👸🏻 A Tale of Two Livestreams 🤴🏾

What Casting Zoom Bachelor Taught Us About Gender Inequality

A collaboration between Jean Yang and Maria Shen.

Last summer, we were looking for twelve ladies to compete over livestream for San Francisco-based investor Sheel Mohnot’s heart. But we were having trouble. Ladies were turning us down, not out of lack of interest for becoming Mr. Mohnot’s Zoom fiancee at the end of Zoom Bachelor, but out of fear of being harassed and stalked.

When we produced our previous show, Zoom Bachelorette, none of the men we screened for our twelve male suitors worried about harassment. Especially since it is reported that more men get harassed and receive physical threats online, why weren’t the men worried at all?

Digging into this disparity led us to a conclusion that surprised both us. In this post, we discuss why we need to talk about gendered issues differently and give a list of actionable things non-women could be doing.

Unequal cultures of fear

Why did we see such a difference between the Zoom Bachelor and Zoom Bachelorette contestants? One reason seems to be that, for the women, conversations meant to fix gender inequality have become warnings to stay out.

One of our favorite Zoom Bachelor ex-contestants cited articles about online harassment, sent to her by well-intentioned friends, as her reason for dropping out of our show. We had several other “I read…” and “I heard…” conversations with other female contestants about their anxieties about appearing publicly. It did not seem that people were having these kinds of conversations with our male contestants. (Interestingly, Mr. Mohnot himself got the most negative internet reaction of everyone on the show, especially after saying he did not like dogs.)

Not only is this culture of fear limiting women’s livestreamed romance opportunities, but it’s also impacting progress towards gender equality. Up to now, conversations about gender equality have focused on women. Girls are taken aside for extra encouragement and extra warnings. Women in workplaces are taken aside for advice lunches and advice summits. There are all too many “I read…” and “I heard…” reasons for women declining career opportunities and staying out of certain careers. While people mean well, girls are growing up into women who believe that they have to be very, very cautious — or bad things will happen.

Let’s change the way we talk about gender equality

For better or worse, the audience of gender inequality conversations seems to be mostly women. Most Americans believe sexism exists, but most of them are women. At the same time, more than half of men — 56% — believe sexism is no longer an issue.

Focusing the gender conversation about women seems to have reached its limits. While it’s helpful to get occasional validation and advice, women are not the most in need of education about gender inequality. And we could definitely share the burden in progressing toward gender equality.

Going forward, we want to see conversations about gender that:

  • Focus on the actionable. Yes, there’s bad stuff. But what are people supposed to do about it? There’s been a lot of conversation about the former and not nearly as much conversation about the latter. What if we spent some time just giving people very simple actions they can take in their everyday lives?
  • Target non-women and people who can do something about structural issues. Telling women they are being discriminated against is depressing and potentially demotivating. Especially since it’s pretty widely recognized that people should do something about gender inequality if we see it, we’re in a pretty good position to start sharing the load. As long as gender conversations focus on women, it’s going to be hard to get to equality!

Following our own proposal

We’ll start by giving an example of the conversations we would like to be having, based on a topic that the two of us talk about often: women in the workplace. Here’s a list of how different groups of people can make the work environment better for junior women:

Non-women peers and colleagues

Actionable things to do

  • Pay attention to if you’re accidentally interrupting women when talking: it is statistically likely that you will interrupt a woman.
  • If you felt like a woman’s comment went by without being heard, repeat it and credit her to make sure she is heard. For whatever reason, this seems to happen to women more than men.
  • Tell your female peers how much you’re making. One of the nicest things a male colleague did for one of us was say what he was making to help with negotiations.

Stop doing these things

  • Feeling like you can’t ask a female colleague to hang out one-on-one or after work because it “might be weird.” Invite her to the same things you would a same-gender colleague.
  • Telling women that they’re doing a great job at something “for a woman.” You can tell women they did a great job and leave it at that.
  • Feeling like you need to impress a woman, instead of being equal peers collaborating on something together.

Managers

Actionable things to do

  • Give junior women honest feedback. Avoiding tough conversations with women just holds them back in the long term because then they don’t know where to improve.
  • Make sure hiring and promotion rubrics are as explicit as possible. Studies have shown that this significantly eliminates bias. If you notice that the women who work for you aren’t getting compensated fairly, figure out if it’s because compensation is tied to things women aren’t known to be as well-trained in, for instance negotiation, and train them in it.
  • Do what you can to make your applicant pool as close to 50/50 as possible. If no women are applying, look at where you’re recruiting. Look at your job description. If you have the resources, pay a consultant to examine your organization’s brand and messaging.

Stop doing these things

  • Having quotas at the hiring level. This means you have evaluation standards for women, which is explicit bias. Even if this seems to help women in the short-term, and will lead to more explicit bias in the long term.
  • Treating junior women like they’re fragile. Give women the feedback they need to improve! If they don’t see or understand where they can improve, then they do not progress in their career and it hurts them longer term.
  • Assuming women have a lower career ceiling than their colleagues. Assume your female reports are as ambitious and capable as anyone else on your team and give them the support and feedback to get where they need to go.

Public role models of all genders

Actionable things to do

  • When talking about your successes, talk about the bumps in the road. Studies have shown that people who believe they belong tend to weather successes better. If women hear that you also struggled, it may make them more likely to stick with it.
  • Amplify the women in your community, but only if they meet the same bar you would hold to anyone else. Amplifying women who are not as good as others only perpetuate different standards. If you don’t have women in your sphere you respect enough to amplify regardless of their gender, get some.

Stop doing these things

  • Denying that discrimination exists. Women face discrimination. While we argue here that they don’t need to be repeatedly told about it, you should be aware of it.
  • Mentoring women without also championing them. Recommend them for positions, promote their work, fund them.
  • Telling women starting in their field that the cards are stacked against them. This can be very demotivating for junior women.

We put this on GitHub so that you can contribute. Please feel free to submit pull requests!

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