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What I like about this article is that it's not trying to point blame. It's not that men are actively trying to shut out women or making a hostile environment (although some probably are), it's that they do it in subtle ways without even noticing. It's not that women are too timid, it's that they are making the optimal short-term choice.

I'm reminded of a study I read a looong time back (sorry I don't remember where) that looked at how in situations where there is a shared armrest (think movie theatre or airplane) between two strangers, the men tended to be the ones who end up using it more. That wasn't malice, it was just an unthinking gesture. Ever since then, I've been hyper-aware of seat armrests. :-)

I think one takeaway from this is to be aware of the dynamics in your daily conversations and just watch. Pay attention to what's going on. If a man and a woman talk over each other, cast your eyes to the woman instead of the man if you think she has something interesting to say. Subtle things like this can make a big difference. If you do this in the office, the feel like you value them more and you will find yourself with new allies.

I would also suggest that if enough women ignored the stigma associated with being labeled a bitch, they would move the line is drawn a bit. That's not always possible but again, being aware of it helps.




McArdle has also written about this kind of stuff before: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/06/yes-soci... ; http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/06/a-pack-n... :

I've had about ten requests from men to explain the phrase "winning the cocktail party". None from women.

A male friend, who spends a not inconsiderable time cruising feminist sites, was one of those who asked what it meant. I find it odd to realize that most men don't observe something that is obvious to every woman I know: that there is a competitive male dynamic to groups that is completely different from the way female groups act. They don't know, of course, because unless the group is overwhelmingly female, the dynamic of any mixed group always defaults to male, with women fading back into supporting conversational roles. Maybe it's the kind of thing you can only observe by contrast to the extremely anti-competitive nature of female groups.

The easiest way to put it (and this is hardly original) is that men in groups are focused on their role within the group. Women in groups are focused on the group. Men gain status by standing out from the group; women gain status by submerging themselves into it--by strengthening the group, often at the expense of themselves.

Both these styles have advantages and drawbacks. I'm not trying to establish that one is better than the other. But I'm kind of shocked, though I shouldn't be, to realize that men don't even see it, the way they don't see catcalling, because it never happens when they're around.

I've seen this kind of behavior a lot more often since I began looking for it.

BTW, if you're interested in cognitive biases more generally, check out Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow (http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/...).


> I've seen this kind of behavior a lot more often since I began looking for it.

When females will start choosing the shy, introvert male individual over the confident, extrovert, win-it-all male than these sort of things won't happen anymore. Otherwise, it's just animal nature to behave in this manner.


"women gain status by submerging themselves into it--by strengthening the group, often at the expense of themselves."

Sorry, but that is complete bullshit. I have seen power struggles in female groups often enough.


>It's not that women are too timid, it's that they are making the optimal short-term choice. [...] I would also suggest that if enough women ignored the stigma associated with being labeled a bitch, they would move the line is drawn a bit. That's not always possible but again, being aware of it helps.

I wonder what kind of critical mass would be necessary to shift the norms, even in relatively liberal places, such that when a man and a woman both start talking, it's even odds which one will continue talking? '

I think it's also possible, at least in many groups, to have people look at the gestalt of your behavior. If you're friendly and helpful in one-on-ones, but in meetings tend to speak up more, then you're ought to be likely to be labeled a bitch (or whatever the male equivalent is) than if you're pushy and domineering all the time.


It'll probably end up being like something that approaches a limit more than exact equality. Five hundred years ago, women were barely better off than slaves. A hundred years ago, they couldn't vote. Fifty years ago, it was still considered impolite for them to have strong political views. Now, they are subtly discriminated against by men in a variety of contexts, but probably less so than at any time before in history. Fifty years from now, if we keep working on it, it'll probably be less. But I have trouble visualizing a model of the human brain where all of that discriminatory behavior is learned. Until we can edit our minds, there will probably still be some inequality.




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