In her book, “Lean In,” author Sheryl Sandberg cited a 2003 university study to test perceptions of men and women in the workplace. The Harvard Business School case study profiled the real-life accomplishments of Heidi Roizen — a successful venture capitalist with “an outgoing personality … and vast personal and professional network.” In the study, half of students read the case study with Heidi’s name while the other half read the same study with Heidi’s name replaced with Howard. Though the case study was identical except for the name, respondents found Howard to be more appealing while branding Heidi as selfish and “not the type of person you would want to hire or work for.”
That’s the kind of bias prompting many women to mute their accomplishments and why others then hold women back. Those also are some of the same reasons most girls don’t brag about being the smartest person in class. Some girls reason that if they are known to be too smart, they won’t get invited out on dates. That is a sad testimony to our culture.
Of course, the importance of being liked in the workplace applies to both men and women, and it aids both genders’ ability to be successful. Women, though, pay a higher price when they step outside of gender norms. State Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, might feel like she experienced some of that bias when she spoke up at a recent First Friday Forum and publicly challenged a speaker about the impact of some recent legislation. Many attendees at the event were surprised by Tyson’s public scolding and correction of the speaker. The incident apparently was her attempt to set the record straight on legislation with which she clearly had both an investment and emotional attachment.
In the end, however, regardless of gender, it would have made more sense for the senator to hold her tongue and not interrupt the speaker with what some people termed a crass and immature outburst. In her book, Sandberg cited a study by Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, that said women must be “relentlessly pleasant” particularly when approaching negotiations. “This method requires smiling frequently, expressing appreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals, and approaching the negotiation as solving a problem as opposed to taking a critical stance,” Coleman said in the book.
Speaking your mind, whether a man or a woman, comes at a cost and is bound to offend someone, but courtesy and civility should always be in vogue.
— Jeanny Sharp,