Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let's assume that women get it all wrong.

By Mary C. Tillotson

There's a new study out showing that women, apparently, don't take credit for their work if they're working in a mixed-sex group, but do if they're in an all-women group. (I read about it in The Atlantic.) That's all the study showed. It did not show that women have a problem; calling it a problem is a value judgment that, apparently, everyone involved made.

Here are two sentences from the first two paragraphs of the Atlantic article:
For too many women, the hardest part of being successful might be taking credit for the work that they do, especially when they work in groups. 
...When women worked only with other women, they found, this problem of not taking credit disappears.
I want to question the assumptions here and explore a few possibilities.

1. Maybe being successful in a career isn't the top priority for some of these women. Plenty of women out there do things that are bad for their careers, like go part-time for a while or quit entirely because of kids. And plenty of women want to have kids, and they make this choice freely.

2. Maybe it is actually good to not take credit for your work sometimes. For example, to help someone learn a new skill and instill confidence in them, it might be better not to take credit for your work. If some middle school kids want to put on a play, maybe an adult will reserve the room, print programs, help with rehearsals, then tell the kids what a great job they did. If a three-year-old wants to help make cookies, an adult could measure out the one teaspoon of baking soda and let him dump it in, then praise him profusely.

3. Maybe men have the problem of taking too much credit for their work. Or maybe men and women both have a problem of not having a proper balance of when to take credit. Or maybe we both take credit in a way that's totally fine, but different.

Let's stop assuming that women get it all wrong.

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