Insights into the forces shaping our industry.

Gender Stereotypes from age 6, Perpetuated in the Electrical Industry

Industry Commentary

Did you see the NBC News story “Girls May See Boys as Smarter starting at age 6” this summer? I did, and it really struck a chord with me. []

The news story was based on the research of two psychology professors (Lin Bian and Andrei Cimpian) and a philosophy professor (Sarah-Jane Leslie) who authored the paper “Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests,” which was published in Science magazine this past January. Their findings were that girls before age five saw themselves as really smart, but at age six and beyond, girls start viewing boys as smarter than they are. []

I couldn’t believe it—age six! As a woman and mother of a five year-old daughter, I was speechless. As a recruiter, I see gender differences in the work place all the time, but didn’t know it started so early.

For example, when I call people about a position I’m looking to fill, I get very different responses from potential recruits, depending on whether I’m talking to a man or woman. Men will regularly tell me why they are qualified for the position, even if they are missing most of the requirements for the position. Women, however, will only tell me they are qualified if they meet nearly all of the posted requirements.

Another example: I have also tracked all of the offers I’ve extended over the past nine years, and men generally ask for more money than women do. From my own records, I did some math and when it came to making job (and salary/benefits) offers, men negotiated for a better offer 48% of the time, while the women I’ve dealt with only did so 32% of the time. Why is that, exactly? Are women more conditioned to just take what they are offered?

And of those people that asked for something better, 76% of the men got what they asked for, versus only 57% of the women. And that’s 57% of the 32%. In other words, a very small number of women were given better than their original offer.

This discrepancy plagues women from the time they are little girls, and it just seems to stick in their heads. Not just their heads, but also the people hiring women. There are some closely held notions that need to be abolished. We need to start having the important conversations about how to attract, retain and advance women in this industry.

Brooke Ziolo

President / Executive Recruiter | Lighting | Lighting Design | Lighting Controls