Stumped along the way

International Women’s day was celebrated across the globe yesterday (I was completely unaware until Google pointed it out!) However, it got me thinking. I started thinking about how the perception of women in terms of roles and capabilities can have real consequences for women in the workplace. I have recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s book entitled “Lean In” and she discusses a number of issues related to such gender issues. Although not necessarily directly influence by media, the perceptions of women as the main care giver in the home are reinforced throughout media displays. Those irritating ads show women cleaning, hoovering, preparing the family meal or happily minding the children are rampant.

Women Cleaning

And even when we the woman does leave the house it seems that shopping is the next stop shop (pardon the pun)

The influences of such ads really help in reinforcing the notion that we are the main care takers in the home and this is a widespread perception. Sheryl argues that upon leaving universities, men and women are on the same playing field. There is an equal spread of success right and both are competing for the same positions when graduating. However, usually this is as far as it goes for the woman. Women begin to get the message that they can either have a career or a family. Even a recent article by the ICEDR conducted interviews with some of the world’s most successful women in business. However, one such comment really encapsulates such notions of gender inequality that still exist in our society. Adele Guflo, Regional President of Pfizer stated the following:

Capture 2

The first few sentences really sum it all up. Why is it that the woman cannot have a very successful long term career and a family? Why is it that she must choose? It is not just a notion, it is a reality. Sheryl argues that this happens time and time again. For example, a law associate may decide not to shoot for partner because someday she hopes to have a family. From a young age women get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good mother. We are stumped in our tracks of becoming very successful in our careers.

Another factor which influences women into not reaching for the CEO role or the manager role can be explained by the Heidi/Howard study. I learned about this from reading Lean In. This study was conducted by Fank Flynn and New York University Professor Cameron Anderson. Basically, students read a bibliography about an individual and their career success. The individual had become a successful venture capitalist and had an impressive professional network. 2 groups read the story. ½ of the class read the story where the individual was named Heidi and the other half read the exact same story but the name was changed to Howard. The result was the both Heidi and Howard were respected but Heidi (even though the story was the same as Howard), Heidi was disliked as an individual. She was seen as selfish and not the kind of person that you would like to work for. Howard on the other hand was simply commended on his work ethic and a willingness to take risks.  Liked him. Disliked her. It all comes down to the stereotypical role we play. Because Heidi was a woman it is automatically thought that she should be a caregiver, she should be sensitive and a team player whereas it’s perfectly acceptable for the man to be career driven. Our preconceived perceptions about masculinity and femininity influence how we evaluate colleagues in the workplace.

A 2012 study found that when two individuals applied for a job via a CV/resume application, even though both had the exact same qualifications and experience, the hiring managers held the male colleague in a higher esteem.

Even though we have come a long way, it seems that women still cannot shake off the caricature stereotypes inflicted on us. Because of this we are negatively evaluated when traits such as competitiveness are displayed. Reaching for the top position for women has a number of battles that a male colleague simply won’t have to encounter.

Reading:

Sandberg, S. and Scovell, N. (n.d.). Lean in.

What about the boys?

My last two posts have mainly centered on just how females are poorly represented by the media and how society is influenced by this falsified version. So what about our male counterparts? Why is it that there is far less of a focus on males in advertising? Is advertising with males simply less prominent than it is with females? Are males influenced less by advertising?

air freshner advertiser
Photo Credit: The Atlantic: Available from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/body-image-pressure-increasingly-affects-boys/283897.

One such post on Adweek states how the objectification of men in advertising is nothing new. Icons such as the Old Spice man or the Marlboro man have been around for a very long time (AdWeek, 2015). Yet, more recently there has been an explosion in the often…shall we say…shirtless stud. These individuals are involved with everything from colognes to air fresheners. Yep, air fresheners. In the advertisement just here, really the model has been plonked in for no particular reason. Although many ad experts and social commentators see the whole thing as a harmless turning of the tables following decades of bikini-clad babes in beer commercials, I’m not quite sure its all that simple. Simply because men are now objectified more frequently than ever by the media could be wrongly seen as equality.However, this really isn’t the case. The real argument is how the media has become more of an equal opportunity discriminator. Men’s bodies simply are not good enough now either. This notion has been argued by “The Atlantic” which stated how; “In the face of the ideals they’re bombarded with, its no surprise that adolescent boys, like wave of girls before them, are falling prey to a distorted image of themselves and their physical inadequacies” (The Atlantic, 2014). Thus, it is now safe to say that the impact of such images are also having an impact and the impact of such is real. Recent research has found a significant relationship between men’s exposure to the muscular ideal portrayed by media and negative self-images. One again the effect that media can have on our own self-image and self-worth is really shocking. The correlation between the unrealistic ideal offered by the media and the real life impact it has on us is prominent here too. However, unlike their female counterparts, its not about getting skinny, its about bulking up.

Now more than ever, males are told that they need to be bigger to “fit” with the conformity of the muscular ideal. Research conducted found that up to 25% of normal weight males consider themselves to be underweight (McCreary and Sadava, 2001). Thus, media images have distorted our perceptions of reality and of what is normal.

Again, advertisers of all kinds have copped onto this notion and are preying on what we have come to accept as normal. Marketers are targeting an ever younger age group so as to rope them in. Figurines of action heroes, for example, have lost all fat but now carry a substantial six pack. Even action children s Halloween costumes have added padding to make them bigger (The Atlantic, 2014).The point is that from an ever younger age, males are getting the message that they will need to resemble such. It is also now more prominent in high schools according to The Atlantic. This article argues how a 2012 study conducted found that muscle enhancing foods like protein rich sports bars and protein shakes are “pervasive” amongst such a young age group.

Thus, it has become clear that the impact of media advertising is now having the same negative impact on males, just as it has done with females, and although almost catching up, the impact is the same. Adverts have an alarming amount of control on forming our “own” self-images and self-worth.

Readings:

AdWeek, (2015). Hunkvertising: The Objectification of Men in Advertising. [online] Available at: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/hunkvertising-objectification-men-advertising-152925 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2015].

The Atlantic, (2014). Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys. [online] Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/body-image-pressure-increasingly-affects-boys/283897/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2015].

McCreary, D. and Sadava, S. (2001). Gender differences in relationships among perceived attractiveness, life satisfaction, and health in adults as a function of body mass index and perceived weight.Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 2(2), pp.108-116.