When I first started, I was very quiet in meetings. I thought, “I’m new, so I don’t want to rock the boat,” “Eh, the navigation bar is probably set up like that for a reason, I won’t ask about it,” or “I don’t know about this specific thing so lemme STFU before I look like a total fool.” For 3 weeks, I stayed quiet, simply absorbing the environment. New guy joins the team and in the very first team meeting with him, he voices every single comment, critique, and question I’ve hoarded in my head. Wtf! I should’ve spoken up! Now this guy is getting all the credit … and everyone was wow’ed by him. “This type of critical thinking is exactly why we decided to hired you for this team,” they told him, patting him on the back.
Who knows? Maybe they would have been more receptive to him regardless since he has over a decade of experience whereas I was the rookie. But it also makes me think. Now, I do believe there is some gender bias in the workplace but sometimes, women do things that also hold themselves back. The majority of women I know tend to be a bit more cautious, calculating, and agreeable. While I think that those are good qualities, it also can make women appear less knowledgeable or less of a leader.
Watch a group of men talk. Men don’t just “mansplain” to women, men “mansplain” to other men! From the Economist’s “Why Men Interrupt”:
Leaving the conversation [Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University] realised that she had just played the embarrassing subordinate role in the scenarios where she was the expert.
But Ms Tannen says “the reason is not — as it seems to many women — that men are bums who seek to deny women authority.” Instead, she says, “the inequality of the treatment results not simply from the men’s behavior alone but from the differences in men’s and women’s styles.”
In Ms Tannen’s schema, men talk to determine and achieve status. Women talk to determine and achieve connection. To use metaphors, for men life is a ladder and the better spots are up high. For women, life is a network, and the better spots have greater connections.
One of the most valuable insights I got from my friendis this metaphor: conversation is like a ball game.