Category Archives: stereotypes

A Woman’s Work on Economic Equality is Never Done

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival!

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s proclamation in the Los Angeles Times this spring that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Current News & Events, Economy, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Work-Life Fit, Workplace and Employment

Resume Advice After a Career Break: An Interview with iRelaunch

I noticed that a number of people find my blog because they are searching for information on dealing with a gap in their resume due to time out of the workforce to care for family. They land on this post, How to Explain Gap in Resume: Caring for Family or…Coma?, which tells the story of one mother who was advised that she’d be better off telling a prospective employer that she’d been “in a coma” than saying she’d been caring for family and “doing nothing.”

I knew THAT wasn’t good advice. While I give some tips in my original post, I decided it was time to go to the experts for more advice for my readers. So I reached out to my friend Carol Fishman Cohen at iRelaunch. iRelaunch offers a range of resources and services for women re-entering the workforce. All of which are informed by Carol and her co-founder Vivian’s constant interaction with employers and recruiters, plus their own experience as hiring managers and recruiters.

Carol packed our conversation with advice worth its weight in gold, for mothers and for anyone with a gap in their resume.

Kristin: Carol, multiple studies show that mothers in particular face automatic bias that has a direct impact on pay and promotions. Being a woman and having a gap in your resume often triggers that bias. So what’s the most important resume advice for someone who has a gap in her resume? Continue reading

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Filed under Career-Life Fit, Interview, Money, Motherhood, Recommendations, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes, Workplace and Employment

6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make

Tonight I’ll be leading the chapter meeting for our local Mothers & More chapter on “The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make.” Join us and bring a long a new or gently used purse for our donation to Elizabeth house! Here are the “mistakes” I’ll be discussing with moms tonight.

1. Making “To Work or Not To Work” Decisions Based Solely on Short-Term Family Budget

When mothers wrestle with questions about whether to stay employed or not, or whether to scale back employment to make room for family, the conversation usually centers on whether the current family budget can afford those changes. Can we still pay the mortgage or rent? Could we trim expenses to make up for lost income?

Too often, all the longer-term implications are left out. How will this decision impact my ability to save for retirement? My Social Security benefits? How will this decision impact my future earning potential?

Whenever faced with an employment or financial decision, ask yourself:

How will this decision affect the short- AND long-term finances of my family?

How will this decision affect my own short- AND long-term financial security?

2. Falling Into the “Can I make enough to pay for childcare?” Trap

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. Estimating the income we thought I could make in a job with reasonable hours, we subtracted taxes, childcare, and work expenses. There wasn’t much left. Working for pay didn’t pay much. So we decided I wouldn’t, because we could afford for me not to.

Three different things lead many mothers into this trap. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Economy, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes

A Woman’s Work on Pay Equity is Never Done

Photo by Ian Britton at Freefoto.com

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s recent proclamation in the Los Angeles Times that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. The work here is mostly done.” In a piece titled, “Taking feminism overseas” Goldberg goes on to declare that “Even the fight for “pay equity” is an argument about statistics, lagging cultural indicators and the actual choices liberated women make — to take time away from paid jobs to raise their kids (never-married women without kids earn more than men) or to work in occupations like the nonprofit sector that pay less.”

The only reason Goldberg and others can make this “choices” claim with a straight face is because the bias against women is no longer as overt as it once was– no more separate salary schedules for men and women. Much of the bias has gone underground, way underground, into our subconscious and into the unquestioned structure of our workplaces around the way men have typically worked in the past. Jobs are designed for a man who has a wife to care for family; 50-hour workweeks, mandatory overtime, inflexible schedules that can change at the last minute, and little or no sick time.

When mothers, who do still shoulder most of the responsibility for family care, find it impossible to fit this mold the resulting stories don’t sound much like “choices liberated women make.” They sound like discrimination. In fact, Williams and her colleagues at the WorkLife Law Center have documented a 400% increase in lawsuits involving family responsibilities discrimination “showing how mothers and other caregivers are pushed out of jobs they want – and need.” Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Family Work, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Workplace and Employment

Test for Stereotypes About Mothers

Given the recent article on Amy Cuddy from Harvard and subconscious stereotypes, I thought I’d share this excerpt from my book on how researchers identify these stereotypes (The Implicit Association Test) and the conflicting stereotypes that apply to mothers.

“Researchers from Harvard developed a simple type of computer test revealing that below the level of our awareness, we have associations between certain people and certain traits—a specific type of mental map they call implicit association. We may have a subconscious association between two things, say men and science and another association between women and liberal arts. The computer test asks us to pair words or images in those categories, and we’re supposed to do it so fast that it’s automatic. We hum along pairing male words or images with science words or images. However, if we’re asked to pair the opposites quickly, say women with science and men with liberal arts, it takes us longer—by seconds or fractions of a second. We take just a bit longer to consciously overcome our subconscious associations to give the right answer. The longer it takes us, the stronger the underlying association is. The stronger the underlying association is, the more likely we are to behave in line with that association and not according to what we say we believe.  We’d like to think our beliefs and behavior are totally under our conscious control, but our subconscious beliefs can differ dramatically from what we say we believe when asked. Continue reading

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Tips for Mothers for Busting Subconscious Stereotypes

In a recent post, How Stereotypes About Warmth and Competence Impact Mothers , I talked about the Harvard Magazine profile of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, The Psyche of the Automatic, which highlights decades of research on automatic stereotypes and their impact on many different groups. I promised at the end to share some tips for women and mothers in particular to combat these unconscious stereotypes that seem to leave us in a no win situation.

I best make good on my promise because the other day on the Fast Company blog the post Why Women Should Flirt at Work by Alicia Morga summarized the results of yet another study,  “Women at the Bargaining Table: Pitfalls and Prospects,” which showed that women are in a classic double bind: “women may be perceived as competent but unlikable or as likable but incompetent.”

As the blogger tells it,

“The researchers found that both men AND women negatively evaluate women who do not behave in stereotypically female ways.

The choices then are these–work within the stereotypes or be careful in situations to not activate gender stereotypes.”

So let me offer a third option, bust the stereotypes. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Gender Issues, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes, Workplace and Employment

How Stereotypes About Warmth and Competence Impact Mothers

My friend Barbara was at a meeting of her fellow computer geeks. The speaker said to them all, “I’ll try to explain it so my mother could understand it.” It dawned on Barbara that she remembered others making similar remarks in her economics Ph.D. program, and then she said, “It was always clear to me that [the phrase] meant someone untrained, possibly stupid. This was the first time since I became a mom that I’d heard it. I felt kicked in the stomach.”

Barbara had run smack into a deep, common and largely subconscious stereotype  – namely that mothers aren’t very smart.

Why would that be?

A recent Harvard Magazine profile of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, The Psyche of the Automatic, highlights decades of research on automatic stereotypes and their impact on many different groups – including mothers and fathers – and explains what’s behind the “explain it so my mother could understand it” type of stereotype.

  • Warmth and competence are the two critical factors in how we perceive others.
  • It’s really hard to get people to perceive you as both warm AND competent. “People tend to see warmth and competence as inversely related. If there’s a surplus of one trait, they infer a deficit of the other.” (Cuddy quoted in a 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb.”)
  • Others respond to you in distinctly different ways depending on how they perceive the warmth or competence of a group you belong to according to the grid below.

Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Fatherhood, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Workplace and Employment

Guess Who Said This?

So can you guess who said this?

“The fault line between work and family [is] precisely where sex-based generalization has been and remains the strongest. . . . Stereotypes about women’s domestic responsibilities are reinforced by parallel stereotypes, presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men. These mutually reinforcing stereotypes create a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination.”

Democratic politician? Liberal think tank?

Surprise.

It was former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, in a 2003 opinion.

Stereotypes about mothers and fathers impact families of all political stripes. What have you done lately to bust your own stereotypes?

P.S. Check out this quiz for some examples of the types of parallel stereotypes about mothers and fathers that Rehnquist had in mind.

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Filed under Family Work, Fatherhood, Gender Issues, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes, Uncategorized

Caster Semenya Cleared to Compete as a Woman

The New York Times reported last week that:

“Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose track career had been in limbo because of questions about her sex, was cleared to compete as a woman on Tuesday by track and field’s international governing body, the I.A.A.F.”

I wrote about Caster – and a story from my own childhood – last summer when this issue broke. In  The Day I Was Miffed No One Thought I Was a Boy I tell the story of the day our girls fastpitch softball team was accused of being boys because we were too good. Despite rumors of exams that would involve “stripping,” that issue was resolved in a matter of an hour or so – thanks to my father – in a way that left us feeling stronger and having learned lessons in advocacy from watching my dad in action.

Caster on the other hand has been in limbo for 11 months…seriously??? Have to wonder if it would have gone any faster if she’d taken my advice…to hire my dad. : )

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Five Myths About Working Mothers from the Washington Post

Thanks to Becky and Hollee for drawing my attention to this article in the Washington Post –  Five Myths About Working Mothers by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. A great summary of some of the big myths about employed mothers that just won’t die because they’re held up by outdated stereotypes about mothers, fathers, and work.

A few are myths I discuss at length in my book This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today.

“1. Mothers today spend much less time caring for children than did their parents and grandparents.”  False!

“4. Women who work are less likely to have successful marriages.” False!

“5. Parents don’t experience discrimination in the workplace.” False!

And two that I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail.

“2. Women’s jobs interfere with family life more than men’s.” False!

“3. Mothers with college degrees are more likely than other women to opt out of the workforce.” False!

Of course, there are also plenty of myths about mothers who are not employed such as “Mothers who are not employed are dull.” (i.e. the soap opera and bon-bons myth.) Think you know them? Take my Mental Map Matching Quiz and match the real-life scenario to the outdated stereotype about mothers or fathers.

Which myths about mothers and fathers do you confront most often? Which are the most problematic in your life?


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