GovHelp: Why Are Women Less Satisfied With Gov Than Men?

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This topic contains 46 replies, has 27 voices, and was last updated by  Alicia Mazzara 7 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #131540

    I just noticed a story over on GovExec entitled “Women in government are slightly less satisfied than men.” The story cites a report by Deloitte and the Partnership for Public Service that analyzes the differences in perceptions between men and women based on the Office of Personnel Management’s 2010 employee survey. I’ve embedded the report below for ease of reading. Here’s a quick excerpt from the article:

    “Women gave lower ratings on all four empowerment and fairness questions, but they gave the lowest scores, compared with men, on the question about fear of reprisal for disclosing suspected violations,” the report said. Between the genders, there was a difference of 4.6 points on the perception of fairness in the workplace and a 4.4 point difference in the perception of empowerment.”

    Then John Palguta, Vice President of Policy at the Partnership, recommended that human capital leaders analyze the disparities according to occupation and grade levels…”And then I’d want to ask my employees: Why do we have this difference in perception?”

    So I pose that question to you, GovLoopers:

    Why is there (still) a difference in perception of fairness and empowerment between men and women in government?”

  • #131632

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    I would guess that this gap stems from there being fewer female managers. I suspect it is hard to feel very empowered if most of people above you are men, and it may be difficult or uncomfortable to report violations as a result of this. This post is also interesting in light of Natalie’s blog post, https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/women-put-your-hand-up. In it, there is a great clip of Elizabeth Warren talking about how women often say things in meetings but fail to get heard, but as soon as a man says the same thing, everyone gives him credit for the idea. Imagine how disempowering it must be to sit through a meeting like that. If you try to point out that you thought of it first, you just seem petty. But if you don’t say anything, your boss will think the other guy is the genius. A female manager has probably experienced this herself and might be more sensitive to the situation.

  • #131630

    Kate Yemelyanov
    Participant

    I blame the patriarchy.

  • #131628

    Wendell Black
    Participant

    I agree with your assessment, along with the fact that the government still condones the good ol’ boy network.

  • #131626

    From Twitter:

    Here’s the link to that research on avoidance behaviors: From the abstract (bold is mine):

    This study uses the concept of risk avoidance to analyze responses from in-depth interviews with a group of women lawyers and accountants about their employment decision-making in order to provide a deeper understanding of why and how some women come to choose government employment over private-sector employment. An analysis of interviews reveals that some women perceived work-family conflict, economic precariousness, and fewer protections against employers’ arbitrary decision-making as potential risks associated with private-sector employment. To reduce these risks, some women “chose” to work in government rather than in the private sector. This study contributes to existing literature by identifying risk avoidance in employment decision-making as a response to work-family conflict and social class constraints and by illustrating why and how this risk avoidance occurs among some women in elite white-collar professions.

  • #131624

    Cheryl L. Middleton
    Participant

    I also agree that the good ol’ boy network is still in place. However, I often think that many men have an issue with strong women in the workplace because so many still have the archaic belief that men should rule the office. I feel like that when strong women voice opinions and ideas in meetings that sometimes disagree with the leading male, it’s seen as being just argumentative and inappropriate unfortunately. I feel this is especially true when its a young woman trying to voice opinion or exert authority in an meeting or generally in the office setting. It’s a shame this still happens because women are just as valuable as men in the workplace. However, until this attitude is changed, I believe that women will continue to be less satisfied in the workplace.

  • #131622

    Lisa Jenkins
    Participant

    I wonder how this varies by agency? I work in an agency that has had many women managers over the years, at all levels of management. On the org chart for our part of the Agency, I count 20 managers out of 39 slots, so we have about as even a split as can be. I just wonder if the fairness and empowerment and fear percentages are more equal here.

  • #131618

    CollabNature
    Participant

    Thank you for hitting this on the nail!

  • #131616

    Paul Alberti
    Participant

    I keep seeing surveys and articles on this topic and about diversity. How everyone is subjected to the “good ‘ol boy system”, every article says “….until this issues it resolved, women (ethnic individuals) will continue to be unhappy in the workplace”. Empowerment is not automatic just because you are male – the “good ‘ol boy” systems is probably more the organizational immune system – organizatoins just do not respond well to new or untested ideas regardless of the gender who proposes it. What I rarely see is a solution – except for fire the “good ‘ol boys”; do we hire more women and create a more diverse workforce?
    Are we looking at colleges and high schools to develop a better workforce? Are we looking at leadership organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorer Posts, 4H, etc to develop more conscientious leaders? Are corporate and federal managers searching for the right employees for their organizations – or just hiring from the list of approved candidates? Are we training managers on what to look for in future leaders and managers? Are we developing staff early on in supervisory, management and leadership skills – or waiting til they get promoted into a position?
    We seem to be identifying the same problem over and over, not enough female managers, not diverse enough, double standards on management styles. I work for a woman Chief of Staff and could not be happier with her management style, her standards, her expectations – thoroughly enjoy working for her. I have worked for male supervisors and some I would not follow across the street out of idle curiosity.
    If we completely switched the model – increased the management staffing positions to 80% female – the system would just switch to the “good ‘ol girl” system and we would be reading how unhappy men were in the workforce. Colleges now have more women attending than men, does that mean in 10 – 15 years there will be more women managers in the workforce?
    So – let’s talk about solutions – the problem has been diagnosed and rediagnosed.

  • #131614

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    Allison, this is also a great point. There are definitely cultural norms that discourage women from behaving in ways that are effective in a male-dominated workplace.

  • #131612

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    I would be very curious to know about the extent of manager training happening in agencies. In my experience, people often got promoted into the position because they were good at doing something else. Unfortunately, just because you’re a good researcher/lawyer/economist/fill-in-the-blank doesn’t mean you’re good at managing people. If we want to change workplace culture, folks at the top of the chain need to make it a priority.

  • #131610

    Kathie Grant
    Participant

    In local and state government the “good ol’ boy network” is still firmly rooted. The female voice not being heard in meetings is also an on going problem. The worst is to have a women director or manager position and they give preference to the men. I wonder if they are trying to buy their way into the club.

    Women often feel pressure to “not rock the boat”, with work issues. Women in management positions need to be more aware that they have a responsibility to help change work culture.

  • #131608

    Stephanie Slade
    Participant

    I once had a professor encourage me not to go to an elite Southern university for my PhD for that very reason. The good old boys network rules, he said, and it would hold me back.

  • #131606

    Cheryl Hernandez
    Participant

    I can totally relate to the meeting thing….I can’t tell you how many times I’m in meetings and either I or another woman brings something up and it’s not heard until one of the guys does and then they get the credit. What’s up with that?

  • #131604

    Cheryl Hernandez
    Participant

    Ditto!

  • #131602

    Amanda Kogut
    Participant

    Paul,

    I agree training the next generation of leaders is essential. I would like to point out when looking to leadership organizations to solve the gender and diversity issue, the first you mentioned was the BOY SCOUTS.

    While I agree that the “good ol’ boy network’s” hold is decreasing, it still predominates. Just look at the behavior of powerful men in the past month who held/hold leadership positions in federal, international and state instutions for examples of atmospheres and conditions that most understandably create feelings of unhappiness and unfairness in women. Then ask yourself this question, for every “famous” politician the press reports on, how many run of the mill bureaucrats do you think practice similarly questionable behaviors? Then ask yourself how comfortable or satisfied you would feel confronting these issues and what kind of real support you would anticipate receiving for your solutions?

    Thaat’s not to say when we identify the problem, we shouldn’t be the source of the solutions, but be real about it the challenges. Retirement and an influx of females w/BA’s (who may not want to pursue careers in gov’t because the potential for career advacement is lower) is over simplifying the problem.

  • #131600

    A situation where men are outnumbered by women in management may not be far off: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/05/the-end-of-men/

  • #131596

    Kathie Grant
    Participant

    I am hopeful just because we are having the discussion. I kept being skipped from invites to important meetings. I am required to do an electronic schedule to my supervisor every Monday. I started putting a little note about please let me know if there are any meetings I should attend that I do not have on my schedule. He actually made sure I was at a meeting yesterday. (Baby steps)

  • #131594

    Carol Davison
    Participant

    The government was built by men for men that are straight, white and protestant. They didn’t necessarily do it as evil, they just did in in accordance with their fellows. As more women, gays, other races and creeds fill more leaderhship positions the Federal workplace will become more diverse Women also bear the greater responsiblity for spouse, child and elder care. This add to their dissatisfaction, promotability, and stress which undermines their satisfaction.

  • #131592

    Kathleen Schafer
    Participant

    I have studied and worked with women leaders, especially elected officials, for nearly two decades. While there are many different aspects to the issue, at its core is that we fundamentally undervalues the power of feminine leadership qualities and the need for everyone to employ balanced leadership. Each person has a spectrum of leadership attributes, it is up each of us to value the process of creating solutions collaboratively as well as to have someone standup and point the way.

  • #131590

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    But why should women alone be forced to change communication styles? Men should also work at becoming better listeners.

  • #131588

    Paul Alberti
    Participant
  • #131586

    Ann McFarlane
    Participant

    What you need to look at here though, are the female managers “yes-men”? Do they always agree with the males above them, or the male that promoted them. My experience has been that quite a few (not all of course) that made it to management in a good old boy environment simply agree with them rather than assert new ideas. Not to be cynical, but this is reality!

  • #131584

    Wendell Black
    Participant

    Well, if you’re married, doesn’t that make you a better listener by default? ;o)

  • #131582

    Sterling Whitehead
    Participant

    I’d be terrified I found out women in my office felt they were treated less fair than men. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.

  • #131580

    Ann McFarlane
    Participant

    I have been a government worker in various governments pretty much all my working life, with the exception of a few years I was a consultant. I work in Procurement – and I have been told I did not get high-level managerial jobs because – “we want a man the mechanics can swear at” “We know you are married and have two incomes – he’s sole support of his family” … a man got hired both times. Beyond moving in a job, a female govt. attorney and I told a project manager he could not do something. HIs director came into his office with the attorney and I there, and he said in front of us – you are listening to women too much .. go ask xxxxx. (they got the same answer, but accepted it from him)

    These are blatant, illegal actions, I know. But unless you are willing to quit and file an EEOC complaint, it won’t do any good to complain and it labels you a troublemaker. I complained once – on the hiring (first example above) the personnel manager (a male) called the hiring Director and said .. you didn’t actually tell her you wanted a man, did you? I didn’t think so .. so I apparently “misunderstood”. – these are not examples from the 70’s .. no, the millennium had passed. These examples are not from one agency, either. The good old boy network is alive and well .. even thriving .. in the government.

  • #131578

    Michelle McClellan
    Participant

    That’s totally disgusting. Unfortunately it’s totally believable.

  • #131576

    Denise Hill
    Participant

    Andrew, Thank you for sharing. Yes, disparities remain.

  • #131574

    Faye Newsham
    Participant

    About 10 years ago I wrote two papers looking into why the field of Technical Writing was (at that time) ‘femicentric’ and a largely white job. At first, I looked at racism and good ol’GIRL network issues. I finally came to the conclusion that there was more to it than that.

    As Andrew noted the one source indicating that women are selecting government service for stability, I found that some cultural attitudes explained a certain amount of disparities. For example, it is tough to hire someone who does not apply. Why were the applicants at that time female and white? Culturally, males saw technical writing as a less technical (thus less prestigious and less money making) career choice. They perceived the field for men as a pool of failed engineers. Asian families steered children from the job field for much the same reason. African-American families placed preference on career fields that help the community (such as public service, doctor, lawyer, police officer, etc.). Once your pool of candidates is skewed in this way, the selection for “like” employees, rather than diverse employees, becomes the most major factor. “Who will fit into the existing group the best” often wins, despite the obvious inherent problems with diversity.

    I think some of this thinking can apply here also, if you have a smaller pool of candidates coupled with “like” networks (whether white, black, male, or female, etc.) you trend to one specific group, in this case males. I would like to see change but the solutions are as complex (if not more) than the question itself.

  • #131572

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    The ‘good ol boy’ network isn’t just alive, it’s thriving. Try being a female in a tech related area. I may know more than my male counterpart, but people still turn to him, who then asks me for the answer.

    Boys take care of boys, I’ve witnessed it and lived it. And even done the ‘speak up in a meeting and be ignored, but as soon as a guy says it it’s the greatest idea in the world’ thing.

    and yes, also the cultural differences in ‘appropriate behavior’. A man is forceful and he’s a good leader, a woman is forceful and she’s a ‘ball cracking bitch’.

    And you also know that upper management would rather hire/promote a less qualifed male than a better qualified female. (always in the back of their minds seems to be the ‘eh, she’ll just leave/need time off when she gets married so why waste our time on her’ attitude)

    We have males in our extended area who have all had their position descriptions rewritten and tweaked to put them fully on the management track…these are guys that move furniture for a living. Yet the tech side of the department, nothing. Boys taking care of boys…and if you speak up, well you’re tagged a troublemaker and you will face ‘get even’ tactics.

    Gender bias is alive and well and thriving, even and especially in government. But it’s thriving in the private sector as well, so often the best thing to do is simply exist within it because you can’t get away from it.

  • #131570

    Amy Ngo
    Participant

    It seems like more and more women and exceeding into more management roles (a positive), however, I believe that the cultural shift that needs to take place to ensure women in government feel empowered and fairness hasn’t completely happened. I believe the example shared (women not being heard in meetings) is demonstrates the lack of cultural shift/cultural change.

  • #131568

    Deena Larsen
    Participant

    Just want to chime in here. Often, it is one or two men who are the problem–but they can create massive headaches. We have a man in a position of power (webmaster) who simply can not hear a woman’s ideas. In meeting after meeting, if a woman proposes the idea, it is vetoed or completely ignored. If a man does, then it is accepted. I have been trying to get a website in place for 10 years–and have failed. We finally hired a MAN who we hope will be able to do what I can not.

    Even if sexism is dwindling, it is still a very powerful force.

  • #131566

    Melanie M. Keller
    Participant

    Wow! This is a fascinating piece of work! I would agree that there are fewer female executives in many Agencies, but I also know that the gap is closing as each year passes. For the first time, sitting around the senior executive table at my Agency, there are more women than men. A year ago, I was approached by a scientist (I’m an administrator) to be her mentor. When I asked her “Why did you pick me?” She said that there were very few women executives that were on the mentor listing. I was really struck by this, and have been analyzing this (in my head) ever since. Is it really because there are not enough women in executive roles, or is it because the women in executive roles do not want to spend the time being a mentor? When I pondered this, I recalled a quote by Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I think that women executives, who are also mothers, have many many responsibilities, and maybe many of them just can’t spare the time.

    At any rate, I have found that my staff consists mostly of women now (about 80%), and they seem VERY satisfied with government. Particularly when it comes to working from home and flexible work schedules. These allow them to be able to meet the demands of family and home.

  • #131564

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    You example brings up another issue. If ‘everyone’ can see this one person and his gender bias(I’m making the huge presumption that enough see it and know about it to slant your hiring towards a man to deal with it), why don’t they try to change/correct it? Instead they just play into it by hiring a man that he’ll listen to.

    I’m sure there are tons of extenuating circumstances, but one thing contributing to the thriving of gender bias is management playing into it and supporting it by not correcting people like your webmaster.

    He’s seemingly spent years ignoring any and every female and has now ‘won’ by getting a man in the position to tell him what to do. IMHO, the person doing his reviews should have noted his bias and addressed it and tried to correct it.

    That’s sometimes the most frustrating thing about gender bias. If your webmaster had a habit of ignoring people of color it would not have been tolerated, your company would be more afraid of NAACP input and would have done something, yet men are allowed to discriminate against women all the time and it’s not only tolerated it seems to be condoned.

    There’s a TV show that I watched and the lead female actress took time off to have a baby. At the same time, the lead male left, so they brought in a younger man to replace him (not even gonna touch the ageism in television), however, when the female returned from her maternity leave, she, with years of experience in the confines of the show, was made subordinant to the younger male. And when fans complained, the writers and network was like ‘wha??????’. They literally did not understand why people were complaining. To use CSI as an example, when William Peterson left it would have been like bringing in another Greg Sanders and making him Katherine’s boss, ignoring Katherine’s decade of time on the show.

    If, in my example, had she had been a man of color with more experience put under the command of a lesser experienced white man, it never would have happened, because people are sensitive to racial bias, yet gender bias is so engrained that it’s not only not seen, it’s often perceived as ‘normal’.

    Letting your webmaster get away with his attitude for ten years is just another example of management condoning gender bias by inaction.

  • #131562

    Deena Larsen
    Participant

    Right. “Everyone” knows. But no one complains formally–not even me. I actually wouldn’t even know how to. EEO, sure. But documentation? An actual “incident”? Nope.

    Every time he does this, there is a reason. And there is nothing overt. And since it is engrained, it is perceived as normal. Subtle stuff.

  • #131560

    Carol Davison
    Participant

    Because leadership is mostly white, male, straight, have few childcare responsibilities, non handicapped they build systems that work for them. It’s not that they are racist, sexist, homophobic, baby and handicapped haters. It’s that it doesn’t occur to them to think about the other.

    Additionally leadership acquired its position under the present system so they have little incentive to change. Because the system “is working” for them they won’t change it unless there is some impact.

    Perhaps it is a self fulfilling prophecy or lets us off the hook to presume that leadership is racist, sexist, homophobic, baby and handicapped haters. It seems that we can do two things to change the system. 1. assume that they are ignorant and educate them. 2. assume that they are malicious and sue them.

  • #131558

    Tricia
    Participant

    Part of the reason might be that there are more women than men working in government – at least state and local. Some statistics

  • #131556

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    Yeah. Makes it really hard. Unless there’s a sting of a sort and you set the person up to force his hand and make him do something documentable, there’s often not anything that can be done.

    It’s kind of like most forms of sexual harassment…most are smart enough not to cross that line. It’s subtle and engrained, and like you said, perceived as normal.

    Even confronting them is fraught with pitfalls. Because if you do it wrong, all of a sudden you are the oversensitive person looking to lean on a crutch or expecting preferential treatment.

    In government I’ve seen many of the issues coming from middle managers, ones that are good at appeasing the boys and girls at the top, while ‘taking care of their own’ beneath them. And, like you said, unless they do something overt, you can’t do anything. Not without shooting yourself in the foot.

    It’s been my experience that managers take care of managers, and unless you have proof of them doing something really bad (sexual harassment, stealing, etc) any grievance will end – at best – with a ‘ok, we’ll just separate teh two of you’ and nothing is done. At worst, the complaintant remains in their position and depends on the manager following the ‘no paybacks’ rule….if you’re smart, you start looking for a new position, because even if you ‘win’ you will ‘lose’.

  • #131554

    Tricia
    Participant

    Sorry! Someone notified me the link doesn’t work – here it is: https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/hrhumans-represent-the

  • #131552

    Just received this question in our special box for anonymous questions – any thoughts on how to handle it?

    “In terms of women who have to deal with male co-workers who refer to them as “She” instead of their government name, what should a girl do? Call the person out on it? Call the person out in the midst of a mediator? Thanks!”


  • #131550

    Kathleen Schafer
    Participant

    Calling someone out creates an adversarial situation–you become the aggressor and someone becomes the victim and no one wins. You do, however, have every right to ask for what you want in a clear, direct way. When the situation arises again perhaps you can simply say, “I prefer to be called Name.” This way there is no charge to the interaction as you have simply stated how you prefer to be addressed. If he doesn’t respond then another conversation can take place.

  • #131548

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    Good way to do it. Because if you state your preferences and he continues to ignore it, then he’s in the wrong because he’s not respecting your simple request.

    I would say that it would be a request that either be documented or asked in front of a witness. That way if he continues with the ‘she’, you have backup and documentation that he’s deliberatly ignoring you.

    or you document the first time, (just a note to yourself), do it in front of a witness the second time, talk to your/his supervisor the third time.

  • #131546

    Kati French
    Participant

    I think this is a really interesting and compelling issue/problem, but there isn’t any easy answer. I agree with the above comments stating that most of the dissatisfaction comes from the continued endorsement of the good ol’ boy network, but also, in addition to that are two things I think are equally large issues. 1) Women who manage to rise to managerial positions are often not as respected as their male counterparts. If they hold personnel, especially men working for them, to high standards, they are often seen as “ball busting” or “man haters.” This is highly discouraging to females who may wish to achieve and eventually be in those positions. 2) Maybe not as PC as some would like, but failure of women to rise and achieve in the workplace at the same level and to the same degree as men still has some to do with the women themselves. I’ve never been prevented from achieving anything I set my mind out to do. I’m certainly not saying that those glass ceilings don’t exist, however, I’m saying that the goal is still achievable.

  • #131544

    Paul Alberti
    Participant

    Saw this on BNET this morning – http://www.bnet.com/blog/ceo/why-were-threatened-by-powerful-women-leaders/7615?tag=mantle_skin;content

    Interesting this blog has been running all week, and then BNET has a similar article – synergistic

  • #131542

    Paul Alberti
    Participant

    Found an interesting link today; should change the discussion a little bit. What happens when the numbers get flipped?

    http://realanalyticsinsights.com/realviews/the-male-minority/

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