BETA
Close

The Truth About Business: Do Nice Gals Finish Last

Business

Most of us would like to work for a company where we can trust leadership and fellow coworkers. After all we spend the better part of our lives at the office so a modicum of general goodwill and decorum is sensible. But can companies fit that description and still obtain their goals and profits that shareholders expect? When it comes to success, many, albeit sadly, assume that reaching the top requires ethical compromises.


Thoughts of Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko character from the film Wall Street, and his slicked-back hair are an apt metaphor for unfettered ambition and greed. Gekko's famous line: “Greed Is Good," firmly remains a part of the American lexicon that it continues to inspire young Wall Street brokers nearly 20 years after its release.

According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Beth A. Livingston of Cornell, Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, and Timothy A. Judge of Notre Dame, levels of “agreeableness" are negatively correlated with the earnings of men. The defined terms, of which there are six facets to agreeableness, are: trust, altruism, compliance, straightforwardness, tender-mindedness and modesty.

Do nice gals finish last?

Why might “niceness" be a disadvantage? It helps to understand the essence of disagreeableness. Being disagreeable does not necessarily mean that you're dealing with a sociopath, far from it. It simply means that “disagreeableness" is the willingness, however uncomfortable it may make others feel, to aggressively advocate for their interests during conflicts.

Conversely, more agreeable people are much more likely to compromise for the good of the group. While conflict is never enjoyable, their disagreeable coworkers insist on holding firm. They do not mind fighting for what they want. To more clearly define the relationship between agreeableness and income, the researchers began with a data set consisting of nearly 9,000 people who entered the labor force over the decade from 2,000 thru 2,010.

The subjects were repeatedly interviewed about their career and given a battery of personality and cognitive tests. Levels of agreeableness, for example, were measured with a standard set of questions, such as, “Do you feel that agreeable describes you as a person, where 1 means quarrelsome and 5 means agreeable?" These ratings were then compared to income data.

The results were depressing

The study's first notable revelation was that women entering the workforce earn much less than men. Even after controlling for education, marital status, hours worked per week and workforce continuity, young women still earned $4,787 less than their male counterparts, or an average loss of 14 percent. Worse still was the news for agreeable men: nearly $7,000 less than their agreeable peers, whereas agreeable women were not quite as bad off, earning $1,100 less. In a series of follow-up studies, the researchers replicated their results, showing that agreeable men earn less even after controlling for a long list of variables, including other personality traits and the possibility that agreeable people choose less lucrative professions. The researchers summarized their data:

“Overall, across the first three studies, men who are one standard deviation below the mean on agreeableness earn an average of 18.31 percent ($9,772) more than men one standard deviation above the mean on agreeableness. Meanwhile, the “disagreeableness premium" for women was only 5.47 percent ($1,828). Thus, the income premium for disagreeableness is more than three times stronger for men than for women."

More bad findings...

What's driving this bleak correlation? In their final study, the researchers conducted an experiment on 460 undergrads in a business management class at a large American university. The students were given eight hypothetical job candidates, all of whom were described as smart, conscientious and insightful. However, their degrees of agreeableness were varied so that some candidates were described as much more trusting and humble than others. These 460 undergrads were then asked to select the best candidates for management fast-tracking.

Yet again, the study results were depressing: the candidates with higher levels of agreeableness were much less likely to get fast-tracked, especially if they were male (Women were slightly less likely to get picked for promotion regardless of their personality). This suggests that nice guys finish last because of an inherent bias against them.

Agreeable people are less likely to get fired, and are just as likely to supervise others. They appear far less effective at negotiating salary increases, thus suggesting that the main (financial) benefit of disagreeableness is a willingness to stubbornly fight for one's own best interests, even as it may make others uncomfortable.

Furthermore, the researchers argue that agreeableness is especially costly for men because it violates our gender expectations, since it is assumed that men will selfishly pursue their interests, albeit generalizations-cloaked, we tend to look down on those men who do not. In short, we expect the worst and punish the best.

What can we learn?

Some people find it difficult to hold firm, particularly when it involves asking for a promotion, or a pay increase. But it's well worth the anxiety-inducing moments that can help to push beyond self-limitations toward the path of self-enlightenment and strength. So let's embrace the challenge of pushing beyond needless self-limitation and perhaps enjoy an additional few thousand dollars pay increase.

7min read
Culture

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.


A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.