Cacciatore – Gendered Communications in the Workplace

It has been 93 years since women were granted the right to vote and women still face gender inequality. The women’s liberation movement made progress in closing the gender gap, however may issues still exist today. Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique was a critical piece of literature in influencing the second wave of the feminist movement in the 20th century. Friedan described “the problem with no name” as the stirring inside of American women, asking themselves if being a housewife is all they will achieve in their life (Friedan, 1963). The problems that Friedan describes are similar to those we face today. Fifty years later women are still struggling with equality in the workplace.

Even though women have entered the workforce at an increasingly rapid rate over the past 50 years, women are still not treated as equals. While women in the workforce equated to only 34 percent in 1950, it reached 60 percent by 2000. It’s expected that women will make up 48 percent of the workforce by 2050 (Toossi, 2002, p. 15). However, only 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female (Sellers, 2012). Women still do not receive equal pay. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, women still only receive .78 cents for every $1.00 earned by men (National Committee on Pay Equity, 2012). In 2012 women held only 8.1 percent of top earner slots (Catalyst, 2012). While the numbers are disappointing, what’s even more discouraging is that growth is stagnant. In 2012, women made up only 16.6 percent of board seats – the seventh consecutive year of no growth.

Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In sums it up in her statement “The blunt truth is that men still run the world,” (2013, 5). Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake (2007) said that backwards progress has been made since The Feminine Mystique. She found that even though women’s progression into leadership positions initially grew, it is now at a stalemate (Bennetts, 2007, p. 302).

This topic is more important now than ever, as women in the workplace are starving for answers on how to break through the glass ceiling. Take the popularity of the book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg (2013) for example. One can surmise that one reason Lean In has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List (New York Times, 2013) for 37 weeks (as of December 19, 2013) is because women want to learn from other powerful women and understand their formula for success.

This paper is a textual analysis that explores the hegemony ideological control of women in the workplace. I explore this through a content analysis, which compares and contrasts both female and male written business communications. I investigate the ideology structure behind the preferred style for business communications, if the written communication styles between men and women differ and if so, how and why.

My thesis is that men and women differ in communication style and the ideology of the social reality is that the feminine style of communication is weak. This less powerful communication style undermines women’s power and credibility, resulting in less pay and lower status in their careers. However, men deem the feminine communication style as weak and this has created a hegemony ideological control.

 

Free Digital Photos.Net 100113737

Free Digital Photos.Net 100113737

Literature Review

The literature I reviewed to support this textual analysis included both examples of conducting a content analysis, as well as works spanning many generations of women in the workplace. As Brummet explores in “Techniques of Close Reading” (2010) conducting a deep textual analysis requires the reader to look at things that one normally may not look at. I will take a deep look throughout my content analysis at the content of the message and evaluate language that typically one may not notice. In addition to studying the content of the email messages that women send, I will also evaluate the tone, intention and frequency of key words.

Women have been evaluating gendered communications since the days of Virginia Woolf, who wrote “A Room of One’s Own” in 1929. Woolf states that women are both victims of themselves and men by acting as a “looking glass”. This looking glass metaphor means that women are regarded as the inferior gender by men and men prefer to keep women in the inferior role, as it both boasts their self-confidence and allows their reflection to be magnified and more powerful (cited in Humm, pp.21-22). My textual analysis supports and expands upon Woolf’s theory that men look to women to reflect how they see themselves. I will evaluate how the masculine style of communicating has become the preferred communication style in the workplace.

lookingglass

My textual analysis will extend the current research and offer a new perspective on gendered communications in the workplace. I will explore how a woman’s communications style shouldn’t be viewed as inferior. To that end, I used the feminist standpoint theory to evaluate how the experiences that a girl encounters shape her behaviors and activities. Wood (2012) states that feminist standpoint theory is hinged upon the fact that women’s lives differ both systemically and structurally from a males’.

As a result of these differences, the two groups have different opportunities. One example that Wood provides is that females are expected to defer to and please others.

I want to take this evaluation a step further by using Virginia Woolf’s (1945) “looking glass” metaphor. Virginia Woolf wrote “A Room of One’s Own”, which tells the story of a young woman who examines herself, both on the exterior and interior. Woolf states that self-confidence is often attained by considering other people inferior. Men assert this self-confidence by viewing women as inferior. As a result of this, Woolf states, “Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.” The looking glass serves as a metaphor for men wanting to keep women in an inferior position so their image is reflected back larger and more powerful.

Dr. Phyllis Mindell (2001), professor at Georgetown Medical School, professional communications expert and author of “How to Say It for Women” based her entire communications theory based on how women can communicate “with confidence and power using the language of success.” Mindell outlines strategies for how women can communicate with success in the workplace. In the process of explaining the language for success, Mindell conducts a content analysis of written communications from women and provides examples for specific language, grammar and style to use for communicating with power.

amazon.com

amazon.com

I also reviewed Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and her experience with women’s desire to be “liked”. Sandberg states that oftentimes successful women in leadership positions aren’t “liked” but respected (Sandberg, 2013). This success and likability factor was an important component to understand the motivation behind women’s communication styles.

 

Works Cited

Bennetts, L. (2007). The Feminine Mistake. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Bowell, T. (2011, March 11). Feminist Standpoint Theory. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource. Retrieved from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/fem-stan/#SH8a

Brummett, B. (2010). Techniques of Close Reading. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Catalyst (2012). No Change for Women in Top Leadership. Retrieved from

http://www.catalyst.org/uploads/nochangeintopleadership_2012catalystcensus.pdf

Friedan, B. (1963) The Feminine Mystique. New York, NY: Dell Publishing.

Humm, M. (1992). Modern Feminisms: Political, Literary, Cultural. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Mindell, P. (2001). How to Say It For Women: Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success. New York: NY: Penguin Group.

National Committee on Pay Equity. (2013, October 11) Retrieved from http://www.pay-equity.org

New York Times Best Sellers (November 24, 2013). The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/hardcover-nonfiction/list.html

Oakley, J. (2000). Gender-based Barriers to Senior Management Positions: Understanding the Scarcity of Female CEOs. Journal of Business Ethics, 27(4) 321-334.

Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. New York, NY: Random House.

Sellers, P. (2012, Nov. 12). Fortune 500 women CEO hit a milestone. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/11/12/fortune-500-women-ceos-3/

Toosi, Mitra (2002). A century of change: the U.S. labor force, 1950-2050. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2002/05/art2full.pdf

Wallace, D. (1998). Written Discourse in the Workplace. Te Reo. 41, 196-198.

 Footnotes 


[1] Friedan, B. (1963) The Feminine Mystique. New York, NY: Dell Publishing.

[2] Toosi, Mitra (2002). A century of change: the U.S. labor force, 1950-2050. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2002/05/art2full.pdf

[3] Sellers, P. (2012, Nov. 12). Fortune 500 women CEO hit a milestone. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/11/12/fortune-500-women-ceos-3/

[4] National Committee on Pay Equity. (2013, October 11) Retrieved from http://www.pay-equity.org

[5] National Committee on Pay Equity. (2013, October 11) Retrieved from http://www.pay-equity.org

[6] Catalyst (2012). No Change for Women in Top Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.catalyst.org/uploads/nochangeintopleadership_2012catalystcensus.pdf

[7] Catalyst (2012). No Change for Women in Top Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.catalyst.org/uploads/nochangeintopleadership_2012catalystcensus.pdf

[8] Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. New York, NY: Random House.

[9] Bennetts, L. (2007). The Feminine Mistake. New York, NY: Hyperion.

[10] Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. New York, NY: Random House.

[11] November 24, 2013. Best Sellers. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/hardcover-nonfiction/list.html

[12] Humm, M. (1992). Modern Feminisms: Political, Literary, Cultural. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

[13] Bowell, T. (2011, March 11). Feminist Standpoint Theory. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource. Retrieved from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/fem-stan/#SH8a

[14] Mindell, P. (2001). How to Say It For Women: Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success. New York: NY: Penguin Group.

[15] Wallace, D. (1998). Written Discourse in the Workplace. Te Reo. 41, 196-198.

[16] Brummett, B. (2010). Techniques of Close Reading. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

[17] Oakley, J. (2000). Gender-based Barriers to Senior Management Positions: Understanding the Scarcity of Female CEOs. Journal of Business Ethics, 27(4) 321-334.

[18] Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. New York, NY: Random House.

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