Use the phrase “imposter syndrome” around any gaggle of professional women—especially conservative women who pull a Palin and venture out of the house even while their babies sleep inside—and watch them swoon, helpless. This study confirms: More women than men underestimate their performance on the job.
Three times more women than men underestimate their performances compared with their coworkers’:
Women handicap themselves on the job by chronically underrating their standing with bosses and co-workers, says a new studyslated for presentation next month to theAcademy of Management’s annual meeting. When asked to predict how they were rated by managers, direct reports and peers, women were significantly poorer at predicting others’ ratings than men, says the study of 251 managers by Scott Taylor of the University of New Mexico.
A lack of self-confidence isn’t the problem. The women surveyed thought highly of themselves compared with men in the study. But the females simply believed others regarded them as far less competent than they actually did, on a wide range of social and emotional skills related to leadership, according to the study. The ratings encompassed a wide range of attributes, from communication and conflict management to trustworthiness and teamwork.
There are some differences across the intelligence curves between women and men—women have higher IQ’s on average across most of the curve, but men are better represented at the long end of both the “low” and “high” tails—but the disparate salary clearly comes from differences in self promotion.
Where is the line between aggressive Ann Coulter-esque self-aggrandizement and waiting pitifully for recognition to just . . . foment, without taking it for ourselves like our male colleagues do?
An often-wise man I know grades females with potential on a multi-factor scale. We get up to ten points in each of three categories: Smart, Sexy, and Sassy. There’s a minimum for “dateable” girls, and presumably the scale maxes out at “Wise Latina.” In DC—or perhaps “DC” is just a stand-in for “since I started observing”—I notice that most women score very high in two categories, while stumbling on the respective third, which varies by woman. (I’ll leave it to my critics to determine which are my strong suits and which my strengths.)
What’s interesting about the scale isn’t the factoring; it’s that it only measures myriad femininity. A woman who self-promotes might be deemed “sassy,” but, practically speaking, attitude will do more to reinforce than to crack a glass ceiling. “Sassiness” is the diminutive term for what in men we simply call “confidence.” Even a perfect score across the smart-sexy-sassy test achieves only one fantastic woman getting paid Lilly Ledbetter rates.
Self promotion has nothing to do with femininity; the two are practically mutually exclusive. It doesn’t fit into those attractive feminine categories to which all women constructively aspire even before hearing their male friends’ assessments. Indeed, self promotion requires slicing away from those feminine wiles in favor of embracing a bit of testosterone.
Tonight I saw La Bohème at Wolftrap. The opera was as lovely as the first time I saw it, my first opera ever, in Prague. At this iteration I was struck by the scene when Mimi cries because her shoes hurt her feet. Rodolfo flies into frenzied concern for Mimi’s feet. But Mimi croons: My shoes are too tight—take these shoes off—buy me new shoes!
Mimi is using the wiles available to her to get from point A to point B. She knows that Rodolfo will react viscerally to her words. Mimi can’t afford shoes that fit and convincing Rodolfo that he should buy her new ones is as good as any a method of fixing her feet. Rodolfo loves Mimi and becomes helplessly enmeshed in her pain. He can’t give her what she needs—shoes that fit!—but he can do the next best thing: feel very bad about it.
Meanwhile, Rodolfo ignores Mimi completely. Her words have been so effective that he cannot shake his chivalrous desire to “fix” her. He finds himself totally unable to process her actual requests, but in theory he tries to help.
Can there be a more perfect illustration of workplace dynamics? This is almost too-perfectly analagous to the dynamic at least in the right-leaning-ideological workplaces I know, where few women work among a vast majority of male colleagues? Women fall back on what we know: My colleagues respond when I wear this shirt, but I feel frumpy in that one. We know that we can employ the same “visceral message” method Puccini ascribed to us through Mimi. We know that aggressive, self-promoting women get castigated and are not welcome around the figurative water cooler. Self promotion is simply very far removed from the cooperative communication women learn, and it feels unnatural to “put it out there” so severely, and against such resistance.
The Mimi method—embracing the three S-factors—can be effective. But this method is a feminine method in a male workplace. All things feminine are fantastic in the “dating” sphere. They are not, however, professional tools—or at least they shouldn’t be the best-honed tools in that arsenal. This feminine method can be effective, but it’s simply not the currency traded as legal tender in this jurisdiction. Whether or not one method is better than the other, one translates and the other does not.
When I write about feminism I know I often seem to be grappling with cognitive dissonance. In fact, I’m pretty thrilled with my choices thus far. It’s just so interesting to consider this giant lifelong game of Red Rover. Because of my politics and profession, I happen to find myself playing frequently on the “boys” side. I don’t mind the differences between their style and mine; I just like to look ahead to the pitfalls and prepare accordingly.