Skepchick Quickies, 11.16


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Ok, as a guy who has been in two female-dominated fields (school teacher and librarian), I have to ask… what’s wrong with having an opposite gendered mentor? For my teaching career, I cannot think of one male I had a mentoring relationship with. As a librarian, I’ve only worked with 1 male librarian on a regular basis, and he’s an example of who I don’t want to be.

    On the other hand, I’ve had some great female mentors. My old boss at the library gave me the tools to grow in the field. My current assistant manager is good with any library science questions I haven’t learned yet. But every time there’s an article on women in the workforce, it’s decrying the lack of female mentors, which leaves me wondering what’s wrong with women having male mentors?

    1. I don’t think there is anything necessarily “wrong” with opposite-gender mentors, but often the point of a mentor to help a minority is to help with the unique challenges of being a minority, not just give general job advice. If this isn’t desired or needed in individual minority cases, so be it. But, in many other cases, that’s primarily what is desired and needed. Also, specifically, in male-dominated fields, there are more issues of work/life balance (childcare, etc.) that women are traditionally on the hook for. I’m a single mother working in technology and I would have a difficult time trusting career advice from a man who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have to balance the workload, on and off the job, that I have.

    2. Heh. Happened to be texting with my old boss while typing that. She reminded me that I’ve been working with another man for the past 3 months, but that I utterly forget him all the time.

    3. I’m sort of the opposite. I’m a woman in the engineering field. Basically all of my “mentors” have been men. A lot of times it works out well. Plenty of other times it just don’t work. Several men have been tasked with training me and have vastly underestimated me. If one more man gives me a 10-minute lecture on how to use a screwdriver, I will scream. I understand that plenty of people, men included, can come onto a job without ever having picked up practical skills. Teaching me the very very basics is ok. The problem arises when I tell him that I know this already and he insists on lecturing me anyway or, even worse, when he has shown me once and assumes that I can’t figure it out so he keeps showing me over and over and over.

      There are a lot of factors that go into this. It’s part outright misogyny in assuming that a woman can’t grasp these things. It’s partly subtle misogyny where a macho man has to feel like he’s superior to me as a woman. It’s partly ageism in that they assume someone young like me can’t do anything. It’s partly that they took a long time to learn this skill and either they can’t imagine anyone learning it faster or they are are threatened by the idea of someone else learning it faster. And part of it is even a passive-aggressive way of avoiding passing on knowledge out of the fear that he will become replaceable and get laid off. There are a lot of things that go into this, but sexism is definitely a big factor. In one very bad case, the sexism part was very obvious because he treated our male coworker in a much different way.

      Of course some of the men who have trained me have been great about it. But I’m only 26 and I can think of at least 3 men who treated me like a complete idiot while training me. None of them would make a good mentor to a woman.

  2. I had to stop reading that article about Millennial women… because if I replaced jobs with rape.. it was one big rape apology ad.

    Of course there could be no such thing as systemic sexism that makes sure that women are doing the brunt of the work at home, forced to achieve higher goals than contemporary males, and devalued across the board when one woman fails to meet their goals. It’s that they just dressed slutty… or something. I may have gotten confused halfway through that rant.

    @Mark There isn’t anything wrong with male mentors. It’s that often men don’t step forward to mentor women because 1) they can mentor a dude and see him get further ahead for the same work on their behalf 2) they understand other men in their field and what they need in terms of support 3)Often they understand 1 & 2 on some level and so try encourage the woman to look for a female mentor, overloading the few existing women mentors and leaving many young women high and dry with no one at all. 4) When women advance and weren’t mentored they can make for shitty mentors themselves or ignore the mentoring process because they’re still dealing with all the stuff from 1 & 2.

    All to often when you are the sole individual of a gender in a field that is weighted against you, there is a tendency towards “Queen Bee” syndrome. I ran into this in grad school and the other guy you’ve worked with probably had it as well. The person is worse than useless as a mentor and is often actively hostile to having others like them in the area.

    1. To me the whole article smacked of “now that women have freedom, they don’t know what to do with it” and “women aren’t used to hard work”. However, mostly, this article was just all over the place and I hard time following what her points were.

      I don’t see why this article thinks that women somehow can’t take consistent hard work? It seems completely fabricated by the author.

      Why do women burn out? Well here’s a little sample.

      I tutor high school girls sometimes in math & science for a little extra cash and I’m repeatedly told that boys are always trying to flirt with them, the boys make fun of them for asking questions (as if they’re naturally stupid for being female), and generally have a “you stupid girl” attitude towards them. And honestly that does affect their performance.

      These attitudes DEFINITELY carry into the workplace and they’re hard to deal with. With societal & workplace discrimination ever-present, combined that women are often spending a lot of time supporting the family at home too it’s not too hard to see why women can feeling extra-stressed sometimes.

      It’s not that they can’t take hard work, it’s that they have to deal with much more bullshit than men.

    2. One other thing to add to your list of problems with men mentoring women, and it’s one that cuts a couple of ways. Mentoring generally entails dealing with someone lower on the corporate ladder than yourself.

      Because of the legacy (and continuance) of the patriarchy, though, many times such relationships contain elements that are NOT helpful to the mentoring process itself, which requires a great deal of trust and comfort. A woman with a male mentor runs a few risks:

      1: The guy is actually looking to maneuver her into a sexual relationship. (Just as all men are potential rapists, all male superiors are potential sexual harassers.)

      2: Even if the guy is careful about not crossing that line, a close relationship between a female subordinate and a male superior, that leads to the woman being promoted, is almost certainly going to raise rumors about her having ‘slept her way up’ and him having a sex-partner on the payroll.

      3: Guys who have absorbed the paranoid fear of being falsely accused of sexual harassment will also be more wary of mentoring a woman colleague. Not right, but it’s going to be a factor in some environments.

      Of those three, I suspect the second one (fear of the appearance of impropriety) is the biggest drag on women seeking out men as mentors, and on men taking on women as (what’s the word, here–“student” seems a bit off for professional relationships?).

  3. Only “Millenial women?” It’s not like discrimination and problems women have in the work place are only happening to Millenials. ALL women have issues with how they are treated in the workplace. The fallaciousness is apparent from first sentence when you try to look at the issues of only one generation.

    1. After Boomers they’re the next largest female body in the workforce. Which isn’t to say excluding GenX women is right but in terms of sheer numbers Millennials way outnumber anyone but Boomers.

    2. Yeah, exactly, one of many fallacies in the article. As a whole, the article seems to be nothing more than the author pulling the vague ideas she has in her head and writing them down to meet Forbe’s daily quota of hot-button issue articles.

      I also can’t believe how awfully written it was from a composition standpoint. Some of the major press outlets need to send their writers back to comp 101 classes.

    3. All “people” have problems with how they are treated in the workplace. Men have been treated like shit in the workplace for time immemorial.

      The fact is, women are handling it just fine, and that’s why the statistic cited in the article – 53% of entry level employees being women – is so positive. They are getting the majority of college degrees, and are therefore grabbing the majority of jobs.

      The 37% of the middle managers being women percentage is a dramatic increase from 10 and 20 years ago, and is continuing to rise, and in 10 years, the entry level women will be middle managers. All indications are that 50% or thereabouts of middle managers will soon be women.

    1. Yeah but only the very leading edge of the generation. Other Millenials are still in high school.

      Hopefully women’s workplace, military, and STEM parity will have increased by then.

    2. Even more disturbing…in 2 years and 10 months there will be kids in high school who were born on 9/11/01.

  4. I was just reading an article the other day that essentially said “As soon as anyone starts describing things by generation, I think whatever they are saying is BS.”

    And I’m going to have to agree.

    While there maybe some statistical changes across the generations and shifts in attitude, describing things like “Burn out” or behaviors like are in that Forbes article is hardly scientific. There is going to be just as much variation within a generation as there is between them.

    Plus, we can’t even really decide where most generations start and end, different sources give different dates. And how can we assume that people my age, 30, really have anything in common with the kids just coming out of school. They don’t remember a time before the internet, but I do.

    Assigning behavior patterns to a “generation” is completely unscientific. I actually think there could be some really interesting groupings in our society. But those are not necessarily going to coincide with what year a person is born.

  5. I saw the Millennial woman article as a long list of ad hoc justifications for how businesses and those who run said businesses treat women. It’s not the business’ fault if the women they hire can’t hack it, they aren’t tough enough and they make bad choices and they don’t look after themselves and all that. See, totally not business’ fault. It’s the women’s fault they aren’t in charge, got it? I just showed you with my made up bullshit excuses, so just don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Oh, and get me some coffee.

    I can’t believe you found such rediculous kowtowing to the almighty dollar; IN FORBES MAGAZINE of all places! Next thing you know you’ll be telling me that Mother Jones is for legalizing marajuana.

    Hell in a handbasket I tell you, hell in a handbasket.

    1. It is worse than that – the article made the claim that women couldn’t hack it, but presented no evidence that they in fact could not hack it. The reality is the opposite. Women CAN hack it, and DO hack it, and their numbers are increasing.

      It makes sense that 53% of entry level corporate jobs are held by women. For the last few years, women have outnumbered men in college and they are therefore more represented in the job pool at the entry level. It also makes sense that women hold only 26% of CEO and senior manager jobs at the present time, because those jobs tend to be filled by people with 30 years of experience – and 30 years ago women were far underrepresented in the pool of new corporate worker. But, also 30 years ago women represented only a few percentage points of all the CEOs and senior managers. The 26% is a tremendous increase from 30 years ago, and that number is on the rise, not the decline.

      The article makes the dumb point that MORE women are burning out. The fact is, more women are NOT burning out. More and more women are making it just fine in the corporate and business world, and there is no indication that the trend is continuing.

      Of course it’s not the corporations’ fault that women aren’t succeeding. Women ARE succeeding, and succeeding very well, and if the current trend continues, in a few short years the 37% of women at the middle management level will be 50%, and the same will eventually be the case for the senior management level because the pool of women in the workforce is continuing to increase, and in a decade or so, the pool of women with 25+ years experience will equal that of men.

      Women aren’t burning out in greater numbers than before. The article is bollocks.

  6. I loved the last story about art and STEM fields. I was talking to my Mom just the other day, an avid quilter, about her knowledge of trig. She was all no, I don’t know anything about that stuff. She knows the ratios and relationships better then most people in my calc classes! I do wish art was more integrated in STEM education. Art and science RULES!

  7. I found the “millenials” article pretty problematic. When asked for citations in the comments the author cited a bunch of statistics about “stress” that seemed related to what was asserted in the article only by speculation.

    Her statistics supported women feeling very stressed out by work (which is nothing new at all – everyone feels stressed as work because work is stressful even when you like it!) and for women having a harder time coping with stress than men. It seems from there that she leaps to conclusions.

    I may be unfair, but also I don’t think Kelly Cutrone is really a wonderful spokesperson to talk about the issues of all professional millenials. She works in fashion PR and part of her MO is getting her business on as many reality shows as possible. I don’t think her business, nor the way she runs her business and the type of people she hires would be at all represented of your average working situation. The fact that the author chose her of all possibilities to comment on this issue raises a lot of questions for me about her own credibility in writing about the issue.

  8. I think the biggest problem with the Millenial women article is that the main argument made in the article is not supported in any way by any statistics or evidence cited in the article itself.

    The claim is that “a growing number of young professional women who seem to “have it all” are burning out at work before they reach 30.”

    O.k. – so, what is the proof that the number of burn-outs is growing?

    “53% of corporate entry-level jobs are held by women, a percentage that drops to 37% for mid-management roles and 26% for vice presidents and senior managers, according to McKinsey research.”

    So, how does that demonstrate that more women are burning out before the age of 30? Answer: it doesn’t. These numbers are actually higher than ever before in the history of the US. So, if anything, they evidence that FEWER women are burning out, and MORE women are entering the work force to the tune of outnumbering men at the entry level stage.

    The trend appears to be that in another decade or so, the middle manager percentage – now 37% will continue to rise, and women will hold about 50% of those positions too.

    Moreover, the CEO and other high level officer positions are shown as 26% female. But, those are positions that tend to be filled by people with 25 or 30+ years experience in the corporate world. A generation or so ago, women were NOT holding 53% of the entry level jobs – therefore the pool of women in the workforce who have consistently been working for 25 or 30 years is currently lower than the pool of men. But, the important point is that 26% of CEO and senior manager jobs being held by women is on the increase, not the decrease.

    Sure – it would be better if it was 50% down the line and women and men were equally represented. But, the fact remains, the article is just a baseless fluff piece that isn’t in the least supported by the evidence it cites. The fact is that the number of women 30+ in the workforce is increasing, not decreasing, and there is no evidence that women in general are finding that they can’t hack it in the workplace.

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