Tag Archives: Gender Stereotypes

The Partisan Gap Amongst Female Politicians is Likely to Get Worse

If I’m being honest, when I first read the title of this journal article “A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States,” I didn’t think twice. Pew often publishes surveys/research that seemed to indicate that the gap between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, with regard to women candidates, was very unequal. As a result, I didn’t expect to be surprised when reading the journal article. However, there was one section that I think is especially important [Emphasis Added]:

Previous studies demonstrating single digit gender gaps in US party identification have not been able to explain the much larger gap when it comes to US elected officials. But representatives do not emerge from the public at large: they are disproportionately individuals with high education, high occupational prestige, and clear partisan preferences.

The researchers are implying that the people who run for office aren’t usually representative of the population at large (something we already knew). The important part here, though, is that they used this assumption to extrapolate to future Congress’s [Emphasis Added]:

By estimating the gender composition of this select group by partisanship, we find that the partisan gender gap is much larger among the kinds of citizens who tend to become representatives and that the emergence of this gap was contemporaneous with the historical emergence of a partisan gender gap in the US House.

Meaning, amongst those people who are more likely to seek political office, there is a larger gender gap than there is amongst the general population. Taking this one step further [Emphasis Added]:

Given the current associations between gender, partisanship, and other attributes among the public, the data suggest that future generational replacement may exacerbate the already significant gap in women’s descriptive representation between the parties, potentially reshaping the behavior of each party’s elected officials, the quality of representation available to diverse members of the public, and opinions of the public toward the Republican and Democratic parties.

Translation: if things continue as they are, the gender gap between Democrats and Republicans is likely to get worse — much worse — and it’s already pretty bad.

~

Given how things can shift from year-to-year (or session-to-session), it’s hard to too confident in categorically saying that the Democrats will continue to have more women in their ranks than the Republicans. However, the data certainly seem to point to things not getting better.

While my views tend to lean to the liberal side of the spectrum, I’d still like to see more women represented in the Republican party. They are one of the two dominant (only? viable?) parties in the US and if there’s only one party that’s represented by women, that won’t necessarily lead to the best decisions for women or for Americans (and by extension, citizens of the world in general).

~

Assuming that Hillary Clinton is able to become the first woman POTUS, I’d be really curious to see the result of a longitudinal study on women in politics. Theoretically, by having a Madam President, there’d be a role model for young women to aspire to. So, I’d want to test the attitudes of young women (pre-teens and teens) every year for the next 20+ years to see if there is an increase in the number of young women who aspire to be Congresswomen, Senators, and maybe even President of the United States! My hypothesis is that there’d be an increase in the desire amongst the people tested, but as the research earlier in this post alluded to, in order for there to be an increase in the number of women in politics, there needs to be an increase in the number of women who are more likely to run for President from that group of people.

ResearchBlogging.orgCrowder-Meyer, M., & Lauderdale, B. (2014). A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States Research & Politics, 1 (1) DOI: 10.1177/2053168014537230

Why Women are Better CEOs, Presidents, and Prime Ministers

New research shows that women are far better at handling stress than men. I suppose that’s not a newsflash as most people already think that’s true, but consider the way in which this study frames it [Emphasis added]:

We consistently found the same general response pattern: while stressed women showed higher self-other distinction than women in the non-stressful control condition, men showed the converse pattern. More specifically, stressed women showed reduced emotional egocentricity bias, enabling them to judge the emotions of the other person in a way that was less influenced by their own emotional state. Moreover, their response times in the cognitive perspective-taking task decreased under stress, documenting that they were able to regulate the mismatch between their own and the “director’s” perspective faster under stress. Finally, stressed women showed a reduction of automatic imitative tendencies in the imitation-inhibition task, indicating that they were able to overcome low-level social signals interfering with their own movement intentions. Note that the latter finding is crucial. It highlights that women did not simply show an increase in other-related responses under stress – as this would have resulted in increased interference from automatic imitation. Instead, they were able to flexibly increase either self- or other-related representations, depending on the task demands which either required overcoming egocentric biases, or overcoming social interference.

As the stereotype goes, women are more “emotional” than men, so it would be much better for an organization or unit if it were managed by a man. However, this research is telling us that, when under stress, it is men who are less able to distinguish their emotional state from the intentions of those around them. It is men who are more adversely affected by stress. For women, it’s the opposite. In fact, women tend to be more prosocial [behaviour intended to benefit others] when they’re stressed. Meaning, instead of retreating inward, women are actually more helpful when they’re stressed.

This research certainly makes one think about the way that many organizations and countries are run today. Most people would agree that being a CEO, President, or Prime Minister certainly comes with oodles of stress. Unfortunately, the number of women who hold these positions is far outweighed by their male counterparts. Of course, there are a number of reasons for that, which we won’t get into in this post, but consider for a moment if the numbers were flipped. That is, what if there were more women CEOs (or high-powered leaders)? Or, what even if it was 50/50! What if the number of high-powered leaders and CEOs was 50% women and 50% men? At that point, would it be easier for folks to see, understand, and digest that women are actually better leaders and better at handling the stress?

Maybe it’s the language we use.

A quick Google search showed mixed results for “women are better CEOs.” In fact, many of the results near the top indicated that women CEOs are more likely to be fired. However, when I keyed in “women are better leaders,” I got plenty of positive results. Posts on Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, and articles talking about academic research in newspapers like The Globe and Mail.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the world during my time in it, it’s that change (usually) happens gradually. Rarely is there a massive cultural shift overnight. So, here’s hoping that research like this contributes to the realization for some that when it comes to managers and leadership, women just might have an edge over men.

ResearchBlogging.orgTomova L, von Dawans B, Heinrichs M, Silani G, & Lamm C (2014). Is stress affecting our ability to tune into others? Evidence for gender differences in the effects of stress on self-other distinction. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 43, 95-104 PMID: 24703175

Why Does Respect Fly Out the Window When Women are Involved?

Yesterday, Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland asked — ahem, tried to ask — a question during Question Period of the government. Unfortunately for her (and those watching), she wasn’t given the same respect afforded other MPs. As far as I can tell, this was the first question she’s asked during question period and as folks would expect who’ve read her work, she asked a question that was grounded in research [this one happened to be from the IMF]. The video doesn’t seem to be up on YouTube and all I could find was the link through AOL, which doesn’t embed nicely on this site, so you’ll have to watch the video here (2 minutes and 23 seconds in all).

On most days, Question Period can seem a bit immature, but I took particular issue with this instance because of some of the comments that followed on Twitter. Actually, the comment from the Minister of State was a bit off the wall, but most answers in Question Period don’t really address the details of the question. The comment on Twitter that came from a journalist (!) no less, which has since been deleted:

Part of the reason that it seems so appalling that this came from a journalist is because Freeland herself, was a journalist before she became an MP. I would have thought that if any profession were to cut Freeland a little more slack, it might be journalists. Freeland’s response on Twitter:

Exactly! It’s 2014! Why are we still marginalizing women in such a sexist fashion. I was glad to see Michelle Rempel, a Conservative MP, tweet the following, shortly after Freeland’s tweet:

This was the same Michelle Rempel who came under fire because of the way she posed in her Twitter pic! It’s absurd to me just how awful we still treat women in our society. As Freeland said, it’s 2014, for Pete’s sake!

Beyond all of this, though, I don’t necessarily hold the journalist completely at fault for what he said. [He did apologize, too — twice.] Yes, it was awful and unnecessary, but in a way, we are all a bit culpable. How? Why? Well, because we all live in this society and we all help to create the norms and values upon which we act and behave. One of the best ways to help effect change here: awareness. Go watch Miss Representation and tell your friends to do the same!

Coping Strategies Used by Teens When Criticized by Their Peers for Their Brand Choice

Remember back in high school, middle school, or elementary school when you were worried to go to school because your jeans weren’t Levis, or Jordache, or Lucky, or whatever name brand was popular when you were an adolescent? A couple of researchers from Paris decided that they were going to take a closer look at this phenomenon. That is, how we coped (or cope) with being criticized for not wearing the ‘right’ clothes.

Their results revealed that we have five main coping strategies for these situations: justification, revenge, denial, self-reproach, and making the criticizers feel guilty. Can you remember how you reacted (or might have reacted) if you were in one of these situations? Personally, I have a hard time remembering what I might have said (or did say), so let’s take a look at some of the responses.

In justification:

I tell them why I bought this particular brand.

I justify my choice, explaining why I picked this brand, the circumstances of my purchase, etc.

I explain what are the reasons that pushed me to make this brand choice in particular.

In revenge:

I no longer bother to criticize their clothes.

I try to get my own back by criticizing their clothes.

From now on I’ll carefully take note of how they look and won’t hold back from criticizing it.

In denial:

I act as if I hadn’t heard what they said.

I act is if nothing’s been said. [sic]

I imagine that they haven’t said anything and that’s enough to fix the problem.

In self-reproach:

I bear a grudge against myself: why did I choose this jeans’ brand? It’s rubbish!

I think that I wouldn’t have to buy an unknown brand for my friends.

In making the criticizers feel guilty:

I tell them it’s not cool to criticize people about their appearance.

I tell them it’s not very nice for one’s friends to make comments like that.

After reading the responses under the five strategies, do you think adolescents would be more inclined to use one strategy over the other? What about in girls vs. boys? It turns, that’s the case.

The researchers found that the emotion-centered coping strategies (denial and self-reproach) were the strategies that were mostly influenced by “perceived controllability,” which is, “evaluation of the capacity people believe they have to do or not do something when confronted with a situation.” This runs opposite to previous theories, with regard to coping and so the researchers advocated caution when examining coping strategies from the perspective of major dimensions and that more care should be taken to include context.

One last piece that I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls. That is, the researchers found that girls, more than boys, were more likely to make the criticizers feel guilty. This made me wonder about this whole idea of girls developing emotionally before boys and that girls are more empathetic. I wonder if we looked at boys when they reached the same “level of maturity,” would they begin using this last coping strategy more than the others?

More than this, though, I wonder about the cultural effects on coping strategies. I continuously refer back to the documentary Miss Representation and its soon-to-be released brother, The Mask You Live In. The perspectives presented in those documentaries highlight the importance of culture and media on our youth, too. Maybe our adolescents wouldn’t have to develop coping strategies for combatting criticism about their clothing, if kids didn’t even think it was “cool” to criticize someone for the clothes they wear.

ResearchBlogging.orgSarah Benmoyal-Bouzaglo, & Denis Guiot (2013). The coping strategies used by teenagers criticized by their peers for their brand choice Recherche et Applications en Marketing DOI: 10.1177/2051570713487478

How Our Culture Failed Women in 2013

I’ve written before about my affinity for the documentary Miss Representation and its “brother” film that’s coming out in a few weeks The Mask You Live In. Well, a few weeks ago, the organization responsible for those movies put out a wonderful — well, in some ways — video detailing the ways in which the media has failed women in 2013. At first, it lists some of the great achievements that women have had this year and then… the video turns a bit sour.

We see a time lapse of a woman being airbrushed on the cover of a magazine, very sexist advertising (magazine and commercial), oversexed music videos, movies, tv shows, and then it turns to how the media cover some news events. There are — seemingly — ignorant men (mostly) patronizing women either in person or talking about women in patronizing ways. However, there are some really powerful moments. There’s a segment from Rachel Maddow where she’s discussing how women can have all of these ticks in the boxes and still get talked to in a negative way. There’s also — and this is my favourite — a video from this past summer when the Texas legislature was trying to ram a bill through that severely limited the rights of women regarding abortion.

I realize that for some, this can be an issue that incites a lot of passion in one direction or the other, but my preference for the video has nothing to do with that issue and everything to do with this woman, this strong and powerful woman, standing up for herself and for women to what is a room and a profession dominated by men. I remember when the now famous Wendy Davis filibuster was first starting to take shape in June and I remember turning on the stream sometime in the evening and having it running in the background. And then as they got closer to the end when things were really getting interesting. I remember trying to understand some of the wonky ways that procedure was being applied and then I remember Leticia Van de Putte…

It was one of the most powerful things I’d ever seen live. And if I recall correctly, I think these words were enough to motivate the gallery (the visitors sitting up above watching) to make noise until the clock ran out and the filibuster worked. Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not arguing in favour or against the merits of the filibuster, but just to draw your attention to that moment when Leticia Van de Putte said those words and the crowd erupted. I wish it weren’t, but it seems an apt metaphor for so much of how the world works today.

~

On a slightly happier (?) and stranger point, in an edition of The Economist from late last year, someone pointed out that Angela Merkel, the Chancellor (kind of like a President or Prime Minister) of Germany, appointed a female defence minister. And not only was this defense minster going to be a woman, but also that she is a gynecologist, entered politics at age 42, and has 7 children.

I think it’s great that Germany has appointed a female defence minister, but I wish that it weren’t news that Germany appointed a female defense minister. I look forward to the time in my life where the fact that someone’s been appointed to high political office or has been crowned the CEO of a big corporation and happens to also be a female is not newsworthy.

Note: You’ll notice that I made the title of this post about “our culture” and not “the media” and that’s because I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to pin the failure all on the media. There’s a feedback loop between our culture and the media. Yes, the media could certainly end that feedback loop, but so could the culture. In a way, everyone deserves a bit of the blame.

Women in Movies: Why Can’t Men Be The Weak Characters?

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to see a lovely coming of age story in The Way, Way BackI rather enjoyed it and so did my movie companion. In fact, I even thought Steve Carrell was convincing as a ‘villain.’ The one thing that did bother me about the movie, though, was the weakness of Toni Collette‘s character.

I won’t spoil the plot because I think you can imagine what I’m talking about from the title of this post and my reference to a weak character. Why does the female always have to be the weak character? Why aren’t there more movies where the male character is weak or the female character is strong?

I realize that some folks may think that I’m quibbling over something small, but this subtle norm is pervasive in the culture and it perpetuates itself by people considering it something small. By not kicking up dust about this issue, the issue is allowed to continue on with the perception that it’s not worth discussing. Well — it is worth discussing.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about a Kickstarter campaign that is the Yang to the issue we’re talking about. Have you heard of Miss Representation? It’s a powerful documentary from 2011 that dissects the portrayal of women in the media. The Yin. The Yang version is due to come out in February. It’s called: The Mask You Live In. The Kickstarter campaign closed yesterday and they finished with more than 2400 backers and more than $100,000 pledged (125% of their goal).

If you don’t think the portrayal of gender in the media is important, then you simply must see Miss Representation and, when it comes out in February, The Mask You Live In. If you do think that the portrayal of gender in the media is important, then tell your friends! NOW!

The Mask You Live In – Gender Stereotypes in the Media

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 10.10.47 PMA couple of years ago, a really important documentary came out: Miss Representation. I mentioned it in my series about the people I follow on Twitter. I was surprised that when I did a search of the website that I hadn’t written about Miss Representation. The documentary brings to light how the media portray women. *Spoiler Alert* They don’t do a good job.

After I saw the film, my first reaction is that it should be required viewing in classrooms across the US (and probably Canada, too, as Canada does consume a great deal of US Media). This movie is really important, especially for teenagers and children. They need to see and understand the perversion of the portrayal of women in the media. As can be seen in the movie, a number of young girls seem quite grateful to learn that some of the beliefs that they’d internalized were a result of the media they consumed. I can only imagine the number of young girls across the US that had similar experiences upon seeing the movie. As a man, I was very moved by the the film and whole-heartedly support the cause of MissRepresentation.org (and hope you will check it out and support it, too!)

All that to say is, there’s going to be a “sequel” to the movie — this time, for the boys. Yes, we do a great disservice to our young women, but we also do a great disservice to our young men, too. The Director/Producer of Miss Representation has launched a Kickstarter to help fund The Mask You Live In. Based on some of the dates listed on the Kickstarter page, it looks like the movie is set to debut in February of 2014. I have already made a note in my calendar and can’t wait to see it!

If you have a few minutes, I strongly recommend heading over to the Kickstarter page to watch the trailer. And, if the project moves you, why not donate some money, too?