Protective Paternalism And Its Effect On Women’s Careers

The word “sexism” immediately raises association with gender discrimination, harassment in the work place and on the streets. However, it may not refer to these instances all the time.

In his book Todai: Gods and Humans in the Japanese Empire, Robert Cutts cites the experience of Naoko Abe, the first woman to join the elite career editorial staff of Mainichi Shimbum, one of Japan’s largest newspapers. Naoko Abe is quite the accomplished woman – she was also the first woman assigned to the Kyoto Bureau and the financial section of the newspaper.

Years later, the author asks Naoko Abe about what she envisions to be the next rung in her career, maybe a high visibility career building position overseas in Bosnia perhaps. Her response: “Never. They just recently told me that they are just not ready to send a woman to a place like that. I don’t think they would send me to [any] third world country, for example.”

Would you classify this as sexism? If you prevent your spouse or daughter from walking home late at night would it be classified as sexism? In fact, both fall under the purview of the study of sexism called protective paternalism.

Protective Paternalism – What is it?

Protective paternalism, according to a theory by Glick and Fiske (1996, 2001), is the notion that women need to be protected; it stems from the paternalistic ideology that men should serve as protectors and providers for women because of their greater authority, power and physical strength.

Protective paternalism is categorised under what is called benevolent sexism. Why this falls under the purview of sexism is because it is a reaction to viewing women stereotypically as the weaker sex needing protection. It is a response to the traditional stereotyping that man is the provider and woman his dependant. Unfortunately this has many negative implications in a business setting.

Its Effect on a Woman’s Career 

Although protective paternalism is certainly not the classic prejudice where men view women as inferior and incompetent, it still has far reaching negative effects on women. This attitude actually results in restricting the career role of women in different ways. Here’s how:

1. Career choice:

Women are often sidelined when it comes to jobs that are considered dangerous because of the view that they need to be protected. Protective paternalism also affects a woman’s attitude towards a certain career path. In a study exploring the effect of protective paternalism on women, a group of women were asked how they would react if their romantic partners did not like their participation in a job that counsels criminals. Most women said that they would react positively to the justification of “I am concerned for your safety.” This showed that protective paternalism causes most women to accept restrictions on their career choice.

2. Growth:

As seen in the case of Naoko Abe, the ingrained instinct in the predominantly male management is to protect women from the perceived danger in third world countries. This definitely restricts growth and opportunities in an organisation. In addition, the mentality that women who aspire to reach higher positions in their career are neglecting their traditional roles as caregivers and homemakers, often leads to a lower evaluation, which in turn affects promotions and growth.

3. Salary:

A premise of protective paternalism is that man is the breadwinner and a woman’s salary is only a supplement to his income. This leads to one of the most common stereotypes: “women don’t need equal pay because they are married.” This is justified under the excuse of women choosing to take time off to raise children etc., but the discrimination exists nonetheless. Though there are voices and protocols raised against this, unequal pay still exists.

4. Career Competition or Sacrifice:

The traditional thought is that income and status is the prerogative of men, which affects a man’s attitude toward his spouse’s career development.  Therein arises the norm that a wife is expected to support her husband’s job even at the cost of her own job; this generally doesn’t apply the other way round.

Although protective paternalism has definite negative effects, various studies indicate a mixed reaction from women. Though it is viewed much more positively when coming from a romantic partner as proof that he cares about her safety, a restriction from a male co-worker was viewed as proof of discrimination and sexism.

What is your take on it?


Social And Digital Media For Business – The Three Key Risks

According to a survey by Social Media Examiner, 92% of businesses surveyed (up from 86% in 2013) take social media seriously and believe that it is critical for their success. But where there’s opportunity, there’s also risk. This blog will shed some light on very real social and digital media risks and how to combat them.

Risk #1: Copyright infringement

The basic foundation of social media in business are posts. Traffic to your social media and website, higher ranking on Google search engines, and being visible to your customers all effectively depend on regular updates.

In Australia, the Commonwealth Copyright Act of 1968 defines copyright as rights in certain creative works such as text, artistic works, music, computer programs, sound recordings and films. The rights are granted exclusively to the copyright owner to reproduce the material, and for some material, the right to perform or show the work to the public.”

While copyright laws in Australia do not cover ideas and style, they do so when they are converted into written or visual format – script, text, video, images etc.

Research shows that “80% of tweets, Facebook updates, LinkedIn posts, etc. are relevant to your industry and target customers and only 20% is about self-promotion.” This means that you are going to be using photos, videos, and other digital files from the internet or sources other than your own website, when you retweet or share updates. Herein lies the danger of copyright infringement.

Risk #2: Exposing strategy tactics to competitors

Monitoring the social media pages of your competitor gives you valuable insight into their business strategies and obviously this works both ways. In his blog, Analysing your competitors through social media monitoring, Joel Windels brings this truth into broad daylight. Here are some takeaways:

  • Monitoring negative feedback on your social media sites gives competitors more than a sneak peek into the weaknesses of the business. Your competitors could target that weakness and capitalise on it.
  • You also face the danger that your well thought out and carefully planned social media marketing strategies are open to all eyes. Every move you make could be monitored and/or copied by your competition.
  • Social media monitoring tools allow you to monitor any conversation online that happens around your brand and that of the competition. By keeping a close watch on the topics and trends that you discuss on online forums and comments sections, your competition can monitor your product ideas and trends.

According to the article Marketing Competitive Analysis using Google and Rival IQ, it takes only 15-20 minutes to create a comprehensive report on your competition and use that information to enhance your business pitch accordingly.

Risk #3: Data security threats

Data Security threat is a real issue for businesses. According to the Global Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2013, the spread of false information through social media is an emerging risk, while Cisco’s 2013 Annual Security Report, “the highest concentration of security risks is on mass audience sites, including social media”. The report also mentions that Generation Y employees are less concerned about privacy, and “share data unreservedly”.

Employees too can be a source of data leaks. An inadvertent message of congratulations or an overexcited post about the new product could pose a serious threat to information security.

Mitigate the Risks

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Educate your employees on these very real risks of social media.
  • Formulate a social media policy in consultation with your legal advisor and make sure employees are aware of the ramifications of copyright infringements and other legal issues.
  • Know and implement privacy settings on your social media platforms.
  • Antivirus Software: make no compromise where this is concerned. Go all out – security patches, real-time dynamic web defense, a strong firewall – and get everything to protect your information.
  • Train your employees to scan and decode any links that you get through social media to make sure they’re the real thing.

Social media is as much a minefield as it is a goldmine, so it pays to be smart in your approach.