In her article, Meers explains that women, including tenured professors and leaders in business, medicine, and law, have a tendency to follow societal standards, which put them in positions where they are overlooked or dismissed. Meers explains, women professionals tend to:
... tilt our heads and smile encouragingly because we've been socialized to think this is the polite thing to do. And we wait patiently for our turn to speak. And don't retaliate when interrupted.As a result, we lose our voices in the discussion and the value which comes with a different perspective or, in some cases, the correct analysis. Thus, it is we women who perpetuate the norms which cause unhappiness and tension between men and women and cause inefficiency in the work place, when women cannot forcefully offer their opinions and solutions. To alleviate this tension, Meers suggests that women act more like men by being aggressive and taking control.
Meers article offers compelling ideas and solutions to women being overlooked in the workplace, including the idea that to be heard you have to demand an audience and the idea that to change a stereotype you have to act in its opposition. However, I find Meers' analysis and solution incomplete. There is a clear discrepancy in the way males and females are treated in professional environments, but should the solution really be for women to act more like men?
I acknowledge that to be heard you must demand an audience. But Meers suggestion that women resort to "male" tactics, which include behavior like interrupting and having no shame in expressing your opinion, even when you are ill-prepared for the discussion, ignores a bigger issue: that even when women bring compelling arguments and opinions they must resort to "male" tactics to be heard.
I can appreciate the argument that, to destroy gender stereotypes, females must adopt traits that are often associated with men, so that it becomes a gender neutral trait. However, I don't agree that becoming a man in a "man's world" will help produce a better and more efficient working environment. This solution not only perpetuates the value we place on the male opinion and character traits, but completely overlooks the problem we are trying to solve.
We want women to be heard, not simply because we are women, but because we are intelligent people and can offer valuable perspectives, opinions, and solutions. Aggressive or not, we should be concerned that being an expert in your field is not good enough and you can and often will be ignored because of your gender.
Although Meers' solution may offer a more immediate response to women feeling overlooked and dismissed, another solution may be to revamp working environments so that well-reasoned opinions and substantive arguments are highly valued, regardless of whether they are presented by a woman or man. When it comes to efficiency, especially when it comes to the bottom-line in businesses, it may be better to shift the focus away from gender. The problem isn't that women aren't aggressive enough, but that businesses and our society are willing to ignore well-reasoned opinions and solutions to maintain gender-based societal expectations.