Monday, April 28, 2008

Gender Disparity During Presidential Race, Too?

As the presidential primaries draw to a close, I’ve been struck by how the two Democratic candidates and their debate performances have been reported in the media.

There’s no question that Senator Hillary Clinton’s gender has affected how her message and effectiveness have been perceived by the media and everyday Americans. Some would argue that the same is true of Senator Barack Obama’s ethnicity.

Regardless of who you support to win the Democratic primary, or why you feel either candidate is better than the other, gender has most definitely defined many moments of this election year.

Pollsters last winter had a field day pointing to the fact that Senator Clinton’s tears during a campaign appearance before the New Hampshire primary helped garner further support with women, and, ultimately, the edge over Senator Obama.

Another factor that helped her, these same pundits theorized, was that two of Senator Clinton’s male rivals at the time "ganged up" on her in their debate responses.

As I watched many of the debates, heard the commentary, and read the news stories, I kept thinking how remarkably similar it all sounded to what goes on in the world of business.

It seems that we as women still need to justify our actions, and watch our behaviors much more than our male peers. For every step forward that professional women achieve, and raise to the ranks of CEO, there are still thousands of others still struggling for equality – let alone a seat in the boardroom.

Yes, there are more working women in corporate America than ever before, but are they on equal footing as their male counterparts? We know they still aren’t from a salary perspective – many statistics bear that out. What about from behavioral or attitudinal perspectives?

If a woman cries in the workplace, she can be seen as weak and spineless. If a man gets emotional or actually cries, however, it’s usually perceived as a sign of his strength of character that he can show emotion when warranted.

We as women are constantly aware of the need to strike a delicate balance – excelling at our chosen fields, yet not appearing demanding or bossy with regard to interactions with our male peers.

Professional women still have a hard time speaking up at meetings, taking credit for their achievements, and otherwise using self-marketing strategies.

Until we take ownership for our own success and never let others define our potential, this will continue to be the case.

No comments: