The Patterns


How many times do you have to prove your competence before it’s not just a fluke?

When we look at CEOs, at law firm partners, or at engineers, we quite literally see men – because that’s who’s in those positions. And because we get used to seeing men there, most of us automatically think of a man when we think of a successful professional. As a result, it takes more to convince people of women’s competence, while men receive the benefit of the doubt.


Lipstick or chapstick – and why does it matter?
“I was routinely referred to as a ‘bimbo’ or a ‘bitch’ – too soft or too hard, and presumptuous, besides,” said Carly Fiorina of her stint as the CEO of Hewlett Packard. This double bind is common among professional women. Women judged as masculine (aggressive, assertive, and self-assured) may be respected but not liked. Women judged as feminine (sensitive, agreeable, and community-oriented) may be judged as low on competence, and liked but not respected.

Maternal Wall

Do women with children opt out of high-powered jobs – or are they pushed out?
The bias triggered by motherhood is by far the strongest form of gender bias. One prominent study found that mothers are 79% less likely to be hired, 100% less likely to be promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards than women without children. Mothers face assumptions that being committed to work makes them bad mothers and that being committed to motherhood shows they are bad professionals.

Tug of War

Where does conflict between women come from? (Hint: it’s not their natural cattiness.)
From Mean Girls to Queen Bees, we’ve all heard about how hard women can be on each other. Conflict among women is a touchy topic because explanations so often rehash tired stereotypes about how women are irrational, emotional, or hormonal. There’s no denying this conflict exists, but it’s not just catfights. Conflict among women often stems from bias against women. There are lots of different ways to deal with the pressures of being a professional woman, and gender wars can break out when women’s coping strategies clash.