Some other ways in which women are constrained in the workplace and men aren’t, all from Lean In, all supported by research. To start with, the “favour” penalty. If a woman is asked to do a colleague a favour and refuses, it reflects badly on other colleagues’ opinion of her, but if she does the favour, she gains no special kudos for giving up her time and effort. For a man, on the other hand, there is no downside to refusing a favour; no one will think worse of him. If he does it, on the other hand, he does get kudos – he gains Brownie points for putting himself out for someone else. So, when it comes to helping others out in the workplace, women can’t win and men can’t lose.
(This chimes, by the way, with my own personal experience; over the course of my career I’ve spent a fair amount of time helping out others, but I’ve never received any particular credit for it. Indeed, if I’ve ever pointed out to senior management how much I do to help others out by contrast to my male colleagues, far from giving me any credit for it, their attitude generally combines incredulity that anyone would do that together with a dismissive attitude that seems to indicate that this is nothing special. As a result I’m probably less helpful now than I used to be.)
Next one: Being allowed to speak and be heard. Oh, how much I’ve written about this in the past, and how much I could write! All of the evidence out there that shows that women speak less, are interrupted more, and that their interventions are given less weight than those of male colleagues. In male-dominated environments, although women are generally interrupted more than men, women tend to get accused of interrupting more than men do. Whether it’s simply because women HAVE to interrupt to get their voices heard, or because men are used to being interrupted by other men but take offence at being interrupted by a woman, I don’t know, but thus it is. The general feeling seems to be that women are supposed to be seen and not heard, which may be partly why someone like Kate Moss has remained as popular as she has.