, investment banking, corporate law) are incredibly smart, just as hard-working and driven as their male comrades, and while they could be charming, they could also be extremely combative and far from agreeable.

    So what? If that’s what it takes to get to the top and that’s where you want to go, then you should be prepared to be, at times, feared and disliked and perceived as nasty, tough, and ‘unfeminine’.

    1. jrs

      Of course, if any such feedback is rejected wholesale, there is always the risk that a woman isn’t being perceived that way because she is a woman but because she is a jerk and well worse. So even though the feedback could be biased, if someone is feared and disliked and perceived as nasty it might be because they actually are the curse of their subordinates and coworkers existence. But the type of people that are would tend to reject the feedback anyway – personality disorders seldom listen.

  10. Mark Gisleson

    I wrote resumes from 1988 into the 2000s. As much as I coached, I tried to learn from clients and I learned a lot from women. Almost all of my extremely attractive clients knew to mute their appearance in interviews, some going so far as to wear glasses they didn’t need.

    But being too smart really didn’t come up very often. 1) Really smart clients didn’t usually need help with their resume or c.v. 2) My noticeably smart female clients were usually targeting ‘smart’ professions. Their concern was with not appearing smart enough to work with the misogynists in the sciences.

    I don’t think what you’re talking about here is really about women being too smart. The current culture of business DESPISES intelligence in both men and women. If you are not a tech (and therefore a broken but useful weirdo), you are there to remind your boss how intelligent HE is. (And plenty of reports that the system was the same when the boss was female as they had come up in a men’s world).

    I wasn’t there, I only know what clients told me. But it was hard not to notice that intelligence was only shown when it was part of the job requirement. In business, it seemed more important to emphasize that you didn’t have a soul. Intelligence? That’s for techs. The bigshot in the room does all the thinking, everyone else is just there to applaud.

    [I look forward to hearing that this all changed since I stopped doing resumes ten years ago.]

    1. JTMcPhee

      Stereotypes everywhere. Here’s an anecdote: In my law school class there was a statuesque, 6 foot extraordinarily beautiful blond of Finnish heritage named Siri something. She was married to a nice ordinary guy who worked two jobs to put her through school, so she could concentrate on studying and building her career foundations. Shortly before graduation, she filed the divorce. And she started her interviewing. Unlike so many of us in the middle of the class, she had no trouble getting the eye of Big Firm lawyers. Especially when she showed up in a miniskirt displaying those legs that went all the way up, and a designer blazer displaying their other assets. I forget which firm finally picked her up, maybe Hale & Dorr (now part of a larger shark). The rest of us? Well, many were headed for “business” or into the development scams. Or politics. As to Siri, she was part of the 10-15% of the class (1976) that had actual “legal” jobs when they graduated. Part of the great scam of law school over-admissions, taking big bucks from that mix of hopefuls (some dumb enough to believe they were going to “make law serve the public good,” and another let of greedy skulks who were heading for something else altogether.)

      So there’s an anecdote that hardly establishes any kind of larger scale pattern and practice. But hey, it happens. Like so many other bits of human experience and behavior.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        I think the difference in time frames is significant. And while I recognize 5k clients over 15 years isn’t statistically significant, as a writer/labor activist and not your usual former HR bureaucrat-turned-resume writer, I was deeply into hiring zeitgeist.

        Half my clients were from the Twin Cities area, the other half (thanks to the internet) were from almost everywhere else. Some phone conversations were good reminders that things aren’t the same everywhere: NYers had to remind me that ALL CAPS are subtle by some standards while rural route folks thought italics were kinda pushy.

        But there were clear themes that transcended anecdotes. People who are ‘different’ know it. They can be too tall, too short, too ugly, too attractive, too [fill in the blank]. Too is the scariest word when it comes to hiring and usually requires some kind of compensatory strategy. Like the really tall client who would always drop something so he had to kneel down early in the interview letting him make eye contact in a less threatening way. (His strategy, not mine.)

        Hiring is as imperfect as people themselves so really this is a topic that can’t help but be anecdotal.

  11. Carolinian

    A Hillary as smart as she thinks she is would be president. Ken Silverstein no doubt got it right a few years back in Harper’s when he described her as a raging mediocrity. The genuinely accomplished don’t spend all their time talking about how smart and “ready on day one” they are. It’s likely that at least some section of the public instinctively grasped that she is full of it.

    But I’m not sure that has much to do with the problem of smart women getting jobs. Obviously sexism is widespread in the business world where power is a big obsession. If they start giving women a fair shake then the uppity masses could start demanding their share of the pie as well.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Agreed. And I speak from personal experience. My father had a PhD that he refused to flaunt. And he was the first to agree with Thomas Edison’s story about the thousand ways not to invent a lightbulb.

  12. Katy

    You forgot lookism. It’s been proven in experiments that men will go far out of their way to hire a pretty woman, regardless of her other qualifications, over a plain one. I know bitter table for one.

  13. DolleyMadison

    If anything, being female and, I like to think, smart and assertive, was a win-win for me in my career. Where my career derailed was when I was also HONEST and ETHICAL. THAT is when my career hit a brick wall – when I rose to the level where real decisions were being made, and declined to behave in a “male” manner. It was then the “all for one and one for all” team mentality of (male) sports did come into play. I saw how good people “go along” for the team. I have no regrets despite the personal and professional fallout.

  14. Louis Fyne

    the irony is that i’d be willing to be that a majority of HR departments and the initial hiring process is driven by women (management, recruiters, gatekeepers, etc).

    don’t flame me. i don’t mind if i’m wrong. I’m just saying from experience at work and conferences and seminars.

    And I have a non-empirical, but rational, hypothesis why this study may be true (needs replication obviously)…but i’ll keep it to myself. talking about gender-sex is an internet third rail

    1. Louis Fyne

      by ‘rational’ i don’t mean excusable or justifiable or understandable. should’ve said something along the lines of ‘replicate-able’ or ‘explain-able’

      1. sgt_doom

        Sorry, but all rationalizations to the contrary, I’ve witnessed too many instances of women with a sociopathic bent going along with the senior coporate sociopaths.

  15. flora

    Hillary married well. Would she have been given a NY Senatorial seat or US SoS job or even be considered for POTUS if she had not married Bill? Of course not. She’s a terrible campaigner. So, shorter Hillary: ‘Marry up, ladies.’

    1. Arizona Slim

      If she hadn’t married Bill Clinton, she surely would have been a lawyer. But I don’t think that she would have gone further than making partner in a mid-market firm. Perhaps, on the side, she would have been on her local city council.

  16. CraaaaaaaaaaaaaazyChris

    As I get older, it strikes me more and more how we – as a society – learn certain things but then forget … and then relearn, maybe a few decades later.

    Alan Greenspan was tuned into this dynamic in the ’80s:

    “I always valued men and women equally, and I found that because others did not, good women economists were cheaper than men. Hiring women does two things: It gives us better-quality work for less money, and it raises the market value of women.’’

    from here: http://femalebreadwinners.com/women-economists-are-cheaper-than-men-alan-greenspan/

    1. makedoanmend

      If I’m reading this right. Mr. Greenspan is saying that the market doesn’t price performance equally and he has no intention of being a rationalist (like he ascribes to the neutral markets) and raise the pay of excellent women economists to those of their male peers?

      The markets will raise the “value” of women but not necessarily the wages? As quite a few NC posts have pointed out, the pay grades of women doing the same work across of whole range of jobs (from minor or major) mostly show that females make less money than their male peers.

      What did he learn other than he could game inefficient markets?

  17. schultzzz

    This makes me think of a Nicki Minaj interview where she explained her experiences of sexism in the workplace:

    “When Lil Wayne tells the interns and the workers on a video shoot to move faster or he’ll have them killed, it’s cool and gangsta, but when *I* do it, I’m a bitch?!?”

    I’m paraphrasing. The actual video is even funnier:


  18. Synoia

    There is a large amount of cultural bias in this thread, including ignoring that historically adult who women spent a large percentage of their adult lives pregnant and raising children.

    Which I believe is fact, not opinion. This required level of multiplexing and exerted pressures on women which precluded them from participating in “men’s business.” Which was not helped by male ego.

    “A man’s work runs from dawn to dusk, a woman’s work is never done”

    It is hard to overcome one’s history, or evolution, whichever you prefer.

    Is this gender bias the same in all cultures?

  19. sgt_doom

    Articles on gender bias, while true, muddy the larger issue.

    Articles on attribution of everything to racism, have some truth, but muddy the larger issue.

    Still the single most important indicator of success in America (and pretty much every other place on the planet) is the economic level of the family one is born into.

  20. Oregoncharles

    Thanks for posting this; I’d actually just seen it listed on Alternet, but didn’t go to it, because of the very Alternet headline. Since it was recommended here, I read it. Much more interesting (and alarming) than I expected.

    I have some hope that the passage of time will correct cultural glitches like this one. It takes a long time for old attitudes to die. Kind of rough on the people caught in the transition, though.

  21. Ape

    So how you gonna beat a self-interested just world fallacy?

    That’s half of the responses – how to justify the irrational with rationalization. Really awful pseudo-anthropology.

  22. freedeomny

    Women have been treated like crap, in varying degrees, in almost every country in the world. And it is really a shame that in order for a woman to get in a position of power, for the most, they have to adjust their behavior to make themselves more “acceptable” around men and society. Some are lucky to have by background – others are lucky to be able to consciously emulate.

    It’s particularly disdainful how society treats middle aged women. I mean really, once you go into through menopause you’re pretty much invisible.

    I remember this was briefly touched upon in Somethings Gotta Give with Diane Keaton. But the denouement – or the solution so to speak – was the same story that society tells women over and over again; once you “get” the man/love (specifically sexual love and preferably with a man – although we are now making exceptions) you will then be complete as a woman and happy. WTF!

    We’ve had a patriarchal society and it is clearly not working. And I personally feel it would be refreshing to have a menopausal woman president. Just not Hilary. Or any woman taking hormonal replacements. I’m talking nada estrogen. Why? I believe hormones influence humans and their decisions and unfortunately men will never have the amazing experience of being able to make a decision without an overpowering chemical flowing through their bloodstream in the same way a menopausal woman can.

    You can’t be socially driven if you are still biologically motivated. And we already have too many people on this planet we can’t take care of.

  23. Catsick

    My observations of senior management would be that most of the bias can be explained by tallness almong men. Any male/female bias would be equivalent to less than 3 inches in height between men, a man less than 5 foot 6 will need extraordinary talent to compete for a role against a 6 foot 3 mediocre man.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      A guy in my class at HBS, who was about 5’2″. pointed out that the school kept all sorts of data on alumni.

      The factor that correlated best with pay, by far? Height.

        1. RMO

          Might factors like that have something to do with this bit from the article: “fictional male applicants received responses expressing interest at the same rate across GPA levels”? Or am I interpreting it wrong when I read that as saying that grades made no difference to the likelihood of a fictional male applicant being seen as worthy whereas the fictional female applicants get less likely to be seen favorably as grades averages go up?

          The study doesn’t surprise me – I’ve seen the same dynamic affecting my wife. She is extremely intelligent and despite her personality making her very easy and pleasant to get along with I’ve seen her career be adversely affected by her intelligence being perceived as threatening by her managers (who are also female). Fortunately she now gets to be her own boss and things are a lot better.

  24. The Rev Kev

    I have been thinking about this article since last night to try to put it into some sort of context. Certainly women’s right were fast on track in the 60s & 70s until they got diverted and derailed from the 80s on when a new form of the economy evolved (or devolved according to your viewpoint). To get a big picture, I would say that we are in a late-stage form of capitalism and this turd world standard model of capitalism has been re-branded with the modern name of Neoliberalism. When you get to late stage capitalism two obvious traits are self-cannibalization and cronyism.
    For self-cannibalization, who here can not but observe that the form of capitalism as organized at present is not only leading the world down the path of financial destruction but that its insatiable demands are pushing the ecology of this planet to the breaking point. Software is not eating the world. Neoliberalism is. The second result, cronyism, is where we get back to this article.
    In an expanding economy there is more work that workers and provided that you can do the job, you will be taken on. In a declining economy, the bridges are pulled up over the moats and a self-selection takes place in the workplace where people only want to work with others that they are ‘comfortable’ working with. You see this with ‘bro culture’ which is something that you would figure would be left behind in younger years. Not have it become the defining trait of whole industries such as the tech industry.
    It is a self-defeating trait as it means that you can never use the full potential of your population but must select the ‘winners’ from a relatively narrow band of society. Having intelligent qualified women pushing their way to the top crosses this band and it this that I believe is at the root of the push-back against women who are perceived as ‘too talented’. I really think that as the economy continues to mutate, that we will see more of this musical chairs in practice.

Comments are closed.