Now that men have vanished from the workforce and are unemployed in droves, those that are left are now expected to play mentor and babysitter to women, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. A reader kindly sent me this piece titled “Women at Work: A Guide for Men.” Just as you would expect, it’s a condescending piece about how dumb men are when it comes to understanding women at work:
Now don’t get me wrong. I love men. I’ve spent my career as a journalist at publications read primarily by men. All my mentors were men. And most professional men I’ve encountered truly believe that they are unbiased.
That said, they are often clueless about the myriad ways in which they misread women in the workplace every day. Not intentionally. But wow. They misunderstand us, they unwittingly belittle us, they do something that they think is nice that instead just makes us mad. And those are the good ones.
In short, men could use a career guide—about women.
Apparently, rather than focusing on their own jobs, men are supposed to spend their time playing therapist to how women think and feel. And of course the author has no understanding of how hard it is for men to even interact with women at work, given all the rules and regulations. One “tip” in the article tells men not to be afraid of tears:
When Paul Gotti of Cardinal Health gave performance reviews, he says that, without even realizing it, he was easier on female directors: “I didn’t want them to cry, to feel bad.” He recognizes now that this was no favor. They should have the feedback “so that they can grow too.”
Ms. Flynn of Flynn Heath Holt says that her firm has found that men aren’t only afraid of tears but of getting in trouble with “the diversity police” for speaking harshly, or of women being “too high maintenance, or [that] she’ll ask a million questions.” As a result, “men are scared to death to give us feedback…. They’ll let women run astray and off course and be fired before they’ll take the chance to give them feedback.”
Her advice: Be honest. That doesn’t mean you have to be blunt, adds Mr. Schwartz of the Energy Project, which is more than 60% female: “I’ve learned it’s a balance between honesty and empathy. Honesty without empathy is cruelty.”
Just ask Larry Summers where honesty got him with women. Yeah, that will work. And honesty to a man may be bluntness to a woman. How is he supposed to win at this game? Better to say nothing.
Women have no idea what men in the workplace are dealing with when they work with women. And men, despite what the author thinks, are not there to babysit women by telling them to ask for raises, brushing away tears and “twisting” a woman’s arms to ask for her own promotion. If the author of the piece wants women to be respected, stop guiding men to do their work for them. If women want respect in the workplace, give them real tips on how to get it, don’t expect their bosses and co-workers to take time away from their own jobs to teach a woman how to do hers. And isn’t it sexist that the author thinks that all women need such babysitting? Most, I hope, are more capable than this author gives them credit for.