The Gender Double Standard of Exceptional People

This year, I have put a lot of effort into trying to go along to get along. I've received a lot of negative feedback, which labelled me brusque and abrasive, and said that I come on too strong. This was deeply upsetting, because it's rarely my intent to be those things. In an effort to counteract my nature, I got on the Fun Committee at work. I've made an effort to talk to people and try to be extra friendly. The weird thing is that the impression I get from people is that they are not actually interested in communicating with me, and I don't know if that's a reflection of my introverted discomfort at randomly attempting jovial conversation or what.

I'm not sure what to try next. Acting classes? Accepting what I've always known -- that I'm simply not the perky cheerleader-type -- and moving on? Therapy and hard pharmaceuticals?

My point is that despite the perceived flaws in being a solitary person, history has shown that even the most introverted lone wolves are capable of great success in life. Lincoln, Jobs, Gates, Einstein, Gandhi -- introverts, every last one of them. But what is one thing that stands out in all of these examples? They're all men.

Even in this day and age, the prevailing expectation is that women are required to be upbeat, lively, optimistic, and exuberantly playful in order to get along at work. There's nothing inherently wrong with being dignified, still, formal, and serious. It is an unfortunate circumstance that some people find these natural traits to be flaws. Unfortunately, society still has a different set of expectations for what is considered normal behavior for women.

While the number of Fortune 500 companies with female CEOs has increased 650% since 2001, there are still only 26 women (5.2%) at the helm. Interestingly, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the largest occupation for women is "office and administrative support occupations" with median weekly earnings of $637 (note: men with office and administrative support occupations actually make $701/week). The two professions with the greatest numbers of women are customer service representatives and administrative assistants. This means that, for one reason or another, women are not climbing the corporate ladder at comparable rates.

Studies at Stanford, Cornell, and other prominent universities have all uncovered evidence that males and females are not rated equally in terms of competence, hireability, and teachability despite identical education and qualifications. Women are offered lower starting salaries for identical roles and then lag behind in pay raises. Performance reviews really do critique women based on character traits ("abrasive," "judgmental," "brusque"), which does not happen to men. The well-documented "Double Bind" phenomenon has been proven. The first bind is that women are expected to project stereotypically feminine traits (vocal characteristics, patience, a bright attitude, apologizing when disagreeing) in order to get along, but will not be taken seriously if they do. The second bind is that women who do not project stereotypically feminine traits are labelled shrill, overbearing, self-centered, and aggressive, along with many worse adjectives.

The point of all of this is that there is no way I'm ever going to win a popularity contest. Never have, never will, and don't really want to. I clearly don't fit the prevailing idea of what I "should be," and the expectation that all 1s should be 2, or all Xs should be Y, is unjust. It isn't that I'm broken. It's not that I'm fundamentally unsuitable or deranged. I just don't fit in the mold.

Exceptional people never do.