Sunday, June 09, 2002

You Hate Golf. Can You Ever Succeed? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

You Hate Golf. Can You Ever Succeed? Thus reads the title of a New York Times "Executive Life Column" this morning. (Page filler, anyone?)

One-third of chief financial officers surveyed in a study by RHI Management Resources, a staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif., said golf was at least somewhat important to enhancing a career, compared with 45 percent who said golf was "not at all important." Another RHI study of chief financial officers showed that, outside the office, the second most common place to close a deal was the golf course, with one in 10 respondents saying they had done so. (No. 1 was over a meal.)

The article, in typical NY Times column fashion, never really reaches a conclusion, but there are a few obligatory "golf is not that important" quotes at the end - primarily by women. I'm linking to this silly article because I think it (unconsciously, of course) raises an interesting question about gender inequalities in the workplace. I've never felt that my professional advancement was prevented by a "glass ceiling," despite working in a locker room environment where people tend to punctuate sentences with "fuck you" and do occasionally take "professional relationships" out to strip bars. The reason I've been able to thrive in this environment is that I can blend in culturally. I don't get offended easily and men don't feel like they have to watch what they say around me. They tell a dirty joke; I respond with a dirtier one - that sort of thing. Anyone that says the glass ceiling doesn't exist has never spent any time in the workplace as a woman. It's not, however, systematically and centrally orchestrated oppression. It infuriates me when I hear women point to all-male boards of directors and insinuate that someone somewhere made an actual decision that women were going to get paid less to do the same jobs. That analysis is very convenient because it creates a tangible villain and a starting point for a problem that seems overwhelming. It's a massive oversimplification, however, and it exacerbates the real "glass ceiling" - the exclusion from conversations, events, and the informal aspects of relationship building that happens because men assume women would be uncomfortable, or because women make them uncomfortable. It's the invitation you don't get to play golf because someone benignly assumes that, being a women, you don't know how or you wouldn't enjoy it. Razib adds the race angle (of course): A similar problem might be happening with Asian-American immigrants. My father and his friends sometimes complain that they can't advance beyond technical positions in their firms or get a position as head of the department in their universities. And yet, I know that they do (my father does) have a problem socializing with their American colleagues. They simply don't have the same sense of humor and they don't share the same values (while Americans are competitive in a friendly manner, it seems my father and many of his friends are deferential and excessively concerned as to the position of a supervisor to every raise objections).

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