Tag Archives: Gender

Careers Need Allies

Orgs coordinate activity. And if coordination is hard, we should expect orgs to only barely accomplish this task. That is, we should expect org decisions to be dominated by coalition politics. Orgs that face competitive pressures, like firms, would slowly get more efficient, and thus larger, as we slowly found and spread org innovations to better channel coalition politics efforts in productive directions.

If coalition politics dominates org decisions, then the obvious career strategy advice is to make good alliances. Pick allies valued by strong coalitions who are likely to stay loyal to you, and offer such allies your loyalty as well as efforts and abilities valuable to them. That is, look for pair-wise win-win gains between you and potential allies. You don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to like you.

We often hear other advice, like: seek associates you are comfortable with, or who have things in common with you, or who can give you good advice. Or that you should focus on showing your value to your org as a whole. But these seem to me to be the usual fig leaf excuses. That is, these are things one can admit doing openly without violating the standard forager norms against overt coalition politics.

What smart folks probably really mean when they suggest that you get a mentor, is that you get a powerful ally. And while allies in high places can be especially valuable to you, to make it a win-win relation you are going to have to offer them a lot of value in return. You will even have to figure out how you can help them, and help them first; they don’t have the time, and don’t trust you yet. And when you succeed in finding such a powerful ally, you will submit and they will dominate. That doesn’t sound nearly as nice to say, however.

But sometimes people do say it, out loud and everything: Continue reading "Careers Need Allies" »

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Female Overconfidence

Men are famously more overconfident in war, in investments, in choosing firm projects, in their performance as managers (but not auditors), as math and econ students, and about their IQ. But these are traditional male areas (i.e., abilities expected more of men in traditional societies). I suspect, however, that women tend to be more overconfident in traditional female areas, such as parenting, housework, shopping, nurturing, and maintaining family relationships. Alas, though I found dozens of papers on overconfidence in traditional male areas, I couldn’t find any on traditional females areas. The closest I found was:

In both the lab and the field, female subjects tend to show greater confidence in their groups than in themselves, while male subjects show greater confidence in themselves than in their groups. (more)

This seems a nice opening for enterprising psych or econ experimentalists.

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How to motivate women to speak up

In mixed groups, women don’t talk as much as men. This is perhaps related to women being perceived as “bitches” if they do, i.e. pushy, domineering creatures whom one would best loath and avoid. Lindy West at Jezebel comments:

…it just goes back to that hoary old double standard—when men speak up to be heard they are confident and assertive; when women do it we’re shrill and bitchy. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. And it leaves us in this chicken/egg situation—we have to somehow change our behavior (i.e. stop conceding and start talking) while simultaneously changing the perception of us (i.e. asserting that assertiveness does not equal bitchiness). But how do you assert that your assertiveness isn’t bitchiness to a culture that perceives assertiveness as bitchiness? And how do you start talking to change the perception of how you talk when that perception is actively keeping you from talking? Answer: UGH, I HAVE NO IDEA…

One problem with asserting that your assertiveness doesn’t indicate bitchiness is that it probably does. If all women know that assertiveness will be perceived as bitchiness then those who are going to be perceived as bitches anyway (due to their actual bitchiness) and those who don’t mind being seen as bitches (and therefore are more likely to be bitches), will be the ones with the lowest costs to speaking up. So mostly the bitches speak, and the stereotype is self-fulfilling.

This model makes it clearer how to proceed. If you want to credibly communicate to the world that women who speak up are not bitches, first you need for the women who speak up to not be bitches. This can happen through any combination of bitches quietening down and non-bitches speaking up. Both are costly for the people involved, so they will need altruism or encouragement from the rest of the anti-stereotype conspiracy. Counterintuitively, not all women should be encouraged to speak more. The removal of such a stereotype should also be somewhat self-fulfilling – as it is reduced, the costs of speaking up decline, and non-bitchy women do it more often.

Interestingly and sadly, this is exactly opposite to the strategy that Lindy finds self-evident:

…But I guess I will start with this pledge I just made up: I, Lindy West, a shrill bitch, do hereby pledge to talk really really loud in meetings if I have something to say, even if dudes are talking louder and they don’t like me. I refuse to be a turtle—unless it is some really loud species of brave turtle with big ideas. I will not hold back just because I’m afraid of being called a loudmouth bitch (or a “trenchmouth loud ass,” which I was called the other day and as far as I can tell is some sort of pirate insult). Also, I will use the fuck out of the internet, because they can’t drown you out on the internet. The end. Amen or whatever.

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Dog vs. Cat Medicine

Yesterday I said that med spending increased faster for pets, vs. farm animals, suggests that med spending increases are due mainly to demand, not supply, effects. We spend more on pet medicine now more because we care more about pets now, or want to show we care, and less because doctors have invented new useful treatments.

Now consider dog vs. cat medicine. A 2007 source said that at one point annual med spending was $200 per dog and $81 per cat. (It was $92 per horse, $9 per bird. Today we spend $655 per dog; other current figures available here for only $3000. Sigh.) So we spent 2.5 times as much on dog med, vs. cat med. Yet dogs and cats have about the same lifespan (dogs, cats), and similar rates of medical problems:

50% of today’s cat owners never take their cats to a veterinarian for health care. … Because cats tend to keep their problems to themselves, … cats, on an average, are much sicker than dogs by the time they are brought to your veterinarian for treatment. (more)

I doubt we should blame this on cats. It seems more likely that cat owners pay less attention to cats, because they care less:

74 percent of the test sample like dogs a lot, while only 41 percent like cats a lot. … 15 percent of the adults questioned said they disliked cats a lot while the number who said they disliked dogs a lot was only 2 percent. … Dog people were 11 percent more conscientious than cat people. … Cat people were generally about 12 percent more neurotic. (more)

Yet there are more cats than dogs. Note also that both WebMD and wikipedia have pages devoted to dog lifespan; neither have such a page for cats. Dogs are famously more loyal than cats, and it seems plausible that dog owners thus feel more loyal to dogs, and more obligated to help when sick.

I tentatively conclude that we spend 2.5 times as much on dog vs. cat pet medicine mainly because we care more about dogs. This shows a huge demand effect on med spending.

Now consider that in our society many consider men more expendable than women. We send men to war, expect men to put themselves in harms way to protect women, and try to save “women and children first.” Women also go to the doctor a lot more often than men, even though men are on average sicker (they die faster). For 2008 US doctor office visits, here is the ratio of women to men by age:

All,  1.43; <15,  0.93; 15–24, 2.24; 25–44, 2.26; 45–64, 1.39; 65–74, 1.11; >75,  0.95. (more)

This also seems likely to be a demand effect – we spend more on female medicine mainly because we care more about women, or care more to show that we care about them.

Added 7p: That Marketplace show quotes similar numbers for dog and cat spending:

The average dog owner spends $655 a year on health care, that’s up 50 percent from a decade ago. Cat owners are in for $644, up nearly 75 percent.

So did we once to care more about dogs, and now care about the same?

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On Being Self-Aware

Diane Rehm yesterday, interviewing an expensive matchmaker:

REHM: And, Janis, you said that your clients are men. So you don’t take women who may have lots of money looking for a male?
SPINDEL: No, thank you.
REHM: Tell me why.
SPINDEL: Been there, done that.
REHM: Well, tell me why.
SPINDEL: To be honest with you, when I first started in business I had lots and lots and lots of fabulous women clients, really great women. And they seem to be needy and very high maintenance and you can never satisfy them.
REHM: Interesting.
SPINDEL: We would introduce them to amazing men. They’re not available, which is one of the biggest problems that I hear about women. See, I own the minds of men. I know what they want and I know what women do wrong. I could literally do this in my sleep. Men are very simple. You deliver exactly what they’re asking for and you leave the rest up to chemistry and the universe.

I have to admit this is somewhat at odds with my suggesting:

We should expect men to be more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about short-term sexual attractions. … In contrast, women should be more more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about long-term pair-bonding.

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Overconfidence Explained

We seem close to a good account of overconfidence:

We study a large sample of 656 undergraduate students, tracking the evolution of their beliefs about their own relative performance on an IQ test as they receive noisy feedback. … Subjects (1) place approximately full weight on their priors, but (2) are asymmetric, over-weighting positive feedback relative to negative, and (3) conservative, updating too little in response to both positive and negative signals. These biases are substantially less pronounced in a placebo experiment where ego is not at stake. We also find that (4) a substantial portion of subjects are averse to receiving information about their ability, and that (5) less confident subjects are more likely to be averse. We unify these phenomena by showing that they all arise naturally in a simple model of optimally biased Bayesian information processing … [of] agents who derive utility directly from their beliefs (for example, ego or anticipatory utility). (more; HT Dan Houser)

They also have results on how overconfidence relates to IQ and gender:

We show that agents who are of high ability according to our IQ quiz, and hence arguably cognitively more able, are just as conservative and asymmetric as those who score in the bottom half of the IQ quiz. … In our data women differ significantly in their priors, are significantly more conservative updaters than men while not significantly more asymmetric, and significantly more likely to be averse to feedback. These gender differences are consistent with our theoretical framework if a larger proportion of women than men value belief utility.

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La Difference

This research examined the relative sexual attractiveness of individuals showing emotion expressions of happiness, pride, and shame compared with a neutral control. Across two studies using different images and samples ranging broadly in age (total N = 1041), a large gender difference emerged in the sexual attractiveness of happy displays: happiness was the most attractive female emotion expression, and one of the least attractive in males. In contrast, pride showed the reverse pattern; it was the most attractive male expression, and one of the least attractive in women. Shame displays were relatively attractive in both genders, and, among younger adult women viewers, male shame was more attractive than male happiness, and not substantially less than male pride. (more)

In our society, men and women are different. Not only do they have different physical capacities and vulnerabilities, their minds differ.  They demand different things, in particular from the opposite gender. In response, they supply different things to the opposite gender. For example, men supply the pride demanded by women, and women supply the happiness demanded by men.

While folks are sometimes indignant that others’ expectations about them depend on their gender, few are willing to change the fact that their wants regarding others depend on those others’ genders. So there is little prospect of eliminating gender-based social expectations. Nor is it obvious that this would be a good idea.

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Suits Show Signal Scope

Two years ago I posted on the puzzle of yes men. A simple story says bosses evaluate subordinate expertise via the deviation between subordinate and boss opinions. This predicts bosses hiding their opinions as long as possible. Yet real bosses often reveal opinions early, encouraging “yes men.” I suggested that this is because large boss-subordinate opinion deviations make bosses look bad as well as subordinates. While higher bosses who only cared to evaluate this boss would punish them for encouraging yes men, when they themselves seek to look good to still higher bosses, they’d rather allow such encouragement, while pretending otherwise.

A lot of signaling analysis imagines just two parties, the party signaling and the party interpreting the signal. But often signals have a wider scope – signal interpreters often care a lot about how still other parties will interpret their signal interpretation. For example, even if you didn’t wear a suit to a job interview, in the hour long interview you might still convince your interviewer that you’d be a capable productive employee. Yet that interviewer could still be reluctant to hire you, knowing they’d have to explain the hire to others who know you didn’t wear a suit. Interviewers can similarly be reluctant to hire a competent person from a low ranked college, if others might hear of this fact and think less of them.

The interview suit example brings to mind the question: what distinguishes social situations where we wear suits from those where we don’t? We wear suits to funerals, weddings, in court, and when we represent some groups to other groups. At work suits are also worn in sales, management, finance, and law. And a common factor distinguishing these situations seems to be a wide social scope of our signals. We tend to wear suits to events where wider audiences, who don’t know much about us, are more likely to see or hear about and interpret our behavior, especially norm deviations. A suit is a standard respectful clothing with low style variance to minimize the chance of accidentally giving offense.

Our use of language in such “formal” situations of wide signal scope also tends to be designed to be respectful, conservative, and careful, i.e., to minimize the chance of being interpreted negatively by others who don’t know us well. I’ve written before on farming towns being especially effective at encouraging such careful conformist behavior, and on school today teaching students to send the right signals to wider audiences.

What about entertainers, who often wear “wild” clothing yet clearly seek to impress a wide audience that cares about what still others think of their entertainment choices? Since such entertainers are often especially valued for their originality, defiance, or trend foresight, they must often walk a very fine line between looking unimpressive via seeming too conservative, and giving too much offense by being wild in the wrong way. I envy them not.

On average, a wider variance in clothing style is tolerated for women relative to men at high visibility events like weddings or dances. Does this mean men tend to be evaluated by a wider scope than women? Do women care more about what other women think of their man than men care about what other men think of their woman?

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Japan’s Fat Tax

This has been going on for three years, yet I just learned of it:

In 2008, Japan’s Ministry of Health passed the ‘metabo’ law and declared war against obesity. …

Japanese people are normally envied for their lean physiques. In fact, the OECD ranks them, with only 3% population obesity, one of the least obese developed countries. … Comparing the time periods 1976-1980 and 1996-2000, prevalence of obese boys and girls increased from 6.1% and 7.1% to 11.1% and 10.2%. …

The law mandates that local governments and employers add a waist measurement test to the annual mandatory check up of 40-75 year olds. For men and women who fail the test and exceed the maximum allowed waist length of 33.5 and 35.4 inches, they are required to attend a combination of counseling sessions, monitoring through phone and email correspondence, and motivational support. …

Employers or local government … are required to ensure a minimum of 65% participation, with an overall goal to cut the country’s obesity rates by 25% by year 2015. Failure to meet these goals results in fines of almost 10% of current health payments. (more)

Even before Japanese lawmakers set the waistline limits last year, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) amended its recommended guidelines for the Japanese. The new IDF standard is 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) for men and 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) for women. But the Japanese government has yet to modify its limits. (more; HT Melanie Meng Xue)

Two interesting patterns:

  1. Japanese waist limits are stricter on men, yet since men are taller health-based rules would be stricter on women.
  2. The thinnest rich nation (Japan) passed a big law to make itself thinner just as the biggest medical spending nation (USA) debated a big law (Obamacare) ensuring it would spend more on medicine.

My tentative explanations:

  1. Most societies find it easier to disrespect/mistreat/etc. low status men than low status women.
  2. National policy is more about reaffirming and supporting symbols of national pride than about addressing national needs. The USA is proud of its medicine and Japan is proud of its thinness.

Note that that if you want to regulate health it makes far more sense to regulate weight than medicine, since weight is far more related to health than medicine.

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Who Cheats

Many folks just love to hear that, among heterosexual men, it is homophobic men who are most aroused by gay male porn. “They are just trying to deny their feelings,” they might say. I’ll bet such folks will similarly love to hear that men who feel more sexual performance anxiety tend to cheat more on their spouses. “For women its about feeling connected, but for men its all about ego,” they might also say. The Post:

For women, they found low relationship satisfaction was often tied to infidelity. Women who were unhappy in their relationships were 2.6 times more likely to cheat than women who were satisfied. And women who reported being incompatible with their partner in terms of sexual values and attitudes were 2.9 times more likely to have an affair.

One of the findings that surprised Milhausen most was that men who reported higher rates of sexual inhibition because of performance anxiety were more likely to cheat. “If you have sex with someone outside of your relationship, you’ll never have to see them again,” she says. “You won’t have those problems with wounded pride or ego.” …

Men and women who were less concerned about the consequences of their sexual behavior were more likely to cheat, as were people who could be easily aroused. … Her take-away from the report is that people who want to avoid affairs should be as honest as possible about their needs.

Now if you look at the actual study, you’ll find some discrepancies with this summary.  Not only won’t you find any support for this last claim about honesty, you’ll also find that easy sexual arousal does not predict cheating in women, and that sexual performance anxiety has exactly the same effect on women as on men. Interesting that the female reporter (Ellen McCarthy) left that last bit out.

Even more interesting, you’ll find that, after controlling for other factors, none of the following significantly predicts who cheats: age, importance of religion, being married, sexual satisfaction in the relationship, and compatibility on the importance or frequency of sex. When they don’t control for other factors, older, less religious, and fully employed folks cheat more.

So to sum up, both men and women cheat more when they are less afraid of getting caught, when they tend to do things they later regret, and when performance anxiety tends to inhibit them in sex. For men another cheating predictor is easy sexual arousal, while for women added predictors are overall relationship unhappiness and feeling incompatible on ‘‘attitudes towards (or values and ideas) about sex” (which, after controlling for compatibility on sex frequency and importance, sounds to me like another proxy for relationship unhappiness).

Some previous results on cheating: Continue reading "Who Cheats" »

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