Another way in which women are constrained in the modern workplace is a tendency for women to be promoted according to performance, men according to potential. In other words, women have to prove they can do the job before they get it, men only have to prove that they might be able to do it. And so on, and so forth.

What all this adds up to is that it’s harder for women to progress in the modern workplace than it is for men, because the cards are stacked against them. They have to do more to get promotion, in circumstances where it’s more difficult to get recognition for their efforts, they’re handicapped by not being allowed to speak up or to stick up for themselves, and if and when they do succeed, they get dubbed as unlikable and accused of being bossy. Ah, bossy! Lovely word, used almost exclusively to describe women who tell others what to do, who behave, in other words, like a boss. And yet strangely, given the current prevalence of the phrase “like a boss” to mean “really really well”, not generally used admiringly.  What is going on?

Looking at all this at once, it appears that in the modern workplace (which of course acts as a microcosm of the modern world), women are defined in some rather peculiar ways. They’re regarded as essentially there to do things for others, not for themselves – the ” favour” penalty and the fact that they can’t argue for greater power or reward for themselves. They’re regarded as there to listen, not to speak. And they’re not supposed to be in charge. To put it a different way, whilst on the surface the modern workplace pays attention to the idea of true equality, culturally it’s stuck in the 1950’s.

And this explains an awful, awful lot. So let us consider not just the obvious fact that things aren’t equal, but the reasons why it’s so hard to change that. If you have half an hour or so to spare, read this most excellent blog post from John Scalzi, and then read the follow-up posts he wrote about the responses. Interesting, no?

More tomorrow.