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A recent study published in The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, found that “nicer” (or more agreeable) women earn less than their more assertive counterparts.
The study was conducted by Prof. Sharon Toker of the Tel Aviv University Coller School of Business Management, Dr. Michal Biron of the Department of Business Administration at the University of Haifa, and Dr. Renee De Reuver of the Department of Human Resource studies at Tilburg University in The Netherlands.
Reported in Science Daily, professor Toker said, “we have witnessed dramatic changes in the definition of traditionally male and female qualities over the past several decades. But some people still really cling to the idea that some qualities are exclusively male and exclusively female.”
“Some professional women are still afraid to exhibit a trait that’s in congruent with presumed notions of female character. The result is financial retribution,” she added.
Speaking to Human Resources on her opinion, Fiona Bartholomeusz, managing director of formul8, highlighted, “I think the definition of ‘nice’ is implied as being passive and, hence ‘nice’ women who are too passive tend not to get their way – whether it be in the form of recognition, promotions or raises. I believe that one can still be ‘nice’ but also charmingly assertive, confident and knowledgeable.”
“Unfortunately gender bias and stereotyping still exists (much as we try to deny it), and women who are ‘nice’ are often labelled as weak, soft, emotional or pushovers… Women should actually take advantage of the fact that most men don’t see that coming, and very often they are pleasantly surprised when a woman is tougher than she looks.” she added.
ALSO READ: Why a nice boss is bad for your career
Dr. Biron shared that the study found women to be consistently and objectively status-detracted, which meant they invested more of themselves in their jobs than they receive; and are compensated less than their male colleagues across the board.
To get a male perspective on the matter, Human Resources reached out to Lewis Garrad, managing director (Asia Pacific) of Sirota; who said, “In the workplace, we often find that we need to work closely in collaboration with others and so building strong relationships is a huge asset. The downside is that when we are more empathetic, we’re less likely to have the difficult or confrontational conversations that need to occur, particularly with your someone who is of higher status – like your boss.”
“The question is, are they (staff) able to do an effective job? Anyone who is ‘nice’ has both up and down sides. The truth of the matter is that women need stronger advocates and role models at every level of organisation to support their agenda and combat negative stereotypes,” he concluded.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 375 men and women at a Dutch multinational electronics company with 1,390 employees. The subjects were selected at random from all 12 of the company departments.
The study analysed both objective and subjective criteria such as tenure, education, promotion statistics, as well as how the individual perceived the fit between their education, experience, and performance on the one hand, and their income and rank on the other.
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