These days, though, you can actually be a guy who cries and still rise to become Speaker of the House. "John Boehner cried and it didn't have the same effect as it did with Muskie," says Williams. "It just shows you that masculinity has shifted in important ways in recent decades."
Crying in high-stakes situations, though, is risky business. It can help a woman who is perceived to have a hard edge, as it did Hilary Clinton when, in a moment of campaign exhaustion before the 2008 New Hampshire primary, she began to weep. Clinton wound up winning New Hampshire amid speculation that she'd won over voters by revealing her softer side.
For a woman who is still trying to prove she has what it takes, though, "crying is the kiss of death," Williams says.
And what if you already have what it takes? Williams and her daughter have recently interviewed 55 prominent women for an advice book to help women navigate gender biases at work, and asked all of them whether they'd ever cried at the office. Three said they had, and that they'd handled it by acknowledging to the people present that they were angry, that they were crying, and that that they were going to continue their conversation nonetheless. The rest said they never had, and that it would be damaging to their careers. "An easy bit of advice about crying in the office is 'Don't do it,'" says Williams.
Weepers sometimes do it on purpose, says Denise Voigt Crawford, a long-time securities regulator who retired last year after 17 years as the Texas securities commissioner. "Both female and male fraudsters cry," but it's usually to get regulators, judges or juries to go light on them, Voigt said. "Very rarely do they do it out of genuine remorse because they are usually incapable of experiencing remorse."
Men may be crying a little bit more, and women a little bit less, on the job. But one thing hasn't changed. Give women-bashers some red meat, and they're off and running with the same old stuff. A reader from Boston posted a note at the bottom of one of those
New York Times
stories about Drew, expressing his, or her, fascination with "how often it turns out to be a woman" when there is egg on the face of an executive.