By Joanne McGrath Cohoon, Associate Professor, University of Virginia.
Culturally, gendered expectations of others and ourselves interact with race and class to shape our language, our interrelations, and our beliefs about what we might achieve and where we belong. Organizations in our immediate environment also affect us at each stage of our lives —schools; businesses; churches, temples, mosques; etc. Each has its own set of policies, practices, and local cultures that differentiate more or less between men and women. So, if Steve Jobs had been a woman, he would have lived in a different world than the world he knew as a man.
«Jobs lived in a world where technical interests, technical education, and aggressive business behavior were appropriate. Had Jobs been a woman, his behavior may not have been interpreted in such a positive light»
Steve Jobs, the man, lived in a world where technical interests, technical education, and aggressive business behavior were appropriate. Investors saw potential for his success, because Jobs fit their expectations for technical business genius. Employees tolerated his eccentricities because they saw him as a successful leader. Had Jobs been a woman, his behavior may not have been interpreted in such a positive light.
Stephanie would have had less opportunity than Steve to develop skills that contribute to success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She might have been explicitly discouraged from taking elective STEM courses. Had she taken the courses anyway, she would have experienced isolation, stereotype threat, and less encouragement than her male classmates. Investors would likely have failed to see beyond her femininity to recognize her vision and ability to carry it out. Employees might have labeled her a crazy bitch and refused to contribute their passion in fulfillment of her dreams.
«Stephanie Jobs might have been wildly successful as a high tech entrepreneur and innovator, but she would have had to overcome many more barriers than Steve overcame»
Stephanie Jobs might have been wildly successful as a high tech entrepreneur and innovator, but she would have had to overcome many more barriers than Steve overcame. An astonishing achievement would have been even more spectacular, unless of course, the world changed at the same time Steve’s gender changed.
It is difficult to know whether we are moving toward a world where Steve and Stephanie have equal chance of success. Obviously, women are advancing in education and economic independence in many countries. Yet, even in those countries where women seem to have the most parity with men, occupational gender segregation persists: women, more than men, are in fields with fewer economic rewards, less autonomy, and lower job satisfaction.