What Works for Women at Work

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Joan C. Williams is an expert on women and work, and she explains what women need to know to get ahead in their professional lives. Her book What Works for Women at Work, written with her daughter Rachel Dempsey, offers pragmatic advice that goes beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all approaches of most career guides for women.


Joan Williams

Comments [20]


I must agree with Anonymous Coward. I have also noted a definite trend in my industry with managing females being less cooperative and generally difficult, while males in the same position are more laid back and concentrate more on making the workplace run smoothly. Perhaps this is because we are majority female, but the generalizations made by the presenter do not seem to ring true to me.

Kudos to your guest for not saying "the patriarchy" at any point in the conversation. I was waiting to cringe.

Feb. 14 2014 12:42 PM
Flashbacking Freelancer from Madison

Building a website right now, and having PTSD flashbacks from your excellent show today!

I'm a freelancer. In what's apparently a common story, I struck out on my own after being unceremoniously dumped as the Senior Development Director of a web application. (Naturally, that was right after the company got a huge round of investment money for the product that was 50% my code. Because "they could hire younger guys for cheaper.")

I don't make as much money as I did, but my "co-workers" are my cats, and I don't work 60-hour weeks any more.

Feb. 13 2014 12:52 PM
ivan obregon from manhattan

Very insightful conversation (though didn't always agree with the author's operative presumptions- a supervisor being harsher on women, a common complaint among female employees, excused as a "self-defensive strategist" rather than a manifestation of the same ruthless values that would be criticized if done by a similarly biased male? Standard double-standard feminism as sexist as chauvinism but anyway....)but could have touched a bit on possible wider policy or legal solutions or future approaches as there's only so much any individual woman can do on her own, as the author also pointed out when talking about the limitations of "negotiation advice". Elucidating work, however, will pick it up.

Feb. 13 2014 12:49 PM
Sally White from Forest Hills

I have worked in a myriad of different workplaces as everything from a waitress to an adjunct professor, and the two places where I found myself treated the most poorly were not only run by women but employed roughly one man for every woman. The worst kinds of stereotypes about women were practiced and actually promoted. There was unchecked gossip and backbiting that my bosses in both of these situations actually heeded when deciding on pay raises and promotions. I much prefer a workplace that is more balanced in terms of gender.

Feb. 13 2014 12:46 PM
KB from Brooklyn

Such a great topic to spend time on. There's a great podcast focusing on these issues if you're interested in more of this subject, The Broad Experience:

Feb. 13 2014 12:42 PM
David from NYC

I had a female boss (not uncommon in my industry), who said she had hope to "woo me" to this senior position. She ruled the staff with an iron fist, and worse, sought to humiliate staff and keep them off balance about their performance. Soon she was making physical advances to me in the office. When I did not reciprocate, an out of scale anger directed at me soon followed. It was a very difficult situation to navigate, and as a guy, especially hard to know how to proceed. Worse was that the Co chose to support the manager, and protect her. I've had to be extremely careful in my management of female staff, to be fair and a good mentor. In this case, I felt tables were turned and i was paying the price.

Feb. 13 2014 12:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Thanks for the answer to my earlier q. It occurs to me that another aspect of freelancing is that money can come up for every single assignment rather than once a year, & each instance is a chance for another freelancer to underbid you. Hmm...does this work in favor of women being hired but against their being paid more?

Feb. 13 2014 12:39 PM
SVD from Queens

As I took the job of a woman who was promoted, she did everything she could to discredit me to the point of stressing me til I wound up on the hospital and quit. Some women learn about how unfair treatment can be destructive against women, and then they use it against other women -- my cousins. It is EVERYWHERE.

Feb. 13 2014 12:35 PM
Brenda from Inwood

I wonder how these issues differ (or not) for lesbians . . . I am a lesbian who has found that once men learn of my sexual orientation, they do a kind of recalculation of the dynamic between us - some are uncomfortable at first, but then they are more ready to admit me to the men's "insider" club: i.e., they decide to regard me as one of the boys.

Feb. 13 2014 12:35 PM
SVD from Queens

As I took the job of a woman who was promoted, she did everything she could to discredit me to the point of stressing me til I wound up on the hospital and quit. Some women learn about how unfair treatment can be destructive against women, and then they use it against other women -- my cousins. It is EVERYWHERE.

Feb. 13 2014 12:34 PM
Kate from Hamilton Heights

How do I find a career advisor/ executive coach who understands how to coach me as a woman? I have an executive coach, but this conversation making me realize that he's giving me advice as though I were a man, and probably doesn't get that I can't be as aggressive. Thanks.

Feb. 13 2014 12:32 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Can Ms. Williams discuss how these biases affect women who work as freelancers?

Feb. 13 2014 12:31 PM
Anonymous Coward from NYC

My male and female friends keep hearing coverage like this and we laugh at the prejudices that this perpetuates such as women being submissive, helpers, more communicative, and more cooperative. Women leaders in the workplace are often less cooperative, more vicious, and less communicative than men. Perhaps they feel that they need to behave this way as a mistaken way to model themselves on male behavior when men are often laid back, realistic, and team players.

Feb. 13 2014 12:31 PM
Rod from Brooklyn, NY

Clearly there are many cases of sexism against women, but has Joan run into cases of sexism against men? In all her gender discrimination research she must have run into this.

Feb. 13 2014 12:31 PM
mike from nyc

Since this "data-driven" book via women's own self-reporting how does she know these are all not internalized forms of bias and not actually self-imposed or self-created forms of inferiority complex. How does she know any of this actually exists as prevalently as she reports it does truly and not lie in the minds of the women she reported and is projected or transferred onto their mae peers? ie seeing and feeling bias when/where it does not actually exist out of their own insecurities or apprehension?

How does she factor this out of her data? By what method?

Feb. 13 2014 12:30 PM
sy from uws

though aware of 'realities' I'm wondering whether this book & discussion is nor supporting and propelling the endlessness maddening working hours, ethics, & politics rather than trying to change and heal it? join them if you can't win them?

Feb. 13 2014 12:30 PM
Christine Boese from Brooklyn

This is one of the best segments you've ever done! Wow, I just love this topic and the author!

And yes, I experience these kinds of biases ALL THE TIME in NYC tech community.

Feb. 13 2014 12:26 PM
paul from Jersey City

I'd be curious the division of harassment between race and gender with level of education?

Feb. 13 2014 12:26 PM

I was given a Deborah Tannen by a woman who I reported to at a new research job in 1995. I never got promoted to Managing Director like my boss did and I was let go after the firm downsized after many years. My job went to the CEO’s step son who wasn’t billing in the position he had when I was there.
Is there a NYC based empowerment center you can recommend?

Feb. 13 2014 12:26 PM

I had a female boss, a Ph.D. just a bit older than me, who was a real "ball buster" and known to be vicious in the workplace. At first, she gave me top reviews. Gradually, she got pickier and nastier, eventually becoming my nightmare. Instead of being a mentor to me, she effectively cut me off from becoming as effective as I could and rising higher in the organization. I wonder if she saw me as "competition."

Feb. 13 2014 12:20 PM

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