Cosmopolitan (UK)

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


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.

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