Proud to Be the Boss | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Proud to Be the Boss

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Donna Ladd

I had just finished giving an Overby talk on doing powerful journalism at Ole Miss when several young women stuck around to meet me. One was a short brunette woman who shook my hand enthusiastically and told me that she was "inspired" by my comments—which had been straight talk about the media business, corporate-media competition, and our mission to embrace and encourage diversity.

Another was a tall student with long, straight blonde hair who reminded me of myself in younger years. She firmly shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and told me a bit about herself and how she'd like to get involved with the JFP in the future.

I saw immediately that these were young women with the confidence and passion to be leaders, hopefully in doing meaningful journalism. Mission accomplished.

Before my lecture, I had tagged along with my partner Todd as he gave a talk to a digital-marketing class. It so happened that the entire class was female, except for one guy who had to leave early. They seemed focused and attentive. But at one point, expecting to see every hand go up, I asked them how many hoped to own their own business one day. None of the women raised a hand.

I was stunned. As a woman who became my own boss in no small part due to the sexism I encountered while working for other people, I know what lies ahead for many of them as they try to become leaders in their fields, if they even choose to.

Here's what could happen based on my personal experiences. If she openly shows ambition and tries to climb in her field, she will be called selfish, and God help her if she decides to delay or forego having children in order to devote herself to her calling. When she starts managing other people, many men and women will act differently toward her instructions and feedback than if she were male. She may well be called a "ball buster" or a "bully" because she responds decisively, including to an employee talking to her abusively because he or she doesn't like to be criticized (especially by a woman).

If she chooses to be direct and unapologetic about her management role—as men tend to be—she will be called aggressive at best and, often, a "bitch." I had three male bosses in New York City who called me a lesbian to another male editor who sat next to me (and who often pointed out how they treated me completely differently than him).

Some male and female employees will decide she is unlikeable and "difficult" simply because she is a woman in charge. (See Heidi/Howard, page 22.)

She will often be interrupted in meetings, and if she serves on a board, the chairman may cut her off long before the males. She may also have to endure dirty jokes or even be asked to go to a fellow board member's room to watch porn with him as one of my fellow board members, a powerful publisher, was at a convention we attended.

She may also fly across the country to interview for an editor's job and have the male interviewer try to get her to spend the night with him. If she has the courage to express her opinion in public, she will be called stupid and maybe a slut or a c*nt, and comments about her body will replace intelligent responses to her remarks. If she's really lucky, some blogger might post a drawing of her with a leash around her long-time partner's neck because, you know, he must be "whipped" to put up with her kind. People will, inevitably, lie about her.

And, perhaps my favorite, if she talks or writes publicly about all these sexist responses to her, she will be labeled bitter and angry.

See how this cycle works?

The truth is that I'm not bitter or angry about the misogynistic garbage directed toward me. I decided a long time ago that I didn't need anyone's permission to speak my mind or run a good publication with high standards. I have studied the research on gender-based double standards, and I'm Teflon about it at this point. (My mantra: "Excellent work is the best response.")

But I do worry about our young women and the messages they are getting—even now in 2014. I hate it when I speak to a class and the young women don't have the confidence to weigh in and ask questions. (Women will often wait around after class, instead, especially in classrooms where males tend to dominate, often with the help of teachers who call on them more.) I remember well not having the confidence to speak up in a class or weighing everything I was going to say before I said it. And I know how much that fear limits female potential.

I'm also saddened when girls use tiny little voices you can hardly hear and their handshakes are so meek that you can barely feel them. And it does make me angry that, here in Mississippi, people (and candidates) frequent and even advertise on websites that use violent language toward women (like one blogger who said he hoped a powerful female attorney's breast implants would explode—not that she had breast implants, mind you). So, what else will they support?

It's also extremely not cool that most other media outlets in Mississippi tend to have female columnists write about entertainment and being a mother, and allow their male staffers to write (often poorly) about politics and policy.

And we wonder why so many girls have tiny, fearful voices? They are being robbed of opportunities by our culture and our gender bias—and our community plays along.

I applaud Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg for using her success and platform to draw attention to the cultural attempts to keep women in our places. Her book, "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," and now her #banbossy campaign to get people to stop criticizing girls for being "too bossy" are needed calls to action to get women and men alike to pay attention to what our society is still doing to our girls: limiting their potential.

Ironically, much of the response to Sandberg proves her point. She, along with supporters like Beyonce, are slammed (including by women) for their "stupid" efforts; these people clearly haven't spent any time on the banbossy.com site to see what it's actually all about. Sandberg is also criticized for her success: Apparently, such a "privileged" woman cannot understand the plight of everyday women who are too busy feeding their kids to even worry about being called "bossy," or so they contend angrily.

But here's the thing: These kinds of words and reactions are an attempt to keep women "in our place"—in the boardroom or in the trailer park. This brand of sexism and belittlement of our success, on whatever level, makes it harder for women—whether Sandberg or someone who grew up in a trailer, as I did—to stay the course for women.

We must, however. Every woman must stay loud and be proud to be the boss and seek leadership roles in our community. We owe it to the young women coming up behind us to show how it's done. I suggest letting every attempt to silence you make you stronger. That, indeed, is the best response.

I promise.

Comments

Scott1962 4 years, 6 months ago

Speaking as a man who is what many would say very successfully self employed, I find your article to be very irresponsible. Maybe a woman brings her social views to the work place and tries to incorporate them with her job where they do not belong. Or maybe to disagree with her is to be wrong and the enemy by default thus making others unwilling to come to her. The result is she feels excluded by others and that same pride that refuses to hear other sides starts searching for a way to excuse herself and make other completely responsible for her bad position. So, she blames it on being a woman in a male dominated business world.

I have many women working for me in entry level as well as key management positions and I have never witnessed this. Based on what you've written and your crusade against the white American male I can see where you may have shared some of the responsibility in these cases you mention. One that comes to mind is in saying "no" to someone wanting you to go watch porn with them. And I have seen both men and women interrupted while speaking in meetings. I've also seen both men and women call the person out who interrupted them.

Let's look at the other side based entirely on things you've written in the past. You have so much contempt for the residents of Madison because in your mind their decision to move was fueled exclusively by racism and nothing else was a factor. You've written of women who are you as being "meek" because they don't get in people's faces screaming "MY WAY!" You spoke of male journalists around the state writing and you inserted "often poorly"....why did you do that? It had nothing to do with anything it was just a way to be condescending which is a huge part of your personality.

But it's also abrasive. And when you're abrasive the reaction you're going to get doesn't have a damn thing to do with your breasts but you claim it could be nothing else. I've been in business many years and I do not like a firm handshake from a woman. I don't know why but I don't. Now, these young women who obviously look up to you and will accept your words as truth are being sent out in the world believing it will be their experience. They'll be interviewed by people like me who will not hire them. And why? Because the entire time we're talking she's waiting for me to ask her to spend the night and it's easy to detect that defensiveness.

One day I hope that you come to realize your life and your experiences are yours only. The other billion people in the world have their own and it's extremely arrogant to continue believing their beliefs should be based on your life. You made sure you threw in the part about being called bitter for writing this because you were trying to protect your bases. You also knew that's exactly what it was. That article could have made the exact same points without being condescending and petty but you didn't write it that way.

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tomhead1978 4 years, 6 months ago

Scott, help me out here. You say:

Speaking as a man who is what many would say very successfully self employed, I find your article to be very irresponsible.

But then you say:

I have many women working for me in entry level as well as key management positions and I have never witnessed this.

So which is it? Are you self-employed or upper-level management?

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tstauffer 4 years, 6 months ago

I have many women working for me in entry level as well as key management positions and I have never witnessed this.

@Scott1962 I've got to say, if you're really in management as you suggest and you've never witnessed "this" (which I assume is meant to refer to some of the sexism that Donna has seen) then my working hypothesis is you're looking HARD in the other direction.

I've seen it -- I've been in business for myself since two years into my career, and I've still seen sexism -- on non-profit boards, in public meetings, in daily life. I try to model something else and probably don't always succeed because I'm used to being listened to and I like the sound of my own voice.

Judging from this screed, you're pretty pleased with the dulcet tones of your own opinion as well.

Let's take this as an example:

Let's look at the other side based entirely on things you've written in the past. You have so much contempt for the residents of Madison because in your mind their decision to move was fueled exclusively by racism and nothing else was a factor. You've written of women who are you as being "meek" because they don't get in people's faces screaming "MY WAY!"

Well if that ain't a big ol' batch of you bringing your own issues to the table, I don't know what is. None of that is what Donna's saying -- it's what you're hearing. And you don't just hear with your ears, but with the blob between 'em. Might be something gumming up the works.

Fortunately, the piece isn't meant for you; and the people who will get something out of this piece will probably see something... instructive... in your comments, as well.

For instance, you say this:

But it's also abrasive. And when you're abrasive the reaction you're going to get doesn't have a damn thing to do with your breasts but you claim it could be nothing else.

I did a search on Donna's piece and didn't find the word "breasts" in it. That's all you, big daddy.

I did find the word "abrasive" in the dictionary and it seems to describe your tone in this comments.

Oh, but then... BUT THEN. This came, like from Hollywood:

I've been in business many years and I do not like a firm handshake from a woman. I don't know why but I don't.

And suddenly the jukebox screeches and skips and grinds to a halt and the whole bar goes... "WHAT. THE. HELL. DID. HE. SAY?!"

And suddenly it seems like 1962 wasn't the year you were born, Scott, but the year you're still living in.

So here's what I'm thinking. You've got a lot to say -- and apparently you're ready to die on this particular battlefield.

So... tell us who you are, what your position or ownership stake is and what company you're talking about.

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tstauffer 4 years, 6 months ago

Here's why I don't think you'll do it. Because I don't think you're really who you say you are. I don't think you work around a lot of women and I don't you hire in the corporate world.

Why? Because of statements like this:

They'll be interviewed by people like me who will not hire them. And why? Because the entire time we're talking she's waiting for me to ask her to spend the night and it's easy to detect that defensiveness.

Or maybe it was because she had a firm handshake.

I don't think you've got this job because GOD BLESS AMERICA I hope you don't have it. But if you do, please prove it.

Here's the deal. I'm a white American male. And Donna is not "at war with me" or my kind. She's an observer who notices things. And she has the right to.

So I'm saying this to you -- man to man, handshake as firm as you can stand -- PROVE IT.

(Oh, and I apologize if you find this comment at all abrasive; because Lord knows you seem like the sensitive type.)

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tomhead1978 4 years, 6 months ago

Just got an email claiming Scott is both self-employed and upper-level management because he owns a major multinational corporation that builds warp-drive rocketships, or something like that. It wasn't really very coherent, so there's a 50/50 chance I misread it.

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zacksgrny 4 years, 6 months ago

I support banbossy. I want my granddaughters to be bossy boss chicks. I want my grandsons to admire and support women who can stand on their own and speak the truth to them and about them. Banbossy is about teaching our young women to speak their voice to not be timid to be proud of having a opinion and not scared to stand up and speak it. I love it.

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justjess 4 years, 6 months ago

If only a firm handshake from a female job applicant causes "Scott" to freak-out and not hire, this is the ultimate in insecurity. My bet is that Scott works on an average job and his boss is a female.

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justjess 4 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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theoriginalgingerkid 4 years, 6 months ago

@scott1962. I set this account up because of you! I'm gainfully employed in a management position (for some time now) by someone who's been successful in his field for over 25 years, probably similar to yourself. I am one of two females in a top-ranking position. Our office is comprised of 100 plus individuals, 90% of which are women. They do not let go of them often. Our company holds on to people. I do NOT do the following things at my job: -take sides of conflicted employees, -discuss religious beliefs, -discuss my personal opinions of said employees, -discussions of politics, -all the dinner table taboos that frequently invite or cause conflict. I report to work, I invest my energies to better the workplace machine, I do my job, I go home. I actually have performance metrics, to indicate my success. ALL that being said, I couldn't disagree that public antagonism to females in the workplace is wholely prevelant. However, there were a lot of generalizations in your response. It made me wonder how often you're forced to interact with the opposite sex in higher-management positions. I did not suffer four, long, arduous years in college to be interrupted in staff meetings, or to be gossipped about beyond my own doorway by employees who said things so loud the entire office could hear it. When I addressed the issue with HR, I was told they accused ME of eavesdropping while sitting inches from my door. Not one of these individuals attempted a single conversation with me, but they would criticize my performance openly and loudly. Keep in mind these are men, but mostly women doing this. It went on for 3 yrs., essentially undetectable by upper management. I knew that the minute I'd speak up, those few people would turn the tables on me. It would be simple sabatoge. I call it the HUMAN CHESS of the workplace. At first, I was told that I was "sensitive", that I "needed a backbone". SO, one day I decided to take up for myself. I watched the very people who defamed my character, my performance, and my appearance begin to belittle me in a staff meeting in front of ALL 100 employees. I decided to call out the behavior. I asked, "Why do you do this to me?! Why?"......crickets chirpping....I didn't announce a single name. I just addressed the behavior. Total silence. You know what I was called after that? Things that weren't nice: for "getting a backbone". I'm an upstanding employee, consistently praised by upper management, I have a clean work record, I've never been fired once in my entire life, and that day I had to accept that the odds were against me. My largest issue was denying that the antagonism was present, because I considered it frivolous in relation to my work performance. Just remember, while it hasn't happened to you, that doesn't mean it didn't crush the ambitions of someone else.

P.S. Madison and racism are irrelevant to this article.

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notmuch 4 years, 6 months ago

I just happened to see this article, and I must admit that I am more in agreement with Scott1962 than the author. Donna extrapolates her life experiences to be the predominant world situation. This is evident in her statement “I know what lies ahead for many of them..” In an article full of bitterness and anger, there is one sentence proclaiming that she is not bitter or angry. I am one of those horrible white American Christian males that Donna has been crusading against, but I don’t take it personally. I am pretty sure that at some point (maybe more than once) Donna was mistreated badly by a male, probably white, and maybe even Christian, and that became the basis of her opinion of most such characters. I am even worse—I moved to Madison County in 2002, so I must be racist. It is not important that I moved from a predominantly white neighborhood in Jackson to a country road where 95% of my neighbors within 2 miles are black—I moved to Madison County, which is a racist destination.

As I approached graduation from engineering school, it was common knowledge that a female engineering graduate could pretty much name her price when it came to starting salary. I have found this trend to continue as I progressed in my career. It does not bother me one bit. I have usually found women to have far better organizational skills to those of men—including me. However, I don’t think that makes me prejudiced against men. Maybe engineers, being generally more conservative than most, are just too polite, but my experience in meetings has been the exact opposite of Donna’s. I don’t know if it’s just that old-fashioned thing called manners, but I have always observed the utmost courtesy and “politeness” exhibited by males when females are speaking—even if they do have “tiny little voices”.

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notmuch 4 years, 6 months ago

Like Scott1962, I have hired many employees through the years, both male and female, and most of them have been very good employees. I have not hired any employee based on gender, because that is irrelevant to my criteria for hiring. I do not judge anyone based on appearance. I did find it interesting that Donna described the two people she met after her talk as “a short brunette woman” and “a tall student with long, straight blonde hair”. I wonder—had one of those been a man, would the description still have included hair color or height (“a balding, short, chubby fellow with crooked teeth”, maybe?) Of course, I am one of those old-fashioned men who think it is still acceptable to compliment a lady (now there is an offensive term!) on her appearance. Most women my age (or older) appreciate such compliments—some have even told me it made their day. However, I also am aware that I must be very careful to be sure the person I am complimenting will not be offended. There are many (mostly lawyers) who interpret any such comments as sexist and deserving of monetary compensation for the “victim”. The necessity to exercise caution when giving such compliments has probably prevented me from making someone’s day, and I think that is a shame.

Although I am the president of our company, I work for many female clients. Again, I usually find the female clients to be far superior to their male counterparts in terms of organization, attention to detail, and documentation of relevant information. Am I guilty of generalization? If so, I apologize, but I don't think I am the only person who recognizes those traits in women.

Donna, I am proud that you are the boss also, but I hope you treat your male employees with the same respect as your female employees. Todd, you apparently believe in the same transfer of your own experiences as the only possible scenario--you just can't accept that Scott1962 has never witnessed sexism, and your only explanation is that he is looking in the other direction in denial. Well, call me a denier, because I can honestly say that I have never witnessed it either--and I can guarantee you that the first time I do witness it in my company, I will make it very clear that it will not be tolerated. By the way, if you would have done your search on Donna's article for "breast" instead of "breasts", you would have found it twice.

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tomhead1978 4 years, 6 months ago

notmuch, I doubt you or Scott1962 have ever been responsible for hiring an employee. Neither of you sound like you know very much about the process.

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

Tomhead1978: Wow, you must really be intelligent to be able to determine that! Someone says something you don’t like, so your response is to attack his credibility. Does your mommy know you are using her computer?

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donnaladd 4 years, 6 months ago

I've been too busy with the mayoral election and the Byrom case to post before, but I find both Scott and notmuch's comments puzzling on several fronts.

For one thing, they seem to exactly prove what I'm saying in the column above about certain men getting so bent out of shape when a woman owns her own experiences and then uses them to help other young women, which is the whole purpose of writing about several instances of the sexism I've experienced during my life and career. It's remarkable that they can't see that actually trying to tell me what I'm actually thinking, fed through their own filters, or declaring that, yes, I am angry and bitter exactly proves my point. The funny thing is that I'm not either of those things about the experiences that have happened to me, although I was angry at various points, and I get to be. I'm Zen enough and my self-esteem is strong enough at this point in my life to never harbor bitterness or anger about past experiences that, as I say in the column, have made me stronger, more determined, and better at my craft and work.

That is the whole point: to tell young woman that it may well be hard for "many" of them (the word I actually used, notmuch, not "most" or certainly the words "predominate world situation" (words hard for me to type without laughing). They have to be ready to deal with sexism and then overcome it, not run and hide from it, which I've never done and never will, much to the chagrin of folks like Scott and notmuch.

Even more puzzling, and amusing, is both of their fixation on Madison as if it has any bearing on this column. First, some of my best friends live in Madison. Second, sexism is in every community and city, as are other -isms, sadly. Third, I learned to tango in Madison County, so I have too hard a time being angry and bitter about it. ;-) I, like many other Jacksonians, have had to engage in some self-defense against some people in surrounding counties who loved to bash our city as sport, but that problem is so 10 years ago at this point, now that Jackson has re-emerged as a creative-class city, that it's not something I think about a whole lot and can't remember the last time I even had to defend Jackson against someone in our bedroom communities. The last time I wrote about that was in a BOOM editor's note in which I talked about how we all have to work together for the strength of the metro. So I don't know where those bizarre tangents are coming from here.

Finally, I'm especially befuddled by all the accusations that I'm, somehow, bashing white Christian males. Huh? First of all, some of my favorite people and mentors are strong white Christian males. There isn't enough space here to list all of these heroes of mine.

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

Donna: I can’t find the part that says I am bent out of shape about your laudable efforts to help other women. I was merely commenting that I agreed with Scott1962’s observation that the tone of your article seemed (to me) to imply that your experiences represent the prevalent workplace situation rather than the exception (which has been my experience). However, you are correct—you did use the word “many”, not “most”, and certainly not “predominant world situation”. I was obviously using a little hyperbole there; the fact that it made you laugh tells me I was successful. (Of course, I would not have used “predominate” as you did, since that is a verb rather than an adjective..) I cannot understand how you could read my post and suggest that I am chagrined by your refusal to run and hide from sexism—I think I have made it very clear that I do not tolerate sexism, in the workplace or anywhere else.
As far as my fixation on Madison, I was again using a little bit of hyperbolic humor, which admittedly has gotten me in trouble in the JFP’s Comments section before—I should have learned my lesson. It does seem to me, however, that those (like me) whose values are different from those of the JFP staff are more quickly criticized when we try to lighten things up a little than those with approved viewpoints. I did live in Jackson for almost 50 years, and I regularly chastised those who put down Jackson—especially those who lived in Madison, Ridgeland, Brandon, etc. but still drove in to work in Jackson. I moved to Madison County only because I was ready to live “out in the country”, and have not regretted it. However, I still consider myself a Jacksonian—a fifth-generation Jacksonian at that! All of the surrounding communities need Jackson to not only survive, but to thrive.

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donnaladd 4 years, 6 months ago

Most strange, where the heck did the assumption come from that it was white Christian males who did all of the sexist things I mentioned in the column above? The truth is that the culprit in several instances happened to be Jewish, in at least one other black. I have no idea what faith the publisher who wanted me to spend the night with him was, because religion never came up (as it shouldn't in a job interview; nor should a sexual advance either, of course). And as I talk about in the above piece, both women and men treat women bosses differently than male bosses and call on males more than females in the classroom, so women are part of the problem, too.

Thus, I don't know what you two are talking about. It's downright weird to make those kinds of false assumptions and then to tell me what I'm thinking. And offensive.

I'm sure glad I don't have to deal with either of you on a daily basis. You're both textbook examples of the closed-mindedness I'm writing about with your willingness to put thoughts in other people's heads and proclaim who just must be angry and bitter.

I always teach that we must always look for lessons in everything, including the negative, so thanks for showing up and providing useful examples. You've given me more material to write about and speak to others, especially young women, about.

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donnaladd 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh, and yes, I did use the word "breast" two times in the same thought, as in "breast implants," when talking about how local people (and some political candidates) will support blogs that use very violent language about women—in this case, a blogger who said that he wished a prominent female attorney's breast implants would explode. I find it remarkable that the same candidates who write checks to such a person then want women to vote for them. I have a hard time wrapping my head around this logic.

I did not, however, talk about breasts in the way that Scott indicated when he typed this very-intriguing statement:

And when you're abrasive the reaction you're going to get doesn't have a damn thing to do with your breasts but you claim it could be nothing else. I've been in business many years and I do not like a firm handshake from a woman. I don't know why but I don't.

I will admit laughing out loud the first time I read that, as did Todd. In fact, it set the tone for his whole hilarious response to Scott above. Needless to say, not all men are threatened by strong women. That's the good news for young women today. They just have to throw back the ones with attitudes like yours until they find intelligent, confident men who will respect and applaud their strength and ambition. And who make them laugh every single day, and make fun of jerks when appropriate. ;-)

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

No, you did not mention breasts in the context that Scott1962 implied. My response to Todd was only intended to point out that his response to Scott seemed to state that the word was not used in your article, and that Scott made that up.

Yes, not all men are threatened by strong women—I certainly consider myself among those who are not, and I am 100% confident that anyone you ask about me will confirm that. That’s why I am so puzzled that you would say that young women “have to throw back the ones with attitudes like yours”. Can you help me to understand how you have determined that I have that kind of attitude? I would love for you to talk to every one of the women I have worked with and see if you can find anything to support your insult.

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tstauffer 4 years, 6 months ago

Todd, you apparently believe in the same transfer of your own experiences as the only possible scenario--you just can't accept that Scott1962 has never witnessed sexism, and your only explanation is that he is looking in the other direction in denial...

@NotMuch -- First, let me say that I share the confusion over what (a.) Madison County and (b.) Christianity have to do with anything Donna is saying.

That aside, it's laudable that you live in the futuristic world of engineering that proves to be a mecca for women, where they name their salaries, are listened to with rapt attention and frequently complimented on their appearance by men both less skilled and organized that they.

However, I'm a little concerned that you're doing the very same thing that you accuse Donna and me of -- extrapolating your personal perceptions to somehow generalize about the state of things.

I present two counterpoints. One, a quick Google search brings up this 2011 article at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers website and this 2012 article at the same place, which point to the persistent (and thankfully narrowing) salary gap between men and women in engineering, showing women's salaries at about 80% of men's. Also, there's this 2014 article that shows women at about 13 percent of the engineering workforce, up from 4 percent in the 1980s, but still somewhat short of stated goals.

Second, you may be aware of this study of the engineering field that found a great number of women leave the profession because of the male-dominated culture that was unfriendly to their needs and advancement:

Among the common factors that women cited as their reasons for leaving the profession were too much travel, working too many hours, lack of real or perceived opportunities for advancement, and uncivil work environments where women were treated in condescending or patronizing manners. Only 25 percent of the women who left engineering did so for family reasons.

This recent piece in the Washington Post discusses women leaving engineering because of, among other reasons, their inability to reach the highest rungs of management in firms.

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

Todd: First, you are correct—there is no correlation between Madison County/Christianity and anything Donna said in the article—again, I resorted to a little side-tracking in echoing Scott’s comments, which only contributed to getting off topic.

I was not extrapolating my experiences; I was merely suggesting that extrapolation of bad experiences is not accurate either. As your linked articles indicate, the “wage gap” has narrowed. In his promotion of legislation to make it easier to sue employers for discrimination, President Obama stated that women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Interestingly, the book “Women’s Figures” (sounds sexist, but it is actually about the economic progress of women) points out that part of the gap is due to the fact that (on average) women work fewer hours than men. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (a group I am not usually inclined to quote), among people who work 40 hours per week, women make 87 percent of what men make. A 2005 study by economists June and Dave O’Neill found that for the most part “the gender gap is attributable to choices made by women concerning the amount of time and energy to devote to a career.” The study also stated “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.” Even a report by The American Association of University Women stated that a reasonable estimate of the difference between women’s and men’s wages not attributable to choice of occupation, employment history, and similar factors is 5 percent. One more factor that could make up the difference is that women have been found to be less likely to negotiate forcefully regarding salaries than men. Donna, this is where a strong woman really has an advantage!

Coincidentally, I was reading through my latest issue of Momentum, the MSU Engineering magazine, which always includes a couple of articles about MSU engineering grads. One of the articles in this one is about Jocelyn Pritchett, who started her own firm, according to the article, “after the birth of her daughter, when putting in 50 hours a week at the office was no longer an option”. She created a flexible work environment that has allowed her company to prosper. You might want to feature her in the JFP! Another article in the same magazine is about Cathy Dunn, who is Deputy Director of the Port of New Orleans, overseeing engineering, construction management, contract management, and maintenance for this facility that includes over 28 million square feet of cargo-handling and storage areas. She comments in the article that the “atmosphere was more accepting of women” at Mississippi State than at Tulane, where she had begun her engineering studies. Who knows, maybe I see the world through rose-colored glasses because I attended a school that is so accepting of women!

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tstauffer 4 years, 6 months ago

In this case, NotMuch, you might be able to lend some first-hand experience. What do the principals at your firm look like? Could you send some links or pictures?

I'd love to hear the stories of women breaking into the ranks of partnership and top management in your firm thanks to the value that the engineering world places on their talents and their remarkable organizational skills.

It sounds like you, as president, have the potential to be a real catalyst of institutional change both for your own firm and your industry -- and it would be impressive -- even transformative -- if we could hear and retell that tale, particularly coming out of Mississippi.

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

I don't think it would be appropriate to post pictures of any of our employees. Besides, as I mentioned, in my business what someone looks like is not that important--engineering ain't show business. Okay, here is a story for you: Several years ago, one of our young female engineers in our Atlanta office announced that she was moving to Charlotte, NC because her husband (also an engineer) was being transferred there. We recognized her potential and did not want to lose her, so despite her young age and relative lack of experience, we offered her the option to continue working for us in Charlotte. She initially worked from home, but soon found a small office space and began marketing our firm in Charlotte. One of the first projects she landed was the $450 Million Bank of America Tower, which helped us get a foothold in the Charlotte market. Although she later moved back home to Kansas to care for her aging parents, she continued to work for us until outside demands forced her to quit working. I realize you are looking for a story about someone in our Mississippi office, but maybe we will get partial credit since many of our officers at that time were here.

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multiculturegirl37 4 years, 5 months ago

I don't support the Ban Bossy campaign not because I don't agree with the issue but for reasons more complicated than I would like to explain here. That said I agree with everything stated in Donna's piece. It was the sexism I experienced at Jackson State that made shift my activist focus from simply racial and economic equality to working on the intersections of race, class, and gender. Sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy are not exclusive to white men. I find it impossible to believe when someone says their workplace is free of sexism. That's utter bollocks. Even if there is a no tolerance policy it will happen, why? Because sexism is part of the fabric of our society. @notmuch The very fact that you think you know that women want your unsolicited comments about their appearance is sexist. Unless you are acquainted with these women how do you know? Just because they accept you "compliment" means nothing. Women are raised to be polite.

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

No, I don't think I know that women want my unsolicited comments about their appearance. As I mentioned, I know that I must be very careful to be sure the person I am complimenting will not be offended. I certainly would not take a chance on saying something that would be interpreted as offensive to anyone with whom I am not acquainted.

Some women are raised to be polite; most ladies are.

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donnaladd 4 years, 5 months ago

One more thing I forgot to say to notmuch yesterday: I am a narrative writer. That means that we try to paint pictures of scenes and of people, such as saying someone is tall or giving their hair color. This is very different from talking about the size of a woman's butt or saying her breasts (or his testicles, to bring some equality in here) should explode or calling him or her a slut. And, yes, I describe men's appearances in non-offensive ways as well.

It is, in fact, as different as a journalist using her real name to own her thoughts and writing, and an anonymous commenter who doesn't have the courage or moral conviction to sign his name to his personal rants.

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notmuch 4 years, 5 months ago

Okay, I think I understand; defining yourself as a narrative writer changes the rules?
No big deal--it just seemed to me that the inclusion of a physical description in an article (oops, narrative) about treating women as equals was interesting. Besides, I know the real reason for your additional response was that you had forgotten to berate me for using a screen name, and somehow equate that with "lack of courage or moral conviction". Would it help if I said that my "personal rants" are "narratives"?

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justjess 4 years, 5 months ago

@donnaladd "I am a narrative writer. That means that we try to paint pictures of scenes and of people, such as saying someone is tall or giving their hair color."

I was tossed off of this article's blogg a few days ago, so let me be careful in what I say:

The very beautiful, talented and hard working red head is pissed!

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justjess 4 years, 5 months ago

@donnaladd "I am a narrative writer. That means that we try to paint pictures of scenes and of people, such as saying someone is tall or giving their hair color."

I was tossed off of this article's blogg a few days ago, so let me be careful in what I say:

The very beautiful, talented and hard working red head is pissed!

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donnaladd 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm actually not pissed, justjess, but thank you anyway. And truth be known, I'm not longer a redhead. I need a new photo to keep up with Eddie Outlaw's whims. ;-)

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justjess 4 years, 5 months ago

@donnaladd "I'm actually not pissed,....."

That's great because what this means is that you are much bigger than some who try to put strong successful women down!

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RonniM 4 years, 5 months ago

So least two men in Mississippi have never witnessed sexism in the workplace. As hard as I find to believe that, it's not particularly surprising. Our biases are difficult to overcome, especially when we cling to them.

Sexism, similar to other "isms," is cultural and systemic, not personal. In our largely Christian culture, sexism is at least as old as the Bible, when "woman is property" was the predominant attitude (and still is today in many parts of the world). It's informative, for example, that women in the U.S. only achieved the vote fewer than 100 years ago. In my mother's day, "women's work" was largely relegated to secretarial or grammar-school teaching, if women were permitted to work outside the home at all. When I began working, back in the '70s, women could not get credit on their own. To this day, women are still working for wage parity and the right to their body's reproductive functions.

Much has changed for women, but sexism hasn't gone away--not by a long shot. Women in advertising are still airbrushed to unrealistic perfection. Girls perceived as sexually promiscuous are "slut shamed." The media still focus on a woman's clothing or hair or weight, often ignoring her political or corporate contributions.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Men are not subjected to those phenomena. Like racists who "loved" their black housekeepers and nannies and never saw beyond that to see the deplorable Jim Crow conditions most African Americans lived with (and many still do), for some men--even smart, good men--sexism just doesn't exist because they don't see it in their personal bubble.

As long as people become personally defensive about cultural bias, progress is achingly slow. People blissfully unaware of cultural bias are directly responsible for keeping the status quo in place.

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