Saturday Morning Rounds January 4, 2020 - How subtle class cues can backfire on your resume (and what it has to do w/maternity leave)

Posted by BossB, MD on January 4, 2020
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds
A weekly round-up of everything that captured our attention over the last 7 days

What we're reading

How Subtle Class Cues Can Backfire on Your Resume in the Harvard Business Review.

Long story short, some researchers did a resume audit study in which they applied to a myriad of big law firms with fake resumes that were exactly the same except for the variables they wanted to test. This is similar to the study about how minorities who "whitened" their resumes (particularly their names) received more interview callbacks

This time though, instead of race they decided to test how cues about one's socioeconomic class effect law applicants, and whether gender had played any factor.

Here are the ways that they cued the "class" of the applicants:


And here are the results:


It's frustrating but unsurprising that in an industry whose clients consist almost exclusively of the very wealthy, higher-class men would have a leg up on lower-class men. But why the heck would we see a reversal of that trend for women? The researchers had that very same question, so they conducted a follow-up study with 210 practicing attorneys around the country and:

"asked them to rate their candidate on factors proven to influence how favorably people view job candidates but that vary between men and women. These included perceptions of the candidate’s competence, likability, fit with an organization’s culture and clientele, and career commitment."

They found that:

"even though higher-class women were seen as just as good “fits” as higher-class men, attorneys declined to interview these women because they believed they were the least committed of any group (including lower-class women) to working a demanding job. Our survey participants, as well as an additional 20 attorneys we interviewed, described higher-class women as “flight risks,” who might desert the firm for less time-intensive areas of legal practice or might even leave paid employment entirely."


In the process of helping women physicians work through as many job searches & offers as we have, we've found that the gender gap is quite tractable in almost every area (pay, promotion, resources, etc) if one learns how to position oneself and negotiate well.

The glaring exception (which undoubtedly affects the areas above as well, but more subtly and over a longer period of time) is the burden of bearing and raising children.

We've seen this since day 1 here at BBMD. The US medical system is simply built around the assumption that doctors don't give birth or fill the primary caregiver role, and that hasn't budged an inch in any meaningful way at a systems level.

While we've (a) definitely helped our clients make a lot of progress, (b) never failed to get at least some kind of concession, and (c) even changed institution-wide parental leave policies on occasion, this particular issue is likely to be the last pocket of resistance against gender equity in medicine. 

Encouragingly, we believe that victory in this cause is damn-near inevitable. The real, hard work here is that of accelerating the timeline to that day. Luckily, we've got some thoughts to share on the topic in our "tip of the week."

Who we're following

Paid Leave US (@PaidLeaveUS) is "is the national campaign to win paid family leave by 2022." We love them for a myriad of reasons:

  • They're the only organization we know of that's focusing exclusively on this topic
  • They've got a real plan and a great team to get the job done
  • They're clearly not afraid to think big and pursue an audacious goal (nat'l policy by 2022)

We encourage you to give 'em a follow on Twitter and consider supporting in any other way you can.

We want to be a part of the systems-level solution and throw some skin in this game as well, so over the course of the the next week, anyone who purchases anything from us (1hr strategy session, full online curriculum, etc) can get 10% off and generate a 10% matching donation to Paid Leave US if they use the code "PLUS" at checkout.

BBMD tip of the week

What is everyone's favorite radio station?

Go ahead, take a second and think about it!


We'll wait...


Okay, stumped yet?

The answer is that everyone's favorite radio station is WIIFM - "What's In It For Me?"

While this is undoubtedly the single most corny, cringe-worthy persuasion rule we've ever heard, its memorable because of how bad it is, and that's why it works.

Now what the hell does that have to do with maternity leave? Good question!

We've found that the best way to get maternity leave is to avoid using those particular words at pretty much all costs, and to instead focus on something that can benefit a wider audience. What might that be?

Now we will be the first to say that being pregnant is not a disability. What we really want to focus on here is negotiating for a policy that benefits the most people possible to increase your chances of success. Let's walk through the logic:

Which demographic makes the most policy decisions in medicine? 

  • Older men

Which demographic will be most likely to benefit from a short-term disability policy?

  • Older people

Do many short-term disability insurance policies cover a healthy pregnancy?

  • YES!!!

It's much easier to sell the idea of short-term disability insurance to a group of old dudes than it is to sell maternity leave. It's much easier to sell "parental leave" to a group that has a single male than it is to sell maternity leave.

On top of that, starting with short-term disability then moving to parental leave gives you a much stronger position to actually achieve maternity leave concessions in your negotiation. In our curriculum we call this creating "Lines of Retreat." Please allow us to nerd our for a moment

Imagine any battle scene in any movie or TV show ever - Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones, etc. The armies almost never start in the most fortified part of their  positions - they try to win in the open field first. If that doesn't work, they usually have 2 or 3 fallback points where they'll reassemble and try again, until they reach a final "last stand" situation.

Makes for some great on-screen moments, and it also makes for a great negotiation framework.

If the decision-makers across the table from you have already said no to short-term disability insurance AND parental leave in general, then it's going to be a lot harder for them to say no to your next ask - maternity leave. It simply violates the social contract to have too many negative back-and-forth exchanges in a negotiation. And people are very uncomfortable violating our unwritten social contract.

Which means you'll be maximizing your chances of success.

Quote we're contemplating

"Courage! Do not fall back; in a little the place will be yours. Watch! When the wind blows my banner against the bulwark, you shall take it." - Joan of Arc

As always, please let us know your requests and suggestions on Twitter. Which section above is your favorite? What do you want more or less of? Just send a tweet to @BossB_MD and put #SaturdayMorningRounds in there so we can find it.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!