A meeting of five people

Mansplaining Explained to Explainers

Lack of R E S P E C T leads to Angry Employees and Underutilized Staff

How is it hurting women in the workforce? Better yet- how is it wasting time and money? Mansplaining decreases productivity, causes a misdistribution of skills, and reinforces gender stereotypes.

Case in point: Recently in a sales meeting the female owner of an IT firm was asked by the salesperson if she had ever heard of Agile Development. Why yes, she thought to herself,  she has been doing Agile software development before the salesperson had been out of grammar school. She just sat there quietly, shocked that this question would be asked of an IT specialty firm. The questions continued as the salesperson asked if she had ever heard of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Once again, groan, another inane and insulting question, as if it was a round in final Jeopardy. She managed to explain that she owned an IT specialty firm. The salesperson did not apologize for his obvious blunder and was still clueless as to the irretrievable harm he had done to the relationship with this new prospect. 

OK, let’s assess the damages. The salesperson would lose a $11,000 sale.  But they will also lose the 15 referrals they could have had from this client if they had been wise enough to respect them. This client’s social media team then later gave very low ratings to the vendor on social sites. No one really wants to see a two star rating, do they?

Added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2018, mansplaining originally gained its popularity from Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Men Explain Things to Me.” While Solnit does not use the word mansplain in her essay, she describes a situation where she was discussing a book on a photographer at a party. An older gentleman joined the conversation to tell Solnit all about an important book on the photographer of discussion. The older man was explaining Solnit’s own book to her! A month later, the word appeared in a comment on the social network, Live Journal, where it became popular among feminist bloggers.

Many women have similar stories to the one above. A man blunders by describing in a condescending way, a popular or common concept of which a woman already has knowledge, thereby trivializing her and exalting himself. In the last century, men made up a majority of the workforce. Over the past 3 decades representation has shifted as woman earned college degrees and pursued more substantial careers. While many men have transitioned to women’s presence in the office by embracing new ideas and opportunities, others practice mansplaining.

As men explain a subject they may not fully understand, they make women feel incompetent and unsure of themselves. The explanation undervalues a woman’s professional standing and communicates that they are not capable of completing or even understanding a task alone. Instead of carrying on their work, many women will need to take time to work out their rage at the disrespect.

Mansplaining is negatively impacting the workforce by causing frustration and anger, decreasing productivity, and reinforcing gender stereotypes. In short, men who mansplain will kill sales, disrupt concentration in the workplace and, as they underestimate the skills of women, they will consequently under task them. 

The erroneous assumptions of mansplainers will lead them to under task highly capable women. Employers do not get the work they should out of their workforce. This results in overspending for labor. Labor dollars that should have been spent doing high level corporate work is spent on repetitive or trivial administrative tasks. Women will pump the breaks on being assigned work that is beneath them. 

Men’s mistaken assumption increases gender stereotypes

One popular area where men’s self-assurance turns into mansplaining is in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. This is more frequent in STEM careers because women only make up 26% of the workforce. With their small representation, men feel the need to unnecessarily usher women under their wing to make sure they ‘do a job correctly’. 

How You Can Help

If you see a coworker mansplaining something, do not try to interfere and correct the error being made by the mansplainer. Instead, allow the victim to vent later in private if they need to. You might ask: “How did he make you feel when he said that?” By giving the co-worker an opportunity to vent, one stops the damage in its tracks.  They will not have to carry it around anymore. Point out that that the other person is clueless about how they are hurting people.  The women in the know can then work around this clueless person, and consequently, under inform them on business intelligence data they gather in the future.