Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDWomen talk. It’s excellent and inspiring, of course - I am far behind in posting it - but it is also very saddening. Two anecdotes stuck out: (1) The time she went to a tony private equity firm and they couldn’t direct her to the ladies room, because they didn’t know where it was, because they had not hosted any ladies to so direct; (2) Her account of the case of Heidi vs. Howard. It is important, so I’ve pulled an account here, taken from Stanford’s GSB site, and an address by Prof. Joanne Martin on the subject of gender-related material as critical to the core business school curriculum. Here it is below:
“Last fall I taught three sections of the OB core. We first introduced the topic of gender stereotypes in our second class session, particularly how these stereotypes can impact subjective performance appraisals and promotions. To provide fodder for our discussion, I presented students with the results from Rouse and Goldin’s symphony study published in AER (American Economic Review) (in which women (musicians) who auditioned “behind the curtain” were 50 percent more likely to get picked). I taught three cases in the core, only one of which focuses on a single protagonist. That case involved a female entrepreneur/venture capitalist named Heidi Roizen. In addition to discussing this case in class, I invited Heidi to visit the class (she spoke to all six sections). During her visit, Heidi commented extensively on the difficulties of being a woman in Silicon Valley.
To support this discussion, I presented to students the results from a study I did a couple years ago involving the Heidi Roizen case. Specifically, with Harvard’s permission, I changed the original materials so that one section of the class received a version of the case called “Howard” Roizen (same case, just different pronouns) and the other section received the original case. Before class, I had the students go online and rate their impressions of “Roizen” on several dimensions. As you might expect, the results show that students were much harsher on Heidi than on Howard across the board. Although they think she’s just as competent and effective as Howard, they don’t like her, they wouldn’t hire her, and they wouldn’t want to work with her. As gender researchers would predict, this seems to be driven by how much they disliked Heidi’s aggressive personality. The more assertive they thought Heidi was, the more harshly they judged her (but the same was not true for those who rated Howard).”
As a woman who has been told more than once to watch her tone (in the course of setting out a professional agenda), I feel this. And it feels lousy. I was expected to feel uplifted and energized by Sandberg’s talk but this left me with a feeling of weariness. But if you’ve gotta push a rock uphill, you won’t get very far sagging in defeat at the bottom. So, onward.
Actually, pushing feels sorta good. Nice in the triceps, and I can feel it in my glutes. The good news is, despite the challenges, onward and upward ultimately leaves you feeling great.