October 24, 2011

142 legal secretaries surveyed and not one preferred working with a woman partner.

Why? Lawprof Felice Batlan elicited these comments:
• “Females are harder on their female assistants, more detail oriented, and they have to try harder to prove themselves, so they put that on you. And they are passive aggressive where a guy will just tell you the task and not get emotionally involved and make it personal.”

• “I just feel that men are a little more flexible and less emotional than women. This could be because the female partners feel more pressure to perform.”

• “Female attorneys have a tendency to downgrade a legal secretary.”

• “I am a female legal secretary, but I avoid working for women because [they are] such a pain in the ass! They are too emotional and demeaning.”

• “Female attorneys are either mean because they're trying to be like their male counterparts or too nice/too emotional because they can't handle the stress. Either way, their attitude/lack of maturity somehow involves you being a punching bag.”

• Women lawyers have “an air about them.”
The most obvious theme there is: emotion. It's the old: Women are more emotional. A secondary theme is: Women display the effects of the discrimination they've experienced. It's a complex mix, apparently.

Obviously, the secretaries' perspectives are subjective, and they themselves are women (95% of those surveyed were) so whatever is true of women — they're emotional/they're victims of discrimination — would, presumably, also be true of them.

106 comments:

Chip S. said...

Is it bad form to propose the McClintock Effect as a possible explanation for all this emotionalism in the office?

EDH said...

...I avoid working for women because [they are] such a pain in the ass! They are too emotional and demeaning.

"Welcome to the party, pal."

Peter said...

The issue is larger than law. Both men and women consistently say they prefer working for male bosses.

Of cousre, it's a generalisation. Any rational person would prefer a good female boss over a male boss-from-hell.

Yet, the generalization holds everywhere, not just in law firms.

So, shall we dismiss it as "people are bigoted," or is it worthlooking for root causes other than bigotry?

(Anecdotally, the complaint I hear is, "With many women, everything is personal. Men are better at depersonalizing work issues- it's not about you, it's about this piece of work that you did).

ricpic said...

"Detail oriented" is key. Makes delegating a task and then leaving the other person alone to do it almost impossible.

The Drill SGT said...

How about "these female secretaries have an easier time reaching a steady state superior/subordinate working relationship with a man" (e.g. they know how to manipulate men, they have practiced it for years... women bosses? that's harder. They don't fall for that BS.)

Althouse, I'm not saying a feminst has to like that answer, but....

Scott M said...

Why wouldn't these exact same issues crop up regardless of the setting, law or not? It was certainly true in the service.

ndspinelli said...

The addition of women doctors has been a great improvement in medicine by adding the counterbalance to what was a male dominant profession. The addition of women attorneys has not had that desired effect to the legal profession.

AllenS said...

You even have a Tag about this, it's called emotional Althouse.

Tim said...

"The most obvious theme there is: emotion. It's the old: Women are more emotional"...and: "Obviously, the secretaries' perspectives are subjective, and they themselves are women (95% of those surveyed were) so whatever is true of women — they're emotional/they're victims of discrimination — would, presumably, also be true of them."

Thank God other women said this of women, notwithstanding the discounting of the legal secretaries' assessment of women lawyers because the secretaries are themselves women; we can all imagine the outsized outrage had mere men voiced such opinions.

We'd never hear the end of it.

The Drill SGT said...

ndspinelli said...
The addition of women attorneys has not had that desired effect to the legal profession.


The complaint about male docs is that they dont emphasize and listen..

lawyers? its about the facts, not feelings, except that in some cases a female attorney can be better at trial...

used to date a female defense attorney. Her undergrad degree was in drama, no shit..

married a contracts attorney, (also female :)

just the facts Ma'am

Tim said...

Allen S said:

"You even have a Tag about this, it's called emotional Althouse.

Dude. Don't even go there.

You aren't qualified, lol!

wv: tylenuch: pain relief for eunuchs.

rhhardin said...

Men don't deal as much in grudges, suspicions, fears, needs, desires, and narcississtic postures.

This makes them easier to work for.

Shouting Thomas said...

Other possible explanation:

The social engineering ain't working.

Bender said...

We needed a survey to tell us these things???

Did ANYONE learn anything new here?

pm317 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

Jealousy of other women who are in the room must be in women's DNA.

Men are not smart enough to figure out the games the women are playing, but another woman has like infra-red radar that sees it.

Joe Schmoe said...

Can someone shed some light on a contradictory point that always comes up when discussing women in the workplace?

Women are unliked and criticized for emulating men and behaving like jerks. For some reason this is a turnoff in women but tolerated in men.

So, either men are likeable jerks or men aren't really jerks--but women climbing the professional ladder misinterpret some male behavior as being jerky and thus attempt to emulate it, failing miserably in the process, especially in interactions with other women.

Is this a canard, or an insolvable paradox that men can seemingly make work for them but women cannot? I'm leaning towards that men aren't really as jerky as business writers think we are.

Kirby Olson said...

I was a secretary (though not a legal secretary) for years, and wrote a novel about the experience (Temping). I didn't think women bosses were particularly worse than the male bosses. I sometimes really liked the women, and sometimes the men, and sometimes couldn't stand them. But it didn't have anything to do with their gender. Some women were delightful and had lots of things to say and were sympathetic. I couldn't say that gender determined someone's character.

Gender is like the bumps on your head in phrenology. I don't think it determines anything. Character is a matter of a person's spirit, which is particular and specific.

It's an individual thing like a sense of humor. I don't think it can be taught. Some people have developed it and use it, and some people don't have it. I like it better when people have a developed sense of humor, especially with regard to themselves.

edutcher said...

A female friend of mine where I last worked had an opportunity of managing the testers who worked with our group, but eventually decided not to because, since it was almost all women, she didn't want to deal with all that estrogen.

Her words.

Hagar said...

You do get a Larry Summers kind of thing with a few really outstandingly good female bosses, a few mediocre ones, and then, "Oh, man, let me out of here!"

Larry Summers did not know why, and neither do I, but there you are.

Amartel said...

"Men don't deal as much in grudges, suspicions, fears, needs, desires, and narcississtic postures."

Hahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahaaaaaaahahahahhahahhahahahahhaha
Hahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahaaaaaaahahahahhahahhahahahahhaha

Amartel said...

Hahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahaaaaaaahahahahhahahhahahahahhaha
hahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahaaaaaaahahahahhahahhahahahahhaha

AllenS said...

Our Founding Fathers were also aware of this emotional woman's thing. That's why they didn't want them to vote. We'd be better off if we went and got rid of Amendment XIX.

Tank said...

Too late Allen.

50% of the men in this country vote like women now.

AllenS said...

I've got an answer to that one, Tank. Let only men who own property vote.

Dan in Philly said...

Women who become law partners have bought into a world view in which there may be little room for respect for women who have not made such sacrifices. Thus, they tend to denegrate those who cannot or will not try to compete with the men in the world, and that kind of scorn rubs off in every action.

Male lawyers are more likely to respect the contributions of such women as they are more likely than most to be married to such a woman, and can see and respect the contribution such women make to the world, they can respect the choices and abilities of such women more than female partners.

I wonder if male secretaries expereince such a thing in reverse?

Amartel said...

Man, thank YOU for cheering me up. That was good.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that a lot of women do not want to work for another woman and will never, ever, get with that program. If you don't have the right attitude, it's not going to work under any circumstances. She could be the best boss in the world but there will always be something wrong. I used to work for a woman boss, decent boss, and I saw this happen over and over to her.

kwood said...

It's the old: Women are more emotional.

Can't possibly be true. I'm sure those female legal secretaries are just being hysterical. Typical!

A secondary theme is: Women display the effects of the discrimination they've experienced. It's a complex mix, apparently.

So they're not being unfair to their subordinates, but rather just helplessly 'displaying the effects of the discrimination they've experienced'?

It's not clear to me what's being said here.

Kensington said...

I've been working as a legal secretary for about twenty years and have temped at pretty every major law firm in NYC (and tons of the minor ones, too).

The vast majority of attorneys I've worked for have been pretty decent people, men and women. The women were no worse than the men, and by virtue of sometimes being hot, they've even been preferable at times.

The point is, gender has never been a reliable predictor of whether someone was going to be a good boss or not.

That said, it's possible that my experience is skewed by the fact that I'm a man. Maybe the women found me unthreatening by virtue of being a "mere" secretary and so felt free to be nicer to me than they might have been toward a woman.

I dunno.

d-day said...

Maybe it's just that only the truly heinous bitches make partner. Do women who are decent human beings have the same partnership opportunities as the decent men?

kwood said...

...but I am not one to do that especially if the other is an inconsiderate bully. Who or what should change here?

Have faith in yourself and your own judgement. It's good to stand your ground once and a while and make a scene, especially when it involves the sanctity and good feeling of your home.

There's few things I despise more than a bad guest. A bad waiter, maybe.

Kensington said...

By the way, I think the headline is slightly misleading, since slightly less than half of the secretaries surveyed had no preference whatsoever.

Also, I should admit that my experience has been more with associates than partners. The biggest assholes were always partners. There weren't many, and most partners were decent human beings, but the assholes were almost always partners.

DADvocate said...

Where I work, in a non-legal firm, I've found more often women are more detailed oriented than men, sometimes to the point of OCD. Yet, they'll miss something rather obvious in the logic of a survey, a forest for the trees effect. This does seem to be more common in the newer employess who are trying to prove themselves and not mess up.

kwood said...

The women were no worse than the men, and by virtue of sometimes being hot, they've even been preferable at times.

Now imagine a female legal secretary who's a fair bit hotter than her female boss. Feelings could be a bit more complex (or not).

With a male subordinate, the female boss can always enjoy a bit of power over a male. If he's attracted to her a bit, so much the better, because there's no real danger of his coming on to her and making things uncomfortable. She's in the driver's seat and holds his job in the balance, and he knows it and will always gauge his behavior accordingly.

A female subordinate, on the other hand, is either a positive or negative reflection of herself. Either one will be irritating and is likely to received a fair amount of flack.

WHAT TO DO: As a female legal sec, hire on with a female lawyer for your first gig or two. You'll suffer but learn a lot in short order. Save the better pay and more comfortable job for later after you've beefed up your resume and have something (experience) you can really show for it.

Turn every negative into a positive if you can.

G Joubert said...

It's not just lawyers. As my spouse climbed the golden ladder in her 40-year career in the corporate world, passing through first-line management, middle management, and into senior management, women bosses she had along the way were by far her greatest vexation. The fact of the matter is as bosses women treat other women nastily. And to be honest, my spouse's biggest challenges as a manager came from women she oversaw, many of whom regarded her as a difficult boss. We discussed this subject many times over those 40 years.

Why? That's the question. I don't know about "emotion" per se, but there is something about the way women relate to each other in the world at large and the boss-subordinate roles that clash. In this case, 142 out of 142 compellingly makes that case.

ALH said...

What a bunch of sexist pigs!

Larry J said...

My wife is a nurse, a profession that's about 90% female dominated. She has told me countless times that she prefers working with and for men. She says that women tend to tear each other down and backstab one another. To me, it sounds like they've never matured past middle school.

My daughter-in-law is a lawyer with two younger sisters. When she was pregnant with our grandchildren, she said that she hoped the children would be boys because "girls are too much drama." Fortunately, she had two sons (I was hoping for a girl).

TMink said...

Human beings are all victims of discrimination.

And yet, we plug along just fine.

Trey

holdfast said...

I think Dan in Philly has a really good point - a lack of respect for other women who didn't make the sacrifices and kick the ass that they did, probably combined with envy that the secretary gets to go home at 5pm to see her kids, while lawyer is stuck in the office.

gutless said...

They are both females and attorneys. Case closed.

alwaysfiredup said...

Law firms are often extremely sexist environments. Women can also be extremely sexist, just as often as men. I believe women have trouble getting along in an environment that was designed for masculinity in attorneys/masters and femininity in secretaries/servants. A masculine woman is widely regarded as a b!tch and a feminine woman is widely regarded as incompetent, after all. These are not just chauvinist views, they are our society's views. The incompetent logically hates the b!tch as much as the b!tch hates the incompetent.

It would be better if we all appreciated each other for our actual talents instead of how we stack up to the next guy, but most law firms are hypercompetitive environments. There's a reason most female attorneys quit BigLaw before making partner. You have to wonder about the biases of the subsample that remains.

edutcher said...

What Allen said.

Both of them.

Paul said...

Let's see...how long have hominids walked the earth? And what were the roles that fostered survival for both the males and females for more than 99% of that time? How would those patterns of behavior affect the actual biological makeup of the genders? How much of that can really be changed by the conscious effort of social engineering? What are the unintended consequences of said social engineering?

Fighting human nature has been the Left's Quixotic battle since its inception. It's high time we put an end to their folly and its grusome record of human catastrophe.

Freeman Hunt said...

I heard that on the MBTI, 60% of women, versus 40% of men, score as F's. F for Feeling rather than T for Thinking. So it may be technically true that women, as a population, are more emotional than men.

However, that was not the case in the office where I worked. The men were much more emotional, conniving, and gossipy than the women. Social dynamics vary from office to office.

Individuals vary wildly.

How about "these female secretaries have an easier time reaching a steady state superior/subordinate working relationship with a man" (e.g. they know how to manipulate men, they have practiced it for years... women bosses? that's harder. They don't fall for that BS.)

I do think that there is a kernel of truth in this. That dynamic is almost certainly at work with some of the surveyed secretaries. A great number of men turn into big puddles of melted wax around attractive women. Too bad; it makes those men stupid.

There's also probably a kernel of truth in the secretaries' claim that the female partners felt more pressure to perform and so passed that stress onto their subordinates. It's easy to see how that might happen.

Freeman Hunt said...

One also has to keep in mind that the population of partners is self-selecting. Women are far more likely than men to stay home with children, making a law partnership unlikely. Thus, the men who are partners in law firms may correlate more closely with the general population of men, while the women who are partners in law firms may be much farther out on the achievement driven end of the spectrum. It would not be surprising to find that a more achievement driven person was a harder driver of his employees.

Freeman Hunt said...

The point is, gender has never been a reliable predictor of whether someone was going to be a good boss or not.

I agree.

The Crack Emcee said...

These are all the same reasons I'm not dating,...

The Macho Response

Jose_K said...

My mother, a constituional law schoolar , and my aunt, the head of a advertising agency, told me the same about been booses to a woman. I wrote it at a blog and in the same moment someone fired in rage where is the evidence?. There is.
My aunt said: if she told a man please, go and do that, he did it.She told a woman: please go and do that. One hour latter, she asked where is?. So she say go "###! and bring me that. And finally, she got it. His husband who cochaired the office asked both men and women something and he was obbeyed.

bagoh20 said...

Now imagine having that female boss 24/7.

This is why marriage is so likely to fail today. Long ago men were the boss at home. No, really, it's true. Look it up.

bagoh20 said...

You have to be deeply in denial to not see these differences in the sexes as obvious. Of course not 100%, but it's like saying dogs and cats are the same. Sure there are some of each that act like the other, but generally, and overwhelmingly, cats are harder to train.

bagoh20 said...

The majority of my friends are female, and in their various endeavors they are constantly making the point to me that with females, drama is a major pain in the ass trait that few men share.

Men know it, women know it, children know it. It takes a university education to convince one otherwise.

Paul said...

"Men know it, women know it, children know it. It takes a university education to convince one otherwise."

Well said.

PatCA said...

Right, Shouting Thomas. When a man takes on the traditional role of boss and works with a woman content in her position as assistant, and they're both happy, that's called "human nature" or balance.

Men and women are not exactly the same but for genital detail. A wiser approach might be to conduct studies on how women bosses should behave to overcome this difficulty.

And why is a legal secretary somehow "less than" by this researcher? Everyone has a boss--the lawyer has a client to answer to as well.

David said...

Also the female lawyers are awfully difficult to manipulate with a pretty smile. I'm sure there's some of that too, though the female secretaries might not want to admit it and some might not even recognize what is going on.

This survey would also be more convincing if they gave you some idea of the relative power of the female lawyers. My experience was that many secretaries preferred to work for a boss who had a high level of power in the firm, male or female.

The female lawyers in my large firm were mostly levelheaded and decent. A few were batshit crazy, but so were some of the men. It just manifested differently.

Joe Schmoe said...

So it sounds like women bosses can be hard because they have a pathological bitchiness to their female coworkers and subordinates.

I guess it's NOT because they are trying--and failing--to behave like men.

Good to know.

AllenS said...

This is somewhat related, but, you know, there is a reason that Christie Brinkley has been married so many times, and I don't think that it's been the men that she marrieds fault.

Crack, dating is great, just don't marry them. What's wrong with you?

Steve Koch said...

I've heard over and over that women tend to not like women bosses. It might be that male bosses tend to be a bit paternalistic toward female subordinates. On a message board, for example, I tend to be much gentler in responses to a female poster than to a male poster.

I also have to say that women tend to be more emotionally erratic than men, especially when the hormones are running high.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I've heard this for 20 years in publishing, advertising, food service, photo industry, etc. My female friends almost uniformly dislike working for women for the stated reason. My male friends never mention it. Just last week I had drinks with a woman who works as a designer at a huge publishing company. Just before her first sip: "My boss is such a bitch!".

I'm man who has had female bosses for maybe 75% of my career; I have a slightly different perspective. Most of my female managers were professional and drama free- with me. Their relationships with my female coworkers was sometimes a different story. I have seen female bosses struggle with junior female employees- they try to be friends, to be sisterly, etc. Usually the employees put up with it or actively resent it, or try to manipulate the situation in their favor. The men just ignored all of this. I’ve been subject to some of the emotional drama these women complain about but I’ve dated enough crazy women to know how to deal with it.

Keep in mind the industries that I've worked in are heavily female-dominated. The bosses I mentioned worked for other women who reported to women VPs. There was no straining to be macho or beat the boys at their own game or smash glass ceilings. This is how the women, (many in their 20's and 30's who have never experienced overt workplace sexism) chose to conduct their careers and their professional lives. Like Mean Girls.

ALP said...

I was a paralegal for 10 years. I have worked with an equal number of crazy men and crazy women lawyers,

I would describe female lawyers as being more complex, rather than more emotional. Men are easier to figure out and, as a support person, part of your job is figure out what your boss needs before they do. That's tougher working for women.

Finally, I would say women are more easily offended - I am more relaxed working for male lawyers as I am more confident they have tougher skins. For example, as an Italian-American, I feel that I can use words like "Guido" without getting stink eye in return - like I did from my female boss who was very put off by the word - very little sense of humor (or never had a true "Guido Come-on" experience). Female lawyers are offended easily - male lawyers let it roll off their backs. Its as if they went into the legal profession to ensure NOBODY EVER GOT THEIR LITTLE FEELING HURT - EVER!

Jaske said...

Obviously, anything stated after this word is opinion.

Obviously, Ann knows this since she used it to end her post. It's like a politician having a soundbite.

new york said...

Ann,
I noticed that you have a dedicated following of mean spirited bigots. Is that why you would post something this disgusting, just to give them some place to vent?

George said...

"Women display the effects of the discrimination they've experienced."

No women are not doing that. Women really are as the article describes. It's time to accept reality for what it is and not for what liberals wishes it were.

Steve Koch said...

New York,

That was a hurtful comment. You should remember that people that post here, just like people all over the world, are products of the unique societal forces that shaped them. Here at Althouse we try to be supportive and positive and empathetic to our fellow posters, even when we disagree.

Dark Eden said...

Maybe I'm just lucky but I've had three or so female bosses and they've all been very level headed and pragmatic. Not one of them has fit this stereotype.

Bumsurf said...

I forwarded this to my daughter, who is a first-year associate with a major firm in a big city (nuff said). I bet she takes a look at the subject line, deletes the message, muttering to herself, "I don't have time for this crap!"

Bruce Hayden said...

Something touched on, but maybe needing a bit more...

Females tend to be relational, while males more positional. Meaning that males quickly and invariably end up in a hierarchy, and most everyone knows their place in it. Sure, after the hierarchy is in place, they may jockey for position, but most often to move up a position or two, and not for big jumps in position (and therefore prestige and power).

Women tend to build relationships with others, and, in particular, other women. These are somewhat peer-to-peer, as contrasted with male superior/inferior relationships.

Now, imagine a female attorney and her female secretary. If the attorney treats the secretary as superior giving orders to inferior, feelings are hurt, etc. So, she tries the relationship approach - but then the secretary is allowed by that paradigm to talk back. Somehow they are supposed to get to some goal defined by the attorney, without hurting the feelings of the other women involved.

So, everyone calls the women who give orders like a man bitchy, because she isn't respecting the self-worth of the women being ordered around, and is not open for a consensus solution. But the women expect men to act this way - that is just how men are.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why is medicine different?

Not sure it is, but have heard that female collegiality in the operating theater is more pleasant than the dictatorial way that many male surgeons seem to operate.

But, I can't help but think that some times in the medical field, having a female boss isn't sometimes worse, for the reasons that I suggested for the legal field.

Eddie said...

A couple of thoughts:

1. I think men are more at ease with hierarchy, even if they are ambitious to move up the hierarchy. This likely makes being in a hierarchy less stressful for them and the ones they work with. Males are more likely to be combative, but also find it easier to reconcile their differences. This is seen in chimpanzees too. Basically, women have trouble forgiving others.

2. It may also be harder to have a female boss because I think we react differently to the anxiety of a woman than we do to the anxiety of a man. A woman's anxiety is like noise to me. That's not her fault, and maybe not mine either.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me rephrase my previous post:

So, everyone calls the women who give orders like a man bitchy, because she isn't respecting the feelings and self-worth of the women being ordered around, and is not open for a consensus solution. But the women expect men to act this way - that is just how men are.

That is one of those places where males and females tend to differ - women are much more willing and likely to respect the feelings of other women. It is part of relationship building. But that doesn't work as well, when one person is in a position to give orders, and the other in the position of having to take those orders.

Added to that, that the female attorney is under a lot of pressure to not fail because of her gender. She is not about to go to the male lawyers and try to tell them that she failed at her job because one of her secretaries was having her period, and another just broke up with her boyfriend. The women below her expect her to care about these things, while the males at her level or above expect her not to.

Bruce Hayden said...

1. I think men are more at ease with hierarchy, even if they are ambitious to move up the hierarchy. This likely makes being in a hierarchy less stressful for them and the ones they work with. Males are more likely to be combative, but also find it easier to reconcile their differences. This is seen in chimpanzees too. Basically, women have trouble forgiving others.

I think that this is correct, and, as I pointed out above, males naturally rank themselves in a hierarchy. But, I would go further, and suggest that they are more comfortable being in one, and knowing their position in it, than not. Knowing where they stand in relationship to the other males (and now females).

glenn said...

I'm thinking the problem here is the worker not the boss. Sorry guys and gals, the boss is supposed to be detail oriented and you are supposed to get the details right. Every manager in my company who was my age or older was detail oriented. Male or female. 6 of us retired within about a 3 year period and the company went C11 5 years later. But I'm sure there was no connection. Just headwinds or bad luck or something.

new york said...

and what is it, Mr. Koch, that frightens you about being 'supportive and positive and empathetic ' ?

ZorroPrimo said...

It's that old "women are more emotional..."

Hello! Clue #1 coming in for a landing!

Mariposa said...

The woman partner is a reminder to the female legal secretary of all that the secretary has not accomplished, but perhaps might have. Resentment of the boss and thinking you are smarter than the boss is common regardless of gender. But the female secretary working for a man can feel better about herself because after all she is working for a man and deep down she feels that men are superior to women.

I worked as a paralegal for 25 years and did not find many work-related differences among lawyers based on gender. The most difficult person to work for is the totally disorganized lawyer, brilliant, but basically incompetent (can't make deadlines, doesn't read the mail, doesn't return calls), and I found this trait more often with men than with women.

Also sometimes difficult to work with were female secretaries/assistants, who resented reporting to a female with more education,knowledge and experience than them.

Steve Koch said...

New York,

Nothing frightening about it (what a strange assumption on your part) but your comments certainly weren't 'supportive and positive and empathetic', were they?

Althouse did not invent the survey, she just linked to it. If you don't like the data, should you just hide it or blast as politically incorrect anybody who discusses it? How lefty of you.

It's like your frightened of the truth.

gbarto said...

I've spent most of my working life in education. Very often, there's a disconnect because the managers started as educators and so they act the way they perceive that managers act, whereas people in the business world are actually much less rigid and much more empathetic if it creates an environment where things get done with less grumbling. I suspect there's a similar problem here: It's a manager's job to figure out what role to play in order to create an environment where people get things done, preferably while still feeling like coming to work the next day. Doing this does not require figuring out how to be a good manager for other women when you are a female manager. It does require figuring out how you can leverage your personal strengths and weaknesses to set a tone where you can naturally manage in a way that works for you and your people. Male managers have to do this too. If they're lousy at it, they wash out.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

A major technique for exerting power for females is to be dissatisfied. Thus the cliche that women expect you to just know what they want without them telling you. The fact is that they actually don't want you to know. As long as you don't know, you can't give it to them, and thus you owe them something. Often they don't even want anything, they just want you to think they do. This sucks for a husband or other subordinate employee position.

homo Ĺ“conomicus said...

Meanwhile over at jezebel.com they've figured out that it's actually the secretaries' fault.

"Deviating from the woman-serves-man script may unconsciously displease employees — it may even stress them out. This kind of leaves ladybosses up a creek..."

http://jezebel.com/5852863/legal-secretaries-would-rather-not-work-for-lady-lawyers?popular=true

Milwaukee said...

Hey Bruce: Females tend to be relational, while males more positional.

Absolutely. Men define themselves by what they do: tinker, tailor, soldier, spy; while women tend to define themselves by their relationships: daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife.

Huge difference. Ever wonder why so many elementary schools for years had male principals with many female teachers?

All female cattle herds will develop one cow who acts like the lead bull. I forget the name for her, maybe Dairy State Ann can help us.

Hey New York: don't you need to go occupy something and bang on a drum or something?

Milwaukee said...

The expression is Didn't your mother ever teach you to come in out of the rain? Dads don't teach that. Maybe female lawyers don't either. But moms do.

Women make much better moms than men. They are more likely to help with a hug and cookie. Children also need a dad to say something like "Well, you really screwed up big time now. How you gonna fix this mess?" Different critters.

But, there is nothing like a dame:
Lots of things in life are beautiful, but brother,
There is one particular thing that is nothin' whatsoever
In any way, shape or form like any other.

There is nothin' like a dame,
Nothin' in the world,
There is nothin' you can name
That is anythin' like a dame!

Nothin' else was built the same,
Nothin' in the world
As the soft and wavy frame
Like the silhouette of a dame!

There is absolutely nothin' like a frame of a dame.

So suppose a dame ain't bright
Or completely free from flaws,
Or as faithful as a bird dog,
Or as kind as Santa Claus,
It's a waste of time to worry
Over things that they have not,
We're thankful for the things they got!

Retired Prosecutor said...

Before I retired, I worked as a criminal prosecutor for thirty years, for much of that time in a large state’s attorney general’s office. Our secretaries were part of a separate legal support division and as they grew in experience had some ability to choose which attorneys they worked for. Time after time, many of those with seniority would absolutely refuse to work for most of our women attorneys. And there were several times -- when my intervention was necessary -- when a secretary was in tears and on the verge of resignation. I cannot explain the reasons why, and would not even try to divine them, I just know that it was an ongoing and persistent management issue that continues there today.

YoungHegelian said...

@Milwaukee,

Knock. knock.
Who's there?
Sam and Janet.
Sam and Janet who?
Sam and Janet Evening....

It's really funnier when you can sing the last line.

Really.

It is.

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jamboree said...

I have never met anyone who enjoys working for attorneys, EVER, in any capacity, male or female.

Most of the legal secretaries are women. If they work for a guy it is traditional; there is a distance. It would suck and be demeaning, but in a hidden way. It mirrors traditional male/female relationships. The sec being the organizer that likes to think she controls the gig, if ppl only knew the truth, just like a wife.

If it's a woman, it's out in the open. It's transparent. The assistant is a loser. The attorney outranks the assistant and it pisses her off. End of. From there, the assistant looks for reasons she prefers the guy, but the real reason is the obvious one.

I got along well with my assistant, but I was frankly STUNNED that she could stand being an assistant. She, however, was a really mellow person who two little kids at home and could not handle being more than an asst at that point.

When I have been in the underling position, I either left, got fired, or if I absolutely had to stay for the $$$, it was just pain management -thought by excruciating thought. I did zen. I did God, I pretended to be in the military, but Lord how I hated it. I succeeded in not taking it out on the person involved, however, because it wasn't personal.

Maybe they should research the dental profession. I find female dentists/oral surgeons, etc. really get along with their assistants and work together seamlessly. It's a totally different vibe from male dentists and their assistants.

jamboree said...

And in case anyone needs reminding, women have only really had a few generations where they had to accept hierarchical direction from other women (or men outside their own family for that matter). Historically, the female hierarchy is all about what you look like and who your man is, or your kids are, and what status (or lack thereof) that gives you. None of those things are particularly under your control. You are not personally blamed for being on the low end of the hierarchy in the same way a guy is. It is considered an unfortunate instance of bad luck and/or bad genes. Add to that the near-universality of the motherhood experience buffering the remaining rough edges.

ignatzk said...

Obviously, the secretaries' perspectives are subjective...

Huh? From what perspective can any individual's be considered otherwise?

After working at the University, I can tell you the matriarchy has no special insight into the noumenal realm, or anything else.

jayemarr said...

I'm tired of hearing about women "acting like men" when what people actually mean is that they act like assholes. Sure, some men act like that -- but so do a lot of women, or we wouldn't be having this conversation.

DWPittelli said...

I don't think that women could be socially harder to deal with than men, and women have more friends than men, in my experience. Thinking anthropologically, perhaps it matters that women often worked together doing things (raising children, gathering food, farming) where hierarchy and discipline were not needed much between them, but only with respect to children. Men, however, while hunting or dealing with security / warring, needed essentially absolute discipline to a team leader. Men may be better at subordinate and leader roles, while women do better in, and prefer, egalitarian roles, and are more emotional about hierarchies. On a related note, feminists certainly seem to have an obsession with consensus and hearing everyone, while men's groups usually want quicker decisions made.

Lee said...

Computer software engineer. Been in the work force since 1980. Had men bosses and women bosses. One of the best bosses I had was a woman, early in my career, a happily-married family woman who was a hard worker and a crackerjack programmer. I've had great bosses who were men, too.

Had two bosses who were remarkable in their awfulness. Both were awful in their own way. One was a man who loved to analyze his employees and exploit their psychological vulnerabilities. The other was a woman who had more than her own share of vulnerabilities. Suffered with the bad man-boss for eight years and somehow made a go of it. Could only tolerate the bad woman-boss for a year, had to move on.

An ancient woman from the Virginia hills, the great aunt of my sister-in-law, said it as well as anyone I've ever known: "A bad man is mean, but a bad woman is evil." A bad man-boss will make the workplace into a living hell, but a bad woman-boss will make you her special project.

Dennis said...

There was a time when I would have considered Alan's comments wrong, but as we suffer more and more from the "tyranny of the leech" I find myself more in agreement.
It used to be when one saw a successful person the question they asked themselves was, "How can I be like that person?" Now it is how can I find ways to take that person's success away?
When working, before retirement, I tried to ensure that I never allowed myself to be a lone with a woman at work. You just could not trust them. Honor is not a word women seem to be conversant with.

newscaper said...

Funny how you can say "women are more in touch with their feelings", to approving nods all around for female superiority -- but suggesting as a corollary that it also means that women just might tend to be driven more by their emotions is heretical.

boxingalcibiades said...

Emotional internalization of events is hardly a chauvinist stereotype. Every coach knows you supervise men differently than you do women.

Coach looks at athletes, says "oh my god you're raping my art!"
Guy hears: Your kungfu sucks!
Gal hears: You suck!

motionview said...

All these hard to work for woman bosses sound a lot like Steve Jobs.

E.M. Davis said...

However, I must say there is nothing better than working with a no-nonsense, check emotions at the door woman.

veni vidi vici said...

A bunch of female secretaries call out their female attorney bosses as being emotionally overwrought, and now that's a sign of the patriarchic oppression of womyn, too? Bullshit to all, and to all a good dump on the loo.

Perhaps this whole "women are in the aggregate more captive to their emotions than men" thing actually, *gasp*, has an element of observable truth to it. Unbelievable!!!

Instead of square-pegging all the round holes in this idiocy of "gender discourse", why not take realities of difference into account and work with/around them, as appropriate, instead? Either that, or let's have more intercourse, less discourse...

I tire of social scientists' justifying their research grant monies by determining to "prove" matters of centuries-old commonsense that are plainly observable in most instances.

Kris said...

It's the same in advertising whether I was an assistant of a full copywriter, my female bosses were absolutely dreadful to work for. My take was that most of them felt that if they had to work (and have no life) then so did I, or if they had to work while raising a family, etc. then so did I. That my lifestyle choices might be different only made them nastier.

Bruce Hayden said...

I noticed that you have a dedicated following of mean spirited bigots. Is that why you would post something this disgusting, just to give them some place to vent?

Well, maybe a little. Gets her number up, high enough to be #1 in lawprof blogs.

But, from your other posts, I noticed that you appear to uncritically accept the reigning liberal groupthink.

There are a lot of real problems in this world, and uncritically accepting that there are not, is just sticking your head in the sand.

In this case, there is a real problem. We have the interaction between a male hierarchical industry and females moving into power positions in it. Some of us, including Ann, have spent many years around or in that industry.

I would suggest that the reason that you consider the rest of us bigots is that we do not buy into political correctness, as you most likely do. There are some topics that are verboten to discuss, and the differences between males and females is one of the big ones - as evidenced by what happened to the very liberal Larry Summers when he spoke out on it.

Aurelian said...

Women are emotional? This is new?

Bruce Hayden said...

Why is this subject so acute in the practice of law?

I would suggest because one of the big things about the practice of law is that winning is the big thing. Winning cases. Winning clients. Etc. When the chips are down, clients hire the attorneys they think are most likely to win. And, that, to a great extent, means the ones who are willing to kill their parents (and sacrifice their legal secretaries) to win the case.

The profession is, by its very nature, extremely hierarchical. And, that means that it is organized on a male model.

On the other hand, women have been flooding into the profession. The constitute about half the LS grads, and likely more than that of the top grads (at least if who my firm hired as summer and new associates is any indication). The women do just fine, until they get into the dog eat dog world of big-law, where some of the biggest money is made (the part of litigation where the biggest money is made is even more alien to women).

So, you have a lot of women graduating from law school, and in many cases, at or near the tops of their classes, finding that they just don't fit in.

Maybe the practice will change enough so that these women can fit in better. But, personally, having lived around lawyers all my life, and having worked for a relatively big firm, I don't think it will be soon.

Not that all women cannot make it, because many do (and I know a number of great female attorneys) - but rather, that the profession is more comfortable and conducive for men than women. And, when push comes to shove, having your legal secretary protecting your back can be the thing that determines whether and to the extent you will succeed in that business.

Maggie said...

Hi Professor Althouse,

I worked for a law firm for three years as a legal/accounting assistant before returning to school to finish my Bachelor's degree. I am now in grad school. It is difficult working for attorney's of either sex, at least that is what I learned from my own individual experience. What I would like to see is law schools teaching future lawyers a thing or two about the ethics of the work place like how to treat your employees as fellow professionals. I think for some law firms, the relationships between attorneys and their staff is strained because of a perceived disparity in intelligence versus education levels. I am not saying this is true for all law firms, but it does exist. Let's face it...some attorney's just believe they are smarter than their staff and therefore treat their staff cruelly.

Doc Rampage said...

What strikes me as odd is the number of comments that say women resent their female bosses for their success, or otherwise suggest that people lower in the hierarchy feel like failures for not being higher in the hierarchy.

Of course, there are climbers --we all know some, but they are fairly rare. Most of the people I've known --male or female-- have been relatively unconcerned with their own position in the hierarchy. I can't believe that is a big factor in this.

edgeofthesandbox said...

That's what they said. But honestly, I was a paralegal, and I preferred working with men because, even if they were my bosses, I felt I can exert some sort of power over them by the virtue of being a woman.

James said...

Is the possibility that the responses weren't primarily or significantly sexist simply discarded out of hand? Are there underlying facts that could help determine this?

More importantly, are the analysts/investigators more interested in finding out the truth, or confirming their biases?

David said...

Bruce Hayden..."Why is this subject so acute in the practice of law? I would suggest because one of the big things about the practice of law is that winning is the big thing."

But winning is also the big thing in sales, and I've known many female sales managers who have no problem at all working with their female, as well as their male, employees.

Michelle said...

I just don't think so, since I've known women who are working and still they are able to take care of their families. Famous women in business http://womeninbusiness.doobizz.com/entrepreneurial-women/2012/01/famous-women-in-business/557/, already know what to do, right?