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We’ve all seen this finding before: men who communicate their ideas forcefully are seen as assertive and as having leadership qualities. Women who communicate their ideas forcefully are judged more harshly and negatively. What about hate speech on social media? Are women judged more harshly than men there??

Please. You really have to ask? Of course women are judged more harshly for hate speech on social media!?

And it doesn’t matter if you are a woman speaking hate or speaking what is called “counter [hate] speech” You are going to get blasted either way. This new article was published in the journal Sex Roles and is available open access here. The researchers asked male and female participants to read hate speech attributed to male and female authors and to identify which comments they would individually ‘flag’ to alert the moderators of an inappropriate comment in the online arena.?

Here is what the authors say about what participants in the research did when they encountered hate speech said to be written by women:

In the specific case of comments [women wrote that were] directed against women and sexual minorities, hate comments by female authors are perceived as an act of double deviance [since women are expected to be kind] and are therefore sanctioned more strictly than such hate comments by men.?

The researchers also found that women were equally critical of other women as were men (which we see often during litigation and in pretrial research—with women sometimes being even more critical of other women).?

And, as you might expect, when the researchers asked participants in their study what hate speech comments they would ‘flag’ to alert the moderators—both men and women would flag women’s hateful comments at a higher rate than they would flag similar hateful comments by men.?

However, both sexes equally judged hate comments by women and men differently resulting in a backlash effect against women indicated by higher scores of flagging a comment made by a woman than flagging a comment made by a man.?

As the authors review their findings they comment that gender shapes morality. They explain that conclusion by saying that women are more concerned about fairness and avoiding harm to others than men are (at least in online forums where both genders flag offensive comments). Deviant and agentic online behavior by women is judged more strictly than such behavior by men (and judged more strictly by both men and woman).?

The authors conclude with this intriguing comment that we would all do well to remember:?

Gender not only shapes people’s morality but, and even more relevant to our study, pre-determines what is seen as socially deviant and what is not. Regardless of the gender of the one evaluating the comment, intentions to flag hate speech and counter-speech comments increase if the commenter is a woman.

We work to identify bias and stereotypes wherever we can and it is always a part of litigation advocacy. From a litigation advocacy perspective, this study teaches an invaluable lesson:

Sometimes, it is easy to fail to recall that for women, racial or ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and all others who are “different” for one reason or another—just being who they are elicits automatic bias and differential treatment.?

The task for the litigation advocate is to figure out how to make the out-group member more understood, and mitigate that automatic bias.?

Gendered Morality and Backlash Effects in Online Discussions: An Experimental Study on How Users Respond to Hate Speech Comments Against Women and Sexual Minorities by Claudia Wilhelm and Sven Joeckel in Sex Roles. Published May 7 2018.


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Alicia Keys was one of the first celebrities to endorse the #NoMakeup movement and famously appeared on national TV without makeup and with a variety of gorgeous head wraps. The #NoMakeup movement is billed as freeing for women although it doesn’t hurt to be naturally gorgeous like Keys. You may think this has nothing to do with the usual topics of this blog, but you would be incorrect.?

Female leaders don’t wear heavy makeup

Researchers compared a “cosmetic free” woman, a woman with minimal makeup on, and a woman with makeup applied for a “social night out”. The researchers tell us that wearing makeup makes women appear more dominant so they wondered if it would also affect perceptions of their leadership skills. The researchers used both African-American and White “faces” and asked participants to complete a task where they judged 16 pairs of faces indicating which face seemed to them to be a “better leader” and then ranking the face of their chosen “better leader” to show how much better they thought that woman would be as a leader. The work is currently available here.? ?

So what happened??

Both male and female research participants rated women more negatively as a leader if the photographic image suggested she was wearing a lot of makeup.?

“Draw A scientist”: More kids in the US are drawing women

You may not have known that researchers have been asking students (ages 5 to 18) to “draw a scientist” for 50 years but you should know this: children are drawing more women. This meta-analysis of 20,860 drawings produced over the past 50 years and here’s a bit of what they found:

Less than 1% of students in the 1960s and 1970s depicted scientists as female. That number increased over time and was estimated to be 34% by 2016.?

If you look at drawings by girls, about 1% drew women in the first two decades but in the past decade more than half of girls asked to “draw a scientist” have drawn women.?

The researchers think the increase reflects the increase in the actual number of women scientists over the period from 1960 to 2013. We think it is just good news for women and for girls. And for society.

Five ways for women to negotiate more effectively

We like the writers at KelloggInsight because they cover leadership, social issues and gender equality with clear and straightforward writing. We have all heard for years that women do not negotiate as effectively as men but there has been limited information on how to change that other than the somewhat infuriating “get a male mentor”. This article encourages women to negotiate for “actively self-advocate” at various career junctures. We want you to read the entire article, so we’ll just give you some hints about their strategies here.?

They start with a simple directive: be prepared (which means it is okay to buy time to prepare yourself).?

Then, focus on the other side’s needs (which women are accustomed to doing but this article actually gives an example of what that means in this context).?

Don’t wait: lead the discussion (this is an area where men are socialized to be more aggressive than women but the writers at KelloggInsight give a number of examples of how to do this thing women have not been socialized to do).

Don’t just be a bulldozer: leave room to concede (in other words, ask for more than what you need).?

And finally, offer alternatives (KelloggInsight calls this making “multiple equivalent simultaneous offers” which is quite a mouthful).?

Overall, this is a dang ky nhan tien cuoc mien phimust read article for women who are interested in what it “looks like” to “lean in” when it comes right down to it. These are specific, concrete and practical strategies rather than a vague philosophy without behavioral descriptions that tell you how-to.?

Miller, DI Nolla, KM Eagly, AH and Uttal, DH (2018). The development of children’s gender-science stereotypes: A meta-analysis of 5 decades of US Draw-A-Scientist studies. Child Development.?


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Top 10 Posts from 2017 (Part 2)

Thursday, February 1, 2018
posted by Rita Handrich

This is the second part of our Top 10 posts of 2017 (see the first here). Today, we present the Top 5 posts you visited most often in 2017.

Post No. 5: Do you know what “vocal fry” is? We didn’t either

As part of an ongoing effort to keep you informed and “up” on pop culture–we brought you this one. Now that you know what it is, it’s like an ear worm and you simply cannot stop hearing it [and here’s a tip–it’s everywhere].

Post No. 4: What will be most persuasive in your forensic expert’s testimony?

Perhaps not what you want to be most persuasive. This is one of those must reads if you are preparing for trial and have an expert to speak to the forensic evidence.

Post No. 3: Power in many things and is your smartphone lowering your IQ?

This is one of our combination posts and it focuses on power (and corruption, and poses, and the grip of our technology–and a really, really good podcast).

Post No. 2: No, seriously! That’s just how my face is!

Resting bitch face. Who thought this would come up in litigation advocacy? (We did.)

Post No. 1: Your body is a wonderland–or at least an art gallery

Just as we must update you all on the plethora of research on deception, we also are challenged to keep up with the changing meaning of tattoos. Body art. How many is okay? Does a whole arm tattoo (aka ‘sleeve’) count as one tattoo or several hundred? This is our number one post from 2017. You’re not the only one who wants to know.

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It is once again time for one of those combination posts that give you scintillating information you know you want to know. Think of these as fun factoids—that you can also use in casual conversation to amaze and educate your friends (or just make them look at you oddly).

The new ‘Educated single women over 40 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to get married’ belief?

If you are female and were reading Newsweek back in the 1980s, you may remember their early June 1986 cover illustrating this post. And you certainly remember the hubbub raised by the story itself.

Newsweek magazine?waited 20 years to retract a 1986 story that educated 40-year-old women have “as much chance of marrying as being killed by a terrorist,” even though they knew it was bogus. The story became part of popular culture, mentioned in movies and television, and caused?many women to panic.

Now however, in 2017, we have a new fear to replace this one—and this one is brought to us by Newsweek’s competitor, Time Magazine. Forget about settling so you can get married. In 2017, “Americans think a major terrorist attack on US soil is more realistic than Republicans and Democrats working together”. That is pretty scary so we’ll move on. Quickly.

Atheists just can’t win—even fellow atheists judge them harshly

A few years ago we did extensive research on attitudes toward atheists and ended up publishing a few blog posts and a full-length article on our findings. The level of negative attitudes and beliefs directed at atheists was very strong. Apparently, things have not improved much for atheists in the intervening years. According to a study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior and summarized at BigThink’s website, “atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous”. The research was conducted across 13 countries on 5 continents and participants self-reported their religious status (religious, agnostic, or atheist). Standardized measures were used to determine whether participants had an anti-religious bias or an anti-atheist bias. Here is what the researchers say about their sample:

“We conducted identical experiments in all 13 sites. We targeted at least 100 participants per experimental condition (anti-atheist bias versus anti-religious bias). There were a total of 3,256 participants for final analysis (69% female, age 16–70 years: mean?=?25.07, s.d.?=?7.84), with a median of 162 participants per country (range: 129–993). “

Here is how BigThink’s summary describes the research task:

The study’s participants had to react to a fictional situation where they were told to judge a serial killer who mutilated homeless people. Tellingly, when they had to guess the likelihood of the evil character being an atheist or a religious believer, the participants were twice as likely to suppose the sadistic serial killer was an atheist.

One of the surprising findings in this research was that while (as expected) religious people were biased against atheists, fellow atheists were as well. That is, even atheists were more likely think atheists were the “sadistic serial killer”.

Racism and online harassment and the problem of racism in American society

Recently we blogged about the problem of online harassment and included the reality than 1 in 4 Black Americans have faced online harassment because of their race or ethnicity. Now Pacific Standard’s website tells us that “more Americans consider racism a ‘big problem’ than they have at any other point in the last two decades”. In specific numbers, 58% of Americans believe racism is a pervasive issue in 2017. They base the article on a new August 29, 2017 survey out of the Pew Research Center which we also encourage you to read.

You really can do something to sharpen your brain in later life

By now, you’ve probably read the critics of companies promoting their ‘brain games’ as a way of keeping yourself sharp and cognitively clear in later life. So, as it turns out, you don’t really need those new-fangled tools to sharpen your brain. Just do crosswords and other word puzzles!

According to ScienceDaily (summarizing research out of the University of Exeter in the UK) “the more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life”. Lest you think this is a small-scale study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over. The study shows there is a link although it can’t tell us just what that link is. We’d say, keep doing that crossword puzzle!


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The problem with female attorney retention has been discussed at some length in blogs, in reports sponsored by the American Bar Association, in professional association publications, in academic journals, and likely—everywhere female attorneys gather. Female attorneys leave BigLaw for many reasons but here’s a bit of research that may give insight into helping law firms retain female attorneys following childbirth or adoption.

It has long been noted that women bear the brunt of the financial/career impact related to childbirth and/or motherhood. And if you are a woman of color, the damage to income is even worse. While the research cited in this post was completed at the University of Kent, in the United Kingdom—it offers an interesting idea for law firms in the US to explore. The study results revolve around the use of flextime (which makes sense) but with an interesting twist worth investigating.

Here are the main findings:

More than half of the women in the study sample reduced their working hours after a child was born—but less than a quarter who were able to use flextime reduced their hours.

Women who were able to use flextime were only half as likely to reduce their hours after the birth of a child.

And here is the twist:

The issue was not whether new moms perceived they had access to flextime. The most important factor was the use of flextime by the woman before giving birth.

In other words, those women who had actually used flextime prior to giving birth were more likely to think they could juggle the work-life balance demands with which they were faced after giving birth. It raises the question of how ‘real’ the flextime is. If it isn’t used prior to birth, there might be cultural norms not to use it, even if it is nominally accepted. If it is seen (overtly or unconsciously) as a sign that someone is distracted, not?dedicated, worn out, or otherwise not a ‘team player’–there will be a reluctance to use it, even if the alternative is to quit.

The researchers think this finding could have implications for the gender pay gap since women would not necessarily have to give up their work in order to have children. They also note it would help companies retain female employees who often tend to either leave or reduce working hours following childbirth.

From a law office management perspective, it makes sense to encourage both male and female attorneys to use flextime routinely so they can become more attuned to how flextime use can help them to balance work-life demands. For women who give birth or adopt, according to today’s highlighted research, having used flextime prior to having children may well help them juggle the challenges of having children while also retaining a rewarding and demanding career. That ‘work-life balance’ stuff is actually pretty important.

Chung, H. van der Horst, M. 2017. Women’s employment patterns after childbirth and the perceived access to and use of flextime and teleworking. Human Relations.


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