Women’s News: Why It’s Harder For Women To ‘Brag’ About Themselves At Work — And Why We Really Need To

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The Huffington Post  |  By 

What if all that stood between you and that promotion was a little bit of background noise?

You know the relief you feel the moment you can attribute days of emotional turmoil to your monthly cycle? Or when you lash out at a coworker and realize you just need a snack? As soon as we realize there may be a scientific justification for our behavior, we often start to chill out.

It’s called a “misattribution source,” and a new study suggests it may confirm that women are profoundly uncomfortable talking themselves up — especially in the workplace.

In the study, titled “Women’s Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women’s Self Promotion,” in Psychology of Women Quarterly, Jessi L. Smith, a psychology professor at Montana State University, investigated the link between “norm violation” and the ability to self-promote. It’s well-documented that women are less inclined to talk about their achievements than men, largely due to a culture that mandates female modesty — for a number of reasons.

As Kat Stoeffel wrote on The Cut last year, often this results from rational consideration of potential costs: Data shows that people don’t always respond favorably to a woman speaking her mind. As such, telling women to praise themselves can cause anxiety.

When Smith and research assistant Megan Huntoon asked college-aged women at Montana State University to write two letters of recommendation for a scholarship — one on their own behalf and one for a friend — letters written for friends were judged as considerably better in quality than letters of self-recommendation. Why did these women have such a hard time writing on their own behalf? According to psychologists, engaging in a “norm violating” activity triggers anxiety, and ultimately, poorer outcomes. Even in 2014, fear of un-ladylike bragging stresses women out.

But what if we could trick women into feeling at ease? Since the 1970s, psychologists, have studied whether attributing to stress to an external source (other than deeply imbedded psychological concerns) can alleviate anxiety. Could it enhance performance, too? Smith and Huntoon wanted to find out.

As some of the study’s participants sat down to write their recommendation letters, the researchers informed them that a “black box subliminal noise generator” would be causing them anxiety. Of course, such a thing doesn’t exist — but the women being studied didn’t know that. Simply put, the researchers wanted to see if women could unknowingly surrender their fear and overcome their self-imposed modesty — allowing them to actually give themselves the credit they deserve.

And, lo and behold, when given something external to blame their anxiety on, the women performed better. Those who had the black box “as justification to explain their discomfort” wrote letters awarded up to $1,000 by a panel of impartial judges. They also expressed more interest — and saw more value — in writing the letter when channeling their stress towards a made-up source. Clearly, the mind is eager to let go of inhibitions when given permission.

So, what are the practical implications of this study? Tell female SAT takers the heat is broken? Conduct year-end reviews in construction zones? Not exactly. However, there are things employers can do to help.

In reaction to this study, HuffPost Associate Business Editor Jillian Berman wrote of several practical ways employers can ensure accomplishments and qualifications are addressed that don’t require women to constantly vocalize them. To start, employers “should assume women are probably underselling themselves” and companies like Googleand Time have already taken steps to “create safe spaces for self-promotion,” Berman writes.

These findings are critical in understanding why a gender wage gap persists — particularly in higher management. Confirming that women may find it harder to speak up for themselves should inform the way managers and search committees use women’s self-evaluations in promotion and hiring situations.

In the meantime, we can encourage women to let themselves off the modesty hook themselves. Ladies, it’s time to lean in without being pushed.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/22/modesty-norm-women_n_4644151.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

A Message From The Creator

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Women’s News: A Door Opens for Women’s Right to Sexual Pleasure, Let’s Hope the FDA Doesn’t Close It

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Serra Sippel

President, Center for Health and Gender Equity

When a woman or man suffers from a form of sexual dysfunction, their ability to have a satisfying sex life is curtailed and personal relations with a partner or spouse also can be damaged. The global community’s response to sexual dysfunction should be equal for women and men, but it is not. This year marks 16 years since the introduction of Viagra. Today, the market includes more than 20 drugs to address male sexual dysfunction — and not a single one for women.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 24 drugs to treat some form of male sexual dysfunction (low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, Peyronie’s disease), yet they continue to hold up the approval of just one drug for women — flibanserin. Flibanserin would treat the most common form of female sexual dysfunction — low sexual desire (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder or HSDD).

In the coming weeks, women’s health advocates are awaiting a decision on a dispute taken to the FDA that objects to delays in approving a first-of-its-kind treatment for low sexual desire with accompanying distress in women.

Twenty years ago, 180 countries gathered in Cairo, Egypt for the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) — here nations made commitments to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women, men, and young people throughout the world. The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) emerged from this conference as an advocacy group to ensure that U.S. commitments to the SRHR agenda were translated into U.S. policies.

Both the ICPD Programme of Action and the Fourth World Conference on Women and Girls Platform for Action (Beijing, 1995) articulate that individuals should be able to have safe and satisfying sex lives. Sexual health services, according to these two global consensus documents, should be more than just counseling and care related to reproduction and sexually-transmitted diseases. Understanding sexuality to be a critical human need, the international consensus aims higher: sexual health includes the enhancement of life and personal relations.

A drug that addresses HSDD would enhance life and personal relations for women who suffer from low sexual desire. Without a doubt, there is a need for safe and effective treatment for female HSDD, yet none has ever been approved. But now, we have a product before the FDA and the application must be taken seriously.

CHANGE is not endorsing any one product under pending application for female sexual dysfunction. However, we believe that a thorough review and re-consideration of flibanserin is due. Certainly the fact that numerous treatments have been approved by the FDA and made available for men, while none have ever been approved for women, should raise questions.

No single drug will ever be a cure-all for any condition, and will not be the choice for all women. It is only fair that women have choices to address sexual dysfunction as men do.

The FDA should remember the commitment made by the U.S. government to the global community — and to the women of the world — to support the ability of individuals to have a satisfying sexual life. The FDA should closely examine the extensive data package that has been submitted and make a decision that would be in the best interest of women, thereby keeping the door open for women’s sexual health, pleasure and life enhancement.

 Follow Serra Sippel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/genderhealth
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