By: Andie Kramer
In this inaugural column for Forbes.com on women, careers, and the workplace, I want to make clear from the outset that I do not believe women’s difficulties in advancing in their careers on terms comparable to men are because women are doing something wrong or lack some essential quality needed for business or professional success.
There is no empirical evidence that women lack confidence, are poor negotiators, are risk-averse, are overly burdened by domestic responsibilities or are mean to other women.
Yet we are told over and over again that if only women would “fix” themselves, they would be able to advance in careers as far and as fast as men. To this notion, I say “nonsense.”
Women are just fine the way they are. Indeed, women and men are not fundamentally different emotionally, intellectually or psychologically.
Sure, there are nonphysical differences between the sexes, but these differences are small, and there is more variation among women in temperament, ability and ambition than there is between women and men.
Nor are women’s and men’s attitudes toward families and career significantly different.And, there is no empirical evidence that women have more intense or frequent workplace conflicts with other women than men have with other men or than women and men have in working together.
As Catherine Tinsley and Robin Ely write in the Harvard Business Review, “on average, the sexes are far more similar in their inclinations, attitudes, and skills than popular opinion would have us believe.”
There are “sex differences in various settings, including the workplace—but those differences are not rooted in fixed gender traits.
Rather, they stem from organizational structures, company practices, and patterns of interaction that position men and women differently, creating systematically different experiences for them.”
I recognize it is hard to kill the idea that women and men are fundamentally different, with women best suited for caregiving and supportive roles and men best suited for challenging, leadership roles.
But claims of this sort are simply thinly disguised justifications to maintain the current workplace status quo – a status quo that is characterized by gender-biased hiring, evaluation and promotion practices and pervasive masculine norms, values and expectations.
If women and men behave differently in pursuing career advancement, it is not because they are inherently different, but because they experience the workplace in fundamentally different ways: men as a place of acceptance and support, women as a place where they are “others” lacking equal access to career-enhancing opportunities, resources and role models.
Focusing on how women need to be “fixed” to achieve career success draws attention away from the real problem: the different workplace dynamics women and men experience.
These different dynamics have far more to do with how women and men feel, act and aspire than any innate characteristics that differentiate women from men.
Therefore, in discussing the reasons women are not achieving the same overall career success as men, my focus will be on the nature of the workplace, not the nature of women themselves.
I will be writing about the stereotypes, biases and structural characteristics that lead to women’s systematic disadvantages in relation to men as they pursue career success and how these disadvantages can be dealt with.
While the primary thrust of what I will be writing will be women’s workplace struggles simply because they are women, I will also discuss the unique difficulties faced by women with distinctive social identities.
In talking about issues concerning gender and the workplace, it is easy to fail to recognize just how much tougher career advancement is for women who are not white, straight, able-bodied and under 40. I do not intend to make that mistake.
 Carol Tavris, Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex (New York: Touchstone, 1992); “Men and Women: No Big Difference,” American Psychological Association, October 20, 2005, https://www.apa.org/research/action/difference.aspx.
 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Men and Women of the Corporation (New York: BasicBooks, 1977), 161 (Emphasis in the original).
 Erin Rehel and Emily Baxter, “Men, Fathers, and Work-Family Balance,” Center for American Progress, February 4, 2015, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2015/02/04/105983/men-fathers-and-work-family-balance/.
 Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris, It’s Not You, It’s the Workplace: Women’s Conflict at Work and the Bias that Built It (Boston; Nicholas Brealey, 2019).
 Catherine H. Tinsley and Robin J. Ely, “What Most People Get Wrong About Men and Women,” Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018, https://hbr.org/2018/05/what-most-people-get-wrong-about-men-and-women
 Tinsley and Ely “What Most People Get Wrong.”