Women continue to make less money than men, and be less likely to hold top leadership positions. And whenever a grim new study is released, a news-making essay or book is published, or high-profile woman is criticized for being “too pushy,” it renews the debate over the underlying reasons behind this persistent inequality.
One explanation has to do with culturally prescribed gender roles, and the social price one pays — or expects to pay — for violating them. In possibly the best-known example, many women choose not to negotiate for higher salaries because they believe such assertive behavior will trigger a social backlash — a fear that negotiation researchers have determined to be well-founded. The backlash occurs when observers perceive, consciously or not, that a woman’s behavior clashes with her traditional feminine role. The consequences of social backlash can vary from clearly biased hiring and unequal pay allocation to more subtle reductions of social and professional opportunities at work.
At the same time, we can all point to exceptions: some professional women do manage to obtain equal positions of power and pay in male-dominated professions. Surprisingly, little research has attempted to investigate what these successful women may have in common. What distinguishes the women who have cleared these hurdles from other professional women who tried and failed?
Some have suggested the style one chooses to adopt makes all the difference. Take, for example, Sallie Krawcheck. She is one of the most influential women on Wall Street and is renowned for a management style that draws on both gender roles. And one of the most successful women in Silicon Valley, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, endorses findings by Mary Sue Coleman that the women who get ahead are “relentlessly pleasant” and advises, for example, asking for pay raises with a smile.
But here’s another explanation based on a line of research into what is known as identity integration: Women who succeed in challenging careers have a personality trait by which they regard their two “selves”— their professional identity and their gender identity — not as in conflict but as fundamentally compatible.
FROM Harvard Business Review. Click on link at top for full article.