“Emotional labor”—the term is new to us, but not the age-old reality it describes: that in the workplace, men are expected to exhibit a take-charge attitude; women, pleasant deference . . . even in the same jobs. In The Atlantic, Adia Harvey Wingfield ,  a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, describes how this “commodification of emotions” penalizes women.

“The fact that women are required to generate traditionally feminine emotions while men do the opposite furthers the idea that certain occupations are ‘for men’ or ‘for women.’ Thus, being a flight attendant becomes seen as a ‘natural’ job for women, given the expectations of nurturing attached. Meanwhile, being a pilot or an air-traffic controller may not seem such an obvious fit . . . .

“Emotional labor is of course not limited to the airline industry. Jennifer Pierce, a University of Minnesota sociologist, found that the expectations for emotional labor in the legal profession apply to women working in every part of the field. In other words, while male attorneys—generally speaking—are allowed and even expected to be aggressive and domineering, that does not extend to female attorneys, who are frequently penalized if they attempt to conform to these emotional norms. Meanwhile, female legal secretaries described expectations that they would be deferential and caretaking towards (mostly male) attorneys, but male secretaries were not subject to the same norms.”

Wingfield addresses the even greater emotional-labor burden on minorities who must deal with racist remarks in the workplace. Read more at The Atlantic

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