IS YOUR BOSS A GENDERSAUR­US? A guide to work­place sex­ism’s pre­his­toric mon­sters

Ne­go­ti­ate new-world gen­der-speak with our guide to what’s hap­pen­ing now and what de­serves to be ex­tinct

Cosmopolitan (UK) - - Contents -

Jen­nifer Lawrence? To­tally glued to a sticky floor. Theresa May? Boy, is she tee­ter­ing over a glass cliff. As for you? Well, you’re prob­a­bly just loop­ing around that am­bi­tion cir­cle over and over again.

Yep, as new re­search high­lights that women still earn 18% less than men on av­er­age, gen­der ca­reer terms at­tempt­ing to ex­plain why have never been more plen­ti­ful.

But what do th­ese metaphors ac­tu­ally mean? And are they just a way for those in charge to con us into think­ing they’re aware of our plight with­out ac­tu­ally do­ing any­thing about it? We did some dig­ging into the head­line grab­bers to find out if they’re part of the buzz to help raise aware­ness – or ut­ter BS.


Huh? A lit­tle like the glass ceil­ing, but this de­scribes those mo­ments when you should have been given the chance to progress… but it went to a male col­league in­stead. So ba­si­cally you can see what suc­cess looks like (through a glass wall), yet you aren’t al­ways in the hot seat your­self – be it a project handed over your head, or even a pro­mo­tion. It was coined by Sue Un­er­man and Kathryn Ja­cobs for their book sup­port­ing fe­male suc­cess in the work­place, The Glass Wall. Buzz or bull­shit? 50:50. While Un­er­man and Ja­cobs are try­ing to flog a book – and ev­ery­one wants to cash in and be­come the next Sh­eryl Sand­berg – Corinne Mills, MD of ca­reers ad­vis­ers Per­sonal Ca­reer Man­age­ment, reck­ons this is a real is­sue. “We’re see­ing this a lot,” she says. “It means their di­rect peers have more ac­cess or in­flu­ence over the boss, that they get left out of meet­ings ›

or more in­ter­est­ing as­sign­ments are passed to other col­leagues.”


Huh? Imag­ine the floor around your desk is cov­ered in su­per­glue and you’re 15 min­utes late for an an­nual re­view with your boss. You know what you need to ask for (pay rise/pro­mo­tion) but you just can’t get up and go after it. The phrase came to fame in 2007 when lead­er­ship ex­pert Rebecca Sham­baugh used it to de­scribe women’s in­se­cu­ri­ties hold­ing them back. Jen­nifer Lawrence also in­sin­u­ated Hol­ly­wood had a sticky-floor prob­lem (al­beit one cov­ered in golden stars, no doubt) last year in her open let­ter about male co-stars be­ing paid more than her. Buzz or bull­shit? Bull. We don’t doubt sticky floors ex­ist, but this the­ory sug­gests we put the glue there to be­gin with. The Fawcett So­ci­ety, the UK’s lead­ing char­ity for women’s rights, says the main causes of the pay gap in­clude: straight-up dis­crim­i­na­tion, un­equal car­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and the fact that 80% of those work­ing in low-paid care sec­tors are women, as men make up most of the higher-paid po­si­tions. Not ex­actly things we can ex­ert con­trol over. With the more in­grained gen­der is­sues, we shouldn’t be ex­pected to mop the floor alone.


Huh? Four words: “Think cri­sis, think fe­male.” Pro­fes­sors Michelle K Ryan and Alex Haslam’s re­search in 2004 for the Uni­ver­sity Of Ex­eter looked be­yond the glass ceil­ing – and sug­gested that women are more likely to be ap­pointed lead­er­ship roles at times that are both risky and pre­car­i­ous when they fi­nally break through. Their odds of fail­ure? Higher than at times of pros­per­ity. Buzz or bull­shit? Buzz. It’s been used a lot of late – with the glass cliff be­ing linked to many well-known cases, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of Marissa Mayer as CEO at de­clin­ing Ya­hoo!, and Theresa May’s ap­point­ment as prime min­is­ter post-Brexit. This one isn’t just a catchy term – there’s ac­tu­ally 10 years of re­search be­hind it. The re­searchers ex­am­ined the per­for­mance of FTSE 100 com­pa­nies be­fore and after the ap­point­ment of new board mem­bers, and found that when women were ap­pointed, com­pa­nies were more likely to have ex­pe­ri­enced con­sis­tently bad per­for­mance in the pre­ced­ing months.


Huh? Be­fore Kevin Roberts, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Saatchi & Saatchi, came along and put his foot in his mouth, no one had ever heard of cir­cu­lar am­bi­tion. He claimed that there’s a rea­son why only 11.5% of cre­ative di­rec­tors at ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies are fe­male – and it has noth­ing to do with an un­fair play­ing field. In­stead, he the­o­rised ear­lier this year that women lack “ver­ti­cal am­bi­tion” be­cause they pre­fer to do a lower-paid job re­ally well, and don’t have their sights set on the high-rolling ones. “Their am­bi­tion is not a ver­ti­cal am­bi­tion, it’s this in­trin­sic cir­cu­lar am­bi­tion to be happy…” he said. Buzz or bull­shit? Bull­shit. There’s a rea­son why Roberts re­signed days after his com­ments went vi­ral. Yes, there are women and men who choose hap­pi­ness in their ca­reers over the top, well-paid po­si­tions, but Roberts is paint­ing all women with the same brush. Only 14% of cre­ative di­rec­tors in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try in Lon­don are fe­male, while Saatchi & Saatchi’s global lead­er­ship team of 14 in­cludes only three women. The sug­ges­tion that this ex­plains why so few women are con­quer­ing the top of the ad­ver­tis­ing tree (and by im­pli­ca­tion other pro­fes­sions) shows com­plete naivety when it comes to both women and ca­reer pol­i­tics. Good one, Kev.

“Yeah, I’ve been on the Pa­leo diet”

“Sorry, mate, not even a shark can pull off that suit”

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