We already know that women make significantly less than men in the same roles, but it turns out that our actions within the workplace can hugely affect our paycheques. A recent study from VitalSmarts, an organizational performance consulting firm, found that forceful or angry communication from women can result in "emotional inequality," leading to more social backlash from male coworkers. This can even changed an employee's perceived worth.
The first part of the study looked at gender bias when it comes to forceful behaviour. Two actors sat at a table in a meeting room with the cameras tightly focused on the actors. They then recited lines from four scripts, each with varying degrees of forcefulness. Observers were told what the relationship was between the observer and the actors -- the actor was either the observer's boss, peer or subordinate. When the actors read from the high-stakes script in a forceful and angry way, the observers began to rate both actors lower in perceived status, worth and competency. The more forceful they were, the more these factors dropped.
"When observers were told that this person was going to become their boss next week, then the anger that they saw in the video swamped any male-female effect. The only thing that mattered was, ‘Oh my gosh. This ogre that I'm watching on video next week is going to be my boss," said David Maxfield, vice president of research.
The gender bias came into play when the actor was a peer or subordinate. When the woman actor spoke forcefully or angrily, her perceived competence decreased by 35% and her perceived worth dropped by $15,088. According to Maxfield, this was a much bigger drop than when men showed the same behaviour.
In the second part of the study, researchers assessed if framing statements that set the tone for the next statements would cause less backlash. When women said something like, "I know it’s risky for a woman to speak this assertively, but I’m going to express my opinion very directly," the backlash was reduced by up to 27%.
This, of course, is a ridiculous expectation to have -- that women should preface any statement that might be deemed forceful by an apologetic one. What this study does do, however, is show that inequality in the workplace goes much further than numbers on a paycheque -- emotional inequality and gender bias has as much of an impact on a woman's career.
"Fighting long-term gender roles and that society evolves but it evolves very slowly. Hopefully, the forefront of the evolution would be opinion leader organizations take the lead, eventually the legal structure catches up," Maxfield said.
H/T Fast Company