Online bullying of girls is on the rise, according to an article on Axios last week: 21% of girls in middle and high school report being bullied, mostly online, compared to some 7% of boys. Two years earlier, that number was 16%. With all that has happened in feminism and the #MeToo movement, how are girls still tearing each other down so much?
Perhaps because they see adult women doing it. Last week, I was watching the Democratic debates in Tahoe with some women in their 70s. I was dispirited to see one of them yell “Let him finish!” every time a moderator interrupted a male candidate, but say “She really shouldn’t talk over people” when a female candidate tried to keep going while getting cut off.
This was days after an article about Kamala Harris laid guilt on her for going after Joe Biden in the first debate because she had been friends with his now deceased son. Read this headline from the Washington Post: “‘Beau’s Flipping in his grave’: Biden supporters say Harris’s attacks betray her friendship with his son.”
Think about that for a moment. First off, it sounds more like something out of Star magazine than the Washington Post. The argument is that because Kamala Harris was friends with his son, she’s not allowed to, uh, debate the front runner during a debate? Of course the criticism is a gender dog whistle, whether it’s intentional or not. If Harris looks mean or petty or disloyal to her friend, then people have a reason to “totally support any female candidate, it’s just something about her…” It’s also a way to explain Joe Biden’s flummoxed response as something wrong that she did, not stories that showed he wasn’t adequately prepared for the debate.
This all dovetailed in my mind with an article I read from the Wall Street Journal showing more evidence that female CEOs are more often targets of activist shareholders. The University of Alabama found that 6% of male CEOs are targeted by activists, compared to 9.4% of women—a 50% gender tax of female CEOs. Professors at Georgia State University and Arizona State University are also studying this phenomenon, and have seen that women face a 27% chance of being targeted, while men face a less-than 1% chance.
In both studies, researchers say they normalized for factors that could skew the numbers, like the fact that female CEOs typically come in as a Hail Mary to fix a long troubled company. Other research has shown that female CEOs are less likely to have the chairman role as well, lessening their power at the board level.
We see the same thing when it comes to CEOs of large companies that we see with startups: A short leash. Sure, a lucky few women are able to wrangle some 2% of venture dollars to build their dreams. But only 5% of those women will ever raise a Series B. Should anything go wrong? No more capital. Which kills companies, because things always go wrong with startups.
All of these stories remind me of a Chairman Mom thread a few weeks ago: “How is it possible that I feel like ‘too much’ and ‘not enough’ at the same time?”
Because that’s how America treats girls and women from middle school, through high school, into college, and well into their careers. The more you prove, the more you have to prove.
Today’s questions are some of our must-read Chairman Mom threads about handling bullying:
- What’s appropriate action when your kids have friends you don’t care for?
- How do you vet schools/summer camps to guard against bullying?
- Do you confront a bully’s parents? Or let school handle it?
- How do I get my daughter to talk to me about issues with her friends?