Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Amy Coney Barrett could be Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, #MeToo may be getting too big, and we learn more about how to best approach gender differences at work. Have a great Thursday!
• Downplaying gender. From the headline alone, this new Harvard Business Review article seems as though it’s looking for a fight: Women Benefit When They Downplay Gender. In an interview with the publication, professor Ashley Martin of Stanford defends what she and co-author Katherine Phillips of Columbia found when they asked people to rate their agreement with statements about the importance of gender differences.
The pair discovered that women who believed in “gender blindness,” or the similarities between men and women, felt more power and confidence than women who championed “gender awareness,” meaning they celebrated women’s distinctive qualities.
“Downplaying differences made women more confident. They thought they could overcome challenges at work. They felt comfortable disagreeing with others. They said they would take more risks, take initiative, negotiate. These effects were strongest in male-dominated environments.”
That finding seems to undercut corporate initiatives aimed at women’s empowerment and those that address workplace needs related to childbearing and caregiving that are often unique to women.
But don’t toss your hands up just yet.
Martin seems to understand that the results of her study, on the surface, may trigger frustration: “Gender blindness is counterintuitive, because we’re often told to celebrate diversity. But embracing diversity is not at all the problem. The problem is really the types of differences we emphasize.”
She explains that when women were asked to think of gender differences—those they may emphasize in the gender awareness scenario—they end up listing traits like agency, assertiveness, independence, competitiveness, and action taking. “We still tend to associate those qualities with men and with leaders,” she says. “And we found that women thought an emphasis on these ‘differences’ negatively affected people’s perceptions of them as leaders.”
So the study isn’t advocating for women to ignore their femininity or behave in a way that’s associated with masculinity. In fact, Martin argues that it’s just the opposite: “Gender blindness doesn’t mean that women should act more like men.” Rather, it diminishes the notion that specific qualities are attributable to either gender. It “allows people to be truly authentic,” she says, “rather than defining what authenticity means for men and women.” Harvard Business Review
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Battling for Barrett? Of the individuals on President Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Amy Coney Barrett, an appellate judge for the Seventh Circuit, “makes an exceeding amount of sense,” according to WaPo. “Like [Trump’s] previous pick, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, she’s young (46), good on her feet, telegenic, unmistakably conservative and, with seven children, has the kind of family you want sitting behind you during tense confirmation hearings.” Plus: her nomination would give Trump the kind of fight he relishes: “One that invites his opponents to overreach.” Washington Post
• Keeping it real. Though she’s technically on maternity leave, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went on Facebook Live this week to announce the nation’s new paid family leave plan. She appeared holding her baby daughter and wearing no makeup, which drew praise from onlookers. “This is my permanent state at the moment, either breastfeeding or this,” she said, gesturing to baby Neve, whom she called her “human hot water bottle.” Huffington Post
• Protesting the purge. The Polish government this week sought to oust senior justices from its Supreme Court with a new mandatory retirement law that it says will impose change. Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, 65, rejected the new measure, showing up to work anyways and branding the reform a “purge.” The EU, it seems, is on her side; it’s launched legal action against Poland’s right-wing government, arguing that the new law undermines judicial independence. BBC
• Fed up. New reports from the EEOC and the Justice Department’s inspector general detail how hard it is for women to rise through the ranks of federal public safety and law enforcement jobs. The EEOC in particular cited various misperceptions—that women are uncomfortable carrying firearms, that they don’t want physically strenuous job functions—as one factor. Male employees, meanwhile, are somewhat oblivious to the gender-based hurdles with 63% reporting that their agency had a gender-equitable culture. Washington Post
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Google Cloud COO Diane Bryant is leaving the company after joining in late November. It’s unclear why Bryant is departing the tech giant; her exit comes amid speculation that she may be a CEO candidate at her former employer, Intel, where she spent 32 years.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Is #MeToo too big? At the Aspen Ideas Festival, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke argued that the current iteration of the movement has grown too big, encompassing issues like pay equity and workplace representation—causes that go beyond its initial focus on sexual violence and harassment. The movement’s wide scope is harmful to the original goal of preventing sexual violence. “It is hurting the work we’re trying to do,” she said. “Because you can’t cover so much, and so many things. And sexual violence is wide enough.” Atlantic
• Put to the test. A new study has found that a test for HPV is better than a Pap smear at detecting precancerous changes of the cervix, underscoring the drawbacks of the approach that’s been a standard part of women’s preventative health care for decades. The findings could prompt efforts to replace the Pap with the HPV test. NBC News
• Swimming upstream. This NPR piece examines how USA swimming is grappling with the dearth of women among top coaches amid various sexual abuse scandals. It took 100 years of Olympic swimming for the U.S. to appoint a woman to coach its women’s team in 2012. But four years later she was left off of the coaching roster, and once again it was all white men. NPR
ON MY RADAR
Why women need mid-career mentors CNNMoney
Pamplona bans sale of sexist souvenirs at 2018 Running of the Bulls El Pais
Men are suing empowerment organizations for gender discrimination. Is the law on their side? Slate
She knows how to make an exit. You’re reading it. New York Times