NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- So when did Women's History Month become Women's Misogyny Month?
A simple Google search combining "I hate" with "Marissa Mayers" and "Sheryl Sandberg" yields 1.6 million and 1.8 million hits, and the numbers are growing faster than slime in a pitri dish.
Anne Hathaway is the
bête noire of every supermarket tabloid, not to mention the victim of a graffiti-enhanced image on the front page of a recent
New York Post, which you can see
on the newspaper's Google+ page.
And even Mother Teresa -- Mother Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner-and-saint-to-be Teresa for crying out loud! -- is receiving
uncharitable coverage in The Huffington Post.
What could be next for our prominent "leading ladies"? Witch trials? It's March Madness indeed . . .
Except it isn't!
The recent flurry of unflattering headlines is not about singling out women -- instead, the press is playing to a set of cognitive biases hard-wired into our brains: "framing" and "perceived fairness." A lot of women, especially prominent businesswomen, are simply getting caught in the crossfire.First off, the concept of framing describes our predisposition to view the world in terms of in-groups and out-groups. Billionaire CEOs, Hollywood celebrities, and Nobel Laureates are three of the world's most exclusive in-groups. Thus, they're forever condemned to live a slip-up away from our antipathy. Anne Hathaway thinks we're seeing a regular ol' Brooklyn gal mugging for the camera on Oscar night; instead, the "Hatha-haters" -- no, I didn't just make that up -- have framed her as a spoiled, snotty star. But again, and for better or worse, the framing phenomenon applies equally to women and men; frequently impolitic Mark Zuckerberg generates more Google "hate" hits than Sheryl Sandberg. Secondly, humans crave "fairness" and have a visceral aversion to inequality. Believe it or not, our innate need for equality even trumps our desire for additional cash; we'll often scuttle an otherwise profitable transaction if we believe our counterparty is getting the better end of the deal. So is it "fair" for a CEO to build a nursery in her executive suite and then prohibit her minions from working from home; or is it "right" for a person to start life on third base, get phenomenally lucky, and then write a book that preaches we can -- and should -- hit a homerun? Well, honestly, who knows . . . . But perception is reality and recent headlines seem to have delivered their verdict. Punch line -- understanding the causal psychology behind the recent, high-profile missteps of female -- and male -- business leaders can help us all become better managers.