Meredith Carroll: We’ve come a long(ish) way, baby
#NoWomanEver trended on Twitter over the weekend, with an arsenal of women, tongues planted firmly in cheek, making it known in 140 characters or fewer that day-to-day chauvinism remains a thriving pastime.
“Thanks for letting me know I’d look prettier if I smiled more while I talked! #NoWomanEver,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“I was on the fence when he kept talking about my body, but I definitely got his number after he said I was ugly anyway #nowomanever,” wrote another.
Nevertheless, you wouldn’t be faulted for still thinking real progress had been achieved of late, especially with a woman having a legitimate shot at the White House for the first time, the legalization of gay marriage and equal pay among the issues in the presidential election. The pot of egalitarian gold at the end of the rainbow seems closer than ever as social advancements are resulting in meaningful change.
If Betty Friedan is whispering sweet nothings in one of our ears, though, then Phyllis Schlafly is smugly reminding us in the other not to get too complacent. The results of a study released last week out of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management showed newly minted women CEOs receive three times the amount of publicity as men, and when that happens, their companies suffer a “market penalty.”
The heightened attention is likely because the instances of women CEOs are up there with unicorn sightings or Donald Trump uttering anything inoffensive: Over the 15-year period, of 8,179 CEO selections and 2,500 companies analyzed for the study, only 1 percent of CEOs hired were women, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The more attention received for hiring women leaders, the more likely the company stock was to suffer, with the average share trading 2.5 percent lower in the wake of the media coverage. However, when companies didn’t herald their new female bosses, their stocks were rewarded with a 2 percent uptick. The study’s authors suggest it’s not the companies themselves that are intolerant of women, although the expectation is the response from others will be and they therefore “act accordingly to protect their own financial interests.”
“People sometimes act biased even if they’re not biased themselves but if they expect others to be,” one of the study’s authors told the Tribune.
The good news is not everyone is taking it lying down. Late last week, more than 800 Google employees — women and men — temporarily added “Lady” to their job titles in their email signatures and internal directory following a reference made by a shareholder to the company’s CFO, Ruth Porat, as the “lady CFO.” The companywide “Lady” adoption was to sufficiently convey that “gender is entirely irrelevant to how (people) do their job,” Meg Mason, Google’s lady partner operations manager for shopping, said to USA Today.
The bad news is while gender is, indeed, patently immaterial to job performance, Hillary Clinton still has to fight to prove she’s earned the right to do what she’s already doing. As a Facebook meme making the rounds points out, Clinton has 387 more pledged delegates and 538 more superdelegates than her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders; she won 11 more primaries and caucuses and received 3.77 million more votes; she has more support from Hispanics, women and LGBTQ voters; and she has all major newspaper endorsements, plus endorsements from one president, one vice president, 42 senators, 168 representatives and 15 governors — but in spite of that, Sanders said if she wants his support, she has to “adopt his platform.”
If it’s not latent sexism for Sanders to insist Clinton get behind him when she’s the one in the power seat, then what is? Did President Barack Obama feel pressured into compromising his positions when it became clear Clinton would not secure the Democratic nomination in 2008? It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically unfunny.
The anti-Hillaryites who label her as sneaky or discordant — or suggest she smile more and shrill less — insist their problems with her are political, not prejudicial. Yet while there are facets of sexism that have seemingly abated recently, the stark reality is they persist, and the more ground that’s gained only seems to reveal just how very long the road ahead remains.
Fortunately in the case of the female CEOs, the stock-price penalty suffered in the wake of their hiring was found to be temporary; stock prices generally rebounded after three weeks. It may be a sign that we’ve come a long way, although it’s tough to calculate just how much actual progress is being made when every step forward comes with even more in reverse.
More at http://www.meredithcarroll.com.
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