Don't be a Career Barbie

Several years ago, one of the authors of Women Don’t Ask, Linda Babcock, joined with a group of grad students and lodged a complaint against Carnegie Mellon University claiming that only men in the university’s PhD program in economics were teaching courses on their own, whereas the women were working only as teaching assistants.

When Babcock took the complaint to her boss, she learned there was a very simple explanation: “The dean said each of the guys had come to him and said, ‘I want to teach a course,’ and none of the women had done that. The female students had expected someone to send around an e-mail saying, ‘Who wants to teach?’”

This is double-edged: the dean and the university were operating through the gauze of unconscious bias, and perhaps by now it is more proactive–conscious–about reaching out to women. The women were behaving along gender lines too, and hesitating to ask.

We women on average hate selling as much as we hate being sold. Research and stories like Babcock’s reveal our distaste for anything that smells like bragging and trying to get a leg up. And when business owners or coworkers talk about their latest successes and highlight their accomplishments, we cringe inside. Maybe we leave the room. And yes, sometimes we’re a bit jealous.

So we don’t like asking, and when we do ask we ask for less. And we don’t like singing our own praises, even when to do so would result in outcomes that might make us happy or rich or both.

And we certainly don’t like hearing others boast, especially women, because it just not what women are supposed to do.

And yet somehow we don’t mind that big business gets happily rich off of that very fear and loathing, as Lea Goldman writes in Marie Claire:

[...] being a woman in this country has become an increasingly expensive proposition. It’s not just dry cleaning and haircuts where women get socked: We pay more for home mortgages, health insurance, and cars and car repairs (even when we mind our credit, eat right and exercise, and do our homework), not to mention everyday items like deodorant and disposable razors. California, which in 1996 became the first state to ban gender pricing, found that women paid about $1,351 annually in extra costs and fees.

Apply that figure to the rest of the women in the country and the total burden is staggering — roughly $151 billion in markups, more than what the federal government spent on education last year and greater than the budgets of 43 states.

In our careers and livelihoods where this is most relevant, if we adhere to the Madison Avenue leadership model that advises paying strict attention to our hair, makeup, clothing, and modulating our voices and playing nice, we become career mannequins.

Continue Reading at Forbes Woman