On Wall St., Gender Bias Runs Deep

New York Times:

“Those are characteristics that you think about when asked to talk about what the Wall Street culture is,” she said in an interview. “That’s a very masculine, macho culture, again a stereotype, and, in general, it’s very hard for women or men to picture women being that way because that conflicts with the stereotypic norms of what women should be like.”


Ms. Lang, a trailblazer in the high-tech and Internet industries who has headed Catalyst for nine years and holds an M.B.A. from Harvard, continued, “Women who behave in those macho ways are then perceived as being very masculine, and that’s considered very unattractive. While men are aggressive, women are labeled with the ‘B word.’ It is behavior that’s admired in men but despised in women.”


She called it a double bind. This fits an overall pattern, she said, that is specific not to Wall Street but exists wherever traditionally macho behavior is what it takes to be successful. Stereotypic bias runs through everything, she said, like lack of access to networks, lack of role models and gender definition.


Stereotypic bias is among the toughest barriers women face. It defines “what women should do, what they can do, what they’re good at,” she said. “Men are natural leaders and women are not; men are strong and women are weak; and men are in charge and women are caretakers. These are gender stereotypes. It’s what social culture is all about.”


Gender bias runs deep. “This is what researchers call implicit bias,” Ms. Lang said. Studies by Catalyst and others over recent decades show that “if you compare a man and a woman, when everything else is the same — their wealth, their education, their I.Q., their physical attractiveness and capability — you will always find that the man has more advantages than the woman.”

NY Times: The Power of the Particular

David Brooks:

It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all.


[…]


The whole experience makes me want to pull aside politicians and business leaders and maybe everyone else and offer some pious advice: Don’t try to be everyman. Don’t pretend you’re a member of every community you visit. Don’t try to be citizens of some artificial globalized community. Go deeper into your own tradition. Call more upon the geography of your own past. Be distinct and credible. People will come.

NY Times: The 'Busy' Trap

Tim Kreider:

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. […] More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

New York Times: Fables of Wealth

William Deresiewicz:

There is an ongoing debate in this country about the rich: who they are, what their social role may be, whether they are good or bad. Well, consider the following. A recent study found that 10 percent of people who work on Wall Street are “clinical psychopaths,” exhibiting a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an “unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation.” (The proportion at large is 1 percent.) Another study concluded that the rich are more likely to lie, cheat and break the law.

The only thing that puzzles me about these claims is that anyone would find them surprising. Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior. This should hardly be news.

Obama Says Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Legal

Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker at the New York Times:

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama said.

Long a proponent of civil unions, Mr. Obama said his views had changed in part because of prodding by friends who are gay and by conversations with his wife and daughters.

“I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Mr. Obama said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”

Mr. Obama also invoked his Christian faith in explaining his decision.

“The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule — you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated,” he said. “And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.”

Reaction to Mr. Obama’s announcement was largely predictable — including immediate opposition from his presumptive Republican rival, Mitt Romney — yet people on both sides of the issue pointed to the historical significance of a president endorsing marriage between people of the same sex. It was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, which the Obama administration last year decided not to enforce in the courts.

NY Times: Arsenic in Our Chicken?

Kristof:

It turns out that arsenic has routinely been fed to poultry (and sometimes hogs) because it reduces infections and makes flesh an appetizing shade of pink. There’s no evidence that such low levels of arsenic harm either chickens or the people eating them, but still…

[…]

The same study also found that one-third of feather-meal samples contained an antihistamine that is the active ingredient of Benadryl. The great majority of feather meal contained acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. And feather-meal samples from China contained an antidepressant that is the active ingredient in Prozac.

Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose.

Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)

NY Times: Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You

Even at work, where people once managed to look busy by wearing a headset or constantly parrying calls back and forth via a harried assistant, the offices are silent. The reasons are multifold. Nobody has assistants anymore to handle telecommunications. And in today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public.