女性学者需要拥抱竞争

李顺英(Sun Young Lee)说,消除制度中的偏见或许尚不足以实现真正的性别平等

二月 27, 2020
Source: Getty

众所周知,在大多数(甚至所有)国家中,高层学术岗位中的女性人数不足。以英国为例,在商业和管理研究领域,仅有20%的资深学者为女性,而这一比例在学术界再常见不过。

许多学术机构已经对此有所反应,尝试在招聘和晋升环节减少偏见。例如,许多英国大学规定其人事委员会必须有至少30%的女性成员,而且很多大学为参与招聘或晋升决策的员工安排了多元文化和无意识偏见相关的培训课程。此外,该国的Athena SWAN性别平等倡议也鼓励高等教育机构雇用更多女性担任高级学术职位。

这些都是应当受推崇的举措,但是我所参与的一项研究表明,这可能还不够,因为偏见并不是全部。

我们在《动机与情感》(Motivation and Emotion)上发表的论文《关于竞争的信念:规模发展和性别差异》指出,通过努力改变对竞争价值的信念,女性可以帮助自己抓住更多的机会并向上发展。

过去的研究表明,由于女性所经历的进化和社会压力不同,比如“重男轻女”的社会秩序和女性的传统家庭角色,她们不如男性争强好胜。

为了深化对这个问题的理解,我与合著者探讨了男性与女性对竞争的观念是否可以解释他们对竞争的态度和行为——这些观念源于他们各自从孩童时期开始的竞争经历。举个例子,竞争可能会带来积极后果,比如提高绩效、发展个性以及促进创新性解决问题的能力。另一方面,它也可能导致负面后果,例如不道德行为、自信心下降和职场人际关系恶化等。

在涉及2331名参与者(女性占49%)的一组研究中,我们发现,尽管受访者对竞争负面后果的看法没有性别差异,但确实更少的女性会将积极后果归功于竞争。在以7为“完全同意”的李克特(Likert)量表上,男性得分为5.7,女性得分为5.2;但二者在统计上是不同的。此外,对竞争的看法不那么积极的女性也倾向于形容自己的竞争心不强,更重要的是,认为自己不愿去竞争。有意愿竞争的女性为21%,而男性为36%。

这些发现表明,即使在用人或工作决策方面几乎没有偏见存在,有资质的女性学者也有可能会选择放弃重要的升职机会,部分原因是她们不认为这种竞争过程会带来积极后果。比如说,一些英国大学已经发现,处于职场初期的女性员工在申请升职方面不如男性同事积极。

如果一位有出色学术研究背景的女学者因为不想显得“贪心”而放弃争取更高职位,或者认为升职对学术工作不是必需的,那么错失的机会不仅是影响个人收入潜力的问题:通过对杰出人才池设限,这也会损害学术机构和社会的发展。

那该怎么办呢?鉴于我们知道许多观念比人们自认为的更根深蒂固,我们建议,若从幼年时期开始就为女性提供更多机会来体验健康的竞争,比如竞技体育、国际象棋或辩论等,那么女性可能会更平衡地看待竞争。

当然,在这一点上,大学几乎没有什么能做的。但研究和流行实践也充分证明,对成年人展开培训也可以有效消除偏见和刻板印象,并促进积极行为。因此,学术机构在保持公平合理的人事制度结构以及培训决策者的同时,也可以考虑组织研讨会来教育其员工,尤其是女性员工,让她们理解健康竞争和职业发展能为组织和社会带来的广泛的积极影响。

通过为Athena SWAN项目所做的工作,我了解到一些英国大学已通过这种方式设法提高了女性在高级岗位中的比例。例如,这些机构开展仅限女性参加的“晋升工作坊”,甚至设置一对一辅导。这些活动不必太长,但需要定期进行,以传达积极的信息,即有效的女性职业发展能够让所有人受益,因为它能提高提高生产力、填补技能空缺并提升雇主声誉。

有些人对“从女性自身找问题”而不是从制度上找问题的性别平等倡议持批评态度。但这不是我们的建议。改进制度的努力当然应该继续进行。但是,如果辅之以旨在帮助女性对她们在制度中取得成功带来更积极的看法,那么这些倡议将能更加迅速地实现真正的平等。

李顺英系伦敦大学学院管理学院助理教授。

本文由Jing Liu为泰晤士高等教育翻译。

 

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Reader's comments (8)

On the other hand if we stopped men being so unthinkingly competitive we would also solve the problem. The unasked question is which solution is better for universities, their staff and students. The answer for everyone to behave like a man, is neither consistent with the ideals of Athen SWAN, not does it demonstrate a high level of academic analysis.
An article about competition as a force for good and equality advancements written by a highly competitive and status-aware woman, it seems, who has totally and thoroughly internalised the neoliberal and individualistic cool aid. Her remedy is more of the same, also for women, of the medicine which has created the mess in the first place (i.e. toxic academic working environments and practices due to hyper-competitive behaviours/incentives). Vacuous and shallow propaganda, like most of the "research" coming out of "leading" business schools.
The narrative undertaken by the author infantilizes women - don't stay in the kitchen if you can't take the heat.
I'm puzzled to know why the focus is always on senior academic and leadership positions, doesn't anybody else matter ? If you look at Professional Services staff data, where women are overrepresented in the bulk of the grades, what does this data say about recruitment policy and progression prospects for men ? Women only training initiatives might address an imbalance on the academic side of the business but worsen it everywhere else, particularly as demographic changes will change the problem ultimately anyway. If I'm a grade 4,5,6 or 7 Professional Services staff member, I may also have career aspirations, but not necessarily at an Institutional Leadership level and surely my access to training and promotion should not be determined by gender. There is also pay ineqaulity within gender which gets ignored whilst the focus is elsewhere. Similarly, why is there never an outcry about the conditions faced by cleaning and catering staff in the lowest grades (who are predominantly women) when improvements here could have life changing consequences ? Label based equality will always bring with it agendas and people fighting their own corners rather than for the good of the whole. Equal opportunity for everybody and some proper analytical research into the causes of the current disparity is desperately needed, not just sensationalist headlines or ill considered solutions.
I'm also aware that often women feel like they are 'tick boxes' on the staffing board (and because there's less of them, get asked more), so this also needs more thought.
I'm glad to see other readers have commented on the bias of assuming that the 'male' standard of more competition to enhance personal achievement is somehow inherently superior to a more collaborative approach and should be the goal of all in academia. Rather than assuming that everyone should be trying to emulate the competitive approach, perhaps we should be encouraging more men (and women and people in general) to strive for collaborative working to improve the academic work environment. Plus, as the author noted, societal pressures and domestic roles often limit how much women can compete in the workplace. Many women still face the double shift of doing their paid work and taking on the majority of their family's caring responsibilities. Until and unless equity is achieved in these social and domestic spaces and more attention is paid to 'fixing' the men's side of the equation, then I think continuing to take a 'fix women' approach and push women to take on more professional responsibilities and competition can only go so far. There was a nice opinion piece published in the New York Times a few months ago about some of these very issues: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/10/opinion/sunday/feminism-lean-in.html?fbclid=IwAR1z-SGeSnfvmLFl8ldEcjkhOLfQeVK9TKAbcc3J2rO56w6lv2o7RTNMJ_g. So, I'd say that rather than continuing to instruct women on what they can do to succeed in an academic system that was originally designed for men only, let's focus more on restructuring the system to one that is truly designed for everyone's success.
Great article. Sad that the comments are predictably ignorant and reactionary. Academia usually responds to new ideas by doubling down on orthodoxy these days. @coolMuon ('On the other hand if we stopped men being so unthinkingly competitive we would also solve the problem') That's ludicrous. There are thousands of graduate students and only a handful of academic jobs. This naturally leads to competition. Likewise with the small amount of professorships. If men win 'too many' of them, let's reprogram men to be less competitive. What about the benefits to society which 'male competitiveness' brings, including advances in science and other fields? If Roger Federer beats Andy Murray at tennis, do we need to respond by stopping Federer from 'being so unthinkingly competitive'? And how exactly do you stop someone from being competitive? Sounds rather totalitarian. @kay2 ('I'm glad to see other readers have commented on the bias of assuming that the 'male' standard of more competition to enhance personal achievement is somehow inherently superior to a more collaborative approach'). It's possible to be competitive and collaborative, so that's a false dichotomy. The idea that women are intrinsically more collaborative has been often debunked, e.g. Joyce F. Benenson, 'Rank influences human sex differences in dyadic cooperation' (2014). @An Academic Somewhere ('toxic academic working environments and practices due to hyper-competitive behaviours/incentives') For an academic with a permanent job, university life is not difficult. It is the only place in the world you are going to earn £40k+ with relatively little pressure and competition. Try investment banking. Or try one of those difficult jobs worked by men (and sometimes women) around the world for very little financial reward: e.g. becoming a taxi driver and waking up at 4AM each day to drive privileged academics to the airport for another pointless conference.
Seconding Chris Nemo here. Saying that one gender should essentially go away in order for the other to shine is not the solution. People in general- not only women- need to improve their behaviours in order for the overall situation to improve, instead of waiting for someone else to lower the threshold. It is actually pretty offensive to suggest otherwise.

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