I hate this kind of article, man vs. woman garbage. Women as a special group needing to take special "for women" approaches; women entitled to special consideration, etc. Does the obvious, openly stated gender bias of the article bother anybody but me? What if men displayed the same "let's help other men" gender bias? ... Why can women openly favor helping and advancing women, but it would be wrong for men to do that? I am so tired of all this divide-us-into-special-interest-groups garbage. And to you posters who are complimenting this article, shame on you. You would condemn men for showing gender bias in favor of other men.
At my institution, faculty were recently asked to fill out a satisfaction and wellbeing survey that included questions about, among many other things, the treatment of female faculty. The female faculty have been discussing their answers in hushed tones behind closed office doors these past few days. We agree that gender bias exists at our institution. We agree that reporting it felt a bit risky even though we were assured of our anonymity.
We've all noticed that women are routinely shut down during meetings, but it rarely happens to men. We've noticed that when several hands go up at the same time, the men almost always get the floor first. We've noticed that women are more likely than men to back down when pressured by a male colleague. We've noticed that our ideas are less likely to be discussed at length, and even less likely to be implemented. We've noticed that our performance evaluations focus on different issues than those of our male colleagues. And I don't think my institution is a gross anomaly.
I suspect that many of my male colleagues would think my female colleagues and I were crazy or paranoid (or both?) if they heard our conversations. I doubt our male colleagues think they're sexist. I don't think they realize the way they respond to us, treat us, or make us feel. I'm sure they don't consciously write sexist performance evaluations or intentionally ask us to take on tasks that, if gendered, would fall more on the feminine side of the spectrum than the masculine side. My male colleagues no doubt think of themselves as good, unbiased people; I have no doubt that they see sexism as a thing of the past, would be opposed to sexist institutional policies, and have no idea that they are in fact engaging in behaviors that uphold a system that strongly favors men.
The people who have complained about the existence of the "Advice for Women who Want to Get Ahead" article are probably a lot like many of the men at my institution. They don't see the real problem: that women currently have to compete against men in a system designed by men to favor men. Women do need to develop special strategies and resources to succeed in that type of environment. For that reason, women helping women to get ahead -- or men helping women get ahead, for that matter -- is not at all the same as men helping men.
For instance, men don't need to help each other to be heard during a faculty meeting at my institution because the men are already the ones speaking. But a woman (or a man) might need to help a female colleague to be heard because she isn't speaking. And why isn't she speaking? Because she is passed over during the discussion. This can happen for lots of reasons -- maybe the moderator is blatantly sexist and trying to silence women. More likely, though, the woman's voice is not as loud. Or social conditioning has taught her to allow a man to take the floor when they both begin to speak at the same time. Or she has learned that it's not lady-like to interrupt and so she doesn't, even though her male colleagues have no problem interrupting her. The list of possibilities is endless. These are just the ones I have personally experienced.
I would agree that blatant discrimination against women isn't terribly common at my institution, and I hope that's true in other institutions as well. But bias? There's a lot of bias. Most of it is unintentional, and that's precisely what makes it so difficult to deal with. Women are fighting a battle against social norms in academia (and, I'd argue, in just about every other realm). We can't easily undo what generations of conditioning have taught us -- and our male colleagues -- to unconsciously accept, nor can we easily begin behaving in ways that we (and our male colleagues) view as unacceptable because of generations of conditioning.
We're working on it, but it's going to take more than a few decades to change the rules, the system, the behaviors, and the biases that make it essential for women to create strategies that will help themselves to succeed. It's going to take some time before women don't need to help one another to get ahead. And apparently it's going to take some time before some men can see that we aren't just whining but instead are responding to some very real circumstances that we can't overturn just because we and our male colleagues agree that it's time.