Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Case Study #1: A Dean's Lecture

The female Dean of a research center is giving her annual lecture at the center. A high-level female university administrator, who happened to be the Dean previously, gives a warm introduction, symbolically passing the torch to her successor and friend. The lecture is on a technical topic but delivered in lay language with ample use of humor. As one of the missions of the center is the study of gender, the audience in approximately 75% female.

During the Q&A that follows the lecture, seven questions are asked, all by men. One male asks two questions.

Questions for reflection:

1) Is this dynamic acceptable to you? Why or why not?

2) If the Dean wanted to encourage greater gender equity in public conversation in her organization, what are some strategies she might use? Consider what options she might employ before, during or after such an event.

3) Research by Prof. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon indicates that women are four times less likely to ask for things than men across a variety of contexts. Should this empirical evidence be a public part of the Dean's strategies? If so, how?

Ref. Babcock, Linda and Sara Laschever, Women Don't Ask (New York: Bantam, 2007).

Note: All case studies occurred as described.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Case Study #2: Performance Review Workshop

A group of university middle-managers are attending a workshop on delivering performance reviews. The room is 90% female. At the end of a segment, the facilitator asks if there are any questions. One middle-aged, female manager raises her hand and asks the following question: "I find that when I give constructive criticism to female subordinates they have a tendency to take it very personally, often acting like they hold a grudge against me for weeks or even months. Meanwhile, when I give constructive criticism to male subordinates, it seems like they usually just 'take it in' and move on. Has anyone else ... noticed this? Or have any ideas about what to do about it?"

In response, most heads in the room slowly nod, but no one says a word.

After a period of silence, the facilitator moves on.

Questions for reflection:

1) Why do you think no one said anything?

2) How could this group have maximized its learning?

3) Empirical research indicates that female self-esteem is, in fact, more influenced by feedback than male self-esteem, both positively as well as negatively. Should such knowledge influence how men and women give and receive feedback? In what way?

Ref. Roberts, T., and S. Nolen-Hoeksema. 1989. "Sex differences in reactions to evaluative feedback." Sex Roles 21:725-747; Roberts, T., and S. Nolen-Hoeksema. 1994. "Gender comparisions in responsiveness to others' evaluations in achievement settings." Psychology of Women Quarterly 18:220-240; Schwalbe, M. L., and C. L. Staples. 1991. "Gender differences in sources of self-esteem." Social Psychology Quarterly 54:158-168; Lenny, E. 1977. "Women's self-confidence in achievement settings." Pscychological Bulletin 84:1-13

Note: All case studies occurred as described.