Sunday, November 15, 2009

The culture of patriarchy continues to be an obstacle for women

Last week, when I answered the question for the women unbound challenge meme: What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? I went with the first answer that came to mind. I did this because I wanted to see how my views evolved as the challenge progressed. I’ve subsequently came across a blog post that so truly captures the essence of my beliefs I must share. Ann Daly, who describes herself as a fem-evangelist, devoted to the success and advancement of women, wrote in an article for

First she provides the statistics:
The glass ceiling remains firmly in place: Although women hold 50.8% of managerial positions in the labor market, they represent only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Women remain grossly underpaid, taking home 78% that men do.

Then she answers the questions:
Why, then, are women still lagging behind? Why are women’s success stories still the exceptions that prove the rule?
Because beyond laws and regulations and attitude is the deepest, most pervasive, most unconscious and ingrained layer of our lives: culture. All of our laws and all of our diversity training won’t close the gender gap, because it’s the culture, sweetheart.

It’s the culture that insists on coding babies as blue or pink. It’s the culture that assumes men in the public sphere and women in the domestic sphere. It’s the culture that defines active qualities as “masculine” and passive qualities as “feminine.” It’s the culture of patriarchy, in which power and privilege accrue to the men.

If you doubt that male privilege endures, just replay to Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

This is exactly what I was alluding to when I wrote:
Just last week my friend Kate, who works for a Milwaukee manufacturing firm, asked a male colleague, "What do you have to do to get promoted around here?" She was told you need to be a male who puts in a lot of face time. Kate was describing “the good ole boys club”.

She then lists:  The Top Ten Hidden Rules That Can Sabotage Your Career

Here are two I find pertinent to my situation:
- Actually, it is personal. In mid-career, at the point where everyone brings comparable talent to the table, it’s who you know, not what you know, that gets you promoted. As HR pros will tell you, you don’t push yourself to the top, you get pulled there. Men knew what they were doing when they invented the old boys’ club. From the get-go, women need to be just as savvy, cultivating loose ties, close ties, mentors, allies, and champions.

- Men are bred for self-confidence. From Little League to fraternities to the golf course, men’s lives emphasize competition. By the time they get to the workplace, they are seasoned competitors, with all of the self-confidence that comes from having successfully weathered both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Consider the consequences: one internal corporate study showed that women will apply for an open job only if they meet 100% of the criteria listed, while men will apply if they meet just 60%. In order to assume that same level of self-possession (and entitlement), you have to design your own path to self-confidence.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, if I continue to hold off applying for jobs because I don’t have 100% of the criteria I will never get where I want to be.


  1. I loved both your comments and Ann's comments. Two that resonate personally: women are different and as a woman, you won't get sufficient feedback. I've had to take the feedback when I can get it, which is essentially from my peers. Even my boss works with the understanding that no comments from him means that I am performing adequately. It is frustrating to know that adequately just does not cut it when it comes to playing with the big boys, and given the amount of personal development I have done this year, I really want feedback to see just how far I've come. Yet, as a woman, this is not something most men, my boss included, are not willing to provide.

  2. This is fascinating. I agree with your comments, too. I think we should form a "new girls club" at work to fight the Old Boys Club! It's time we get paid what we're worth.

  3. Michelle,
    I know what you mean about not receiving adequate feedback. My boss gives me the lamest performance reviews ever. His comments include statements like: meets deadlines better than I do. It seems like you’ve worked so hard to improve yourself, what a shame he doesn’t provide adequate feedback. He is missing out on a great mentoring opportunity.

    I just read an interesting blog post titled, “Why performance evaluations deserve a better rap.” I think you might like it. Check it out here:

    I love your idea, a “new girls club.” It sounds so refreshing; a club where women would mentor and actually pull each other to the top.