Men, Women, and Fairness

Men, Women, and Fairness

It’s not that men aren’t fair. It’s that they don’t even think about fairness. When Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (Women Don’t Ask) asked people whether they deserved what they wanted, women typically responded with something like “…my training—what is really engrained in me—is that you’re never quite deserving of what you might want” (58).

Men, however, said things like “Um, sure, I deserve the things I want—yeah” (58) (he obviously hasn’t really thought about it) and “Interesting question! … The sense that I deserve something is not a sense that I carry with me, generally. Do I deserve this, or deserve that?” (59)

The authors summarized, “Where women are often preoccupied with ascertaining what exactly they deserve, it doesn’t really cross Mike’s mind to consider whether he deserves something or not—this approach isn’t relevant to his thinking” (59).

Which explains this: “Because Linda hadn’t asked to be promoted, the dean never even thought of her—she was off his radar” (64).

So, it’s not that men aren’t fair to women. It’s that they really just don’t think about it.


“It turned out that only 7 percent of the female students had negotiated [for a higher initial salary] but 57 percent (eight times as many) of the men had asked for more money” (2). Why? I suggest it’s because men think their wants are needs; it’s because men think what they want is important; it’s because men think they’re entitled to get what they want; it’s because men think they’ll get what they ask for (and they’re right), and women don’t (and they’re right).


“…modern Western culture—strongly discourages women from asking for what they want” (14). So true. women are taught to be generous and to give (not to get). Women are taught to defer to people.

“‘…as a man I have been raised with this sense of entitlement, that I should get what I want. And I almost think that societally women are conditioned that you don’t always get what you want’” (74).


“‘We don’t accept from women what we do from men’” says Roberta Nutt, former chair of the Psychology of Women Division of the APA (94). Yes, yes, there you go!

“You might think that women also need to be assertive to negotiate successfully—able to present strong arguments, defend their interests and positions … Unfortunately, research has revealed that assertive women are less well liked … This means that an assertive woman, no matter how well she presents her arguments in a negotiation, risks decreasing her likeability and therefore her ability to influence the other side to agree with her point of view” (96). Proof!


Regarding an instance in which a man asked for more money out of a discretionary fund and the woman didn’t, she says, ‘This fund—I never knew of its existence … It had never been publicized … There is no application procedure…’ (20). How is it the man knew about it and the woman didn’t?


“‘…his father had taken them [the boys] out and … taught them how to tip—basically, taught them how to slip the maitre d’ money for good tables or give some money to the guys who were in the band to play a good song… how to circumvent the system’ to get what [they] wanted” (34). Yeah, my father didn’t teach me that shit.

Combining Family and Career

People say that women can’t have, can’t combine, a family and a career, that it’s having family responsibilities that keeps them from advancement – the inability to work late or on weekends, the tendency to need time off to tend to kids…

I’m not so sure.  I’ve never had such competing obligations, and I don’t have a career.  I think the family thing is a red herring.  Women just don’t get hired into career-track jobs nearly as often as men, and when they do, they don’t get advanced.  (And not because their family responsibilities get in the way.)

In fact, it might be an advantage to be a mother, because you’re seen as more adult then, you’re seen as an authority.  Certainly one carries oneself with more authority, I notice that a lot: as soon as someone becomes a parent, the authority they are to their kids spills over, and they start acting like they know everything with everyone, like they have a right to tell everyone what to do.  It’s especially obvious with women because it’s the first time they have, or are seen to have, authority. Women without kids aren’t grown up yet, they aren’t granted any sort of authority, certainly no position of responsibility.  It’s as if becoming a parent proves you can be responsible.

But of course it does no such thing: witness the very many irresponsible parents; indeed, becoming a parent in the first place is, for many, due to irresponsibility.  And, of course, there are many other ways of demonstrating responsibility.