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Married to the Unemployed

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Shari Storm: Many of my friends are married to men who have lost their jobs. As the unemployment rate climbs, this is no surprise -- especially considering that men are getting laid off at a faster pace than women. As Derek Blaylock wrote in a recent edition of ParentMap, the unemployment rate for men jumped 1.4 percentage points the first part of this year, where the unemployment rate for women jumped only .9 percentage points.

Man in job interview
I've listened to several women commiserate how difficult unemployment is for their husbands. Job interviewing seems to be particularly painful. It's interesting. Being unintentionally jobless is hard on anyone, but it's been my observation that job interviewing is easier for women.

I've always thought this was because women have stronger interpersonal skills and are more comfortable with small talk. But I recently read Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax. He describes a study in which researchers asked participants to toss a ring around a short pole.

The participants were alone in the room, and the only directions were to toss the ring around the pole as many times as possible. The participant could stand anywhere they wanted in the room.

Not surprisingly, women stood right next to the pole and made most of the shots. Men, on the other hand, stood a few feet away and made less of the shots.

This changed when the researchers put other people in the room to observe. When other people were watching, women still stood close and made almost all of the shots, but men stood even farther away.

Men stood up to five feet farther away when being watched and missed far more of the shots! "I guess I don't want anyone to think I'm a wuss," explains one of the male participants when asked why he stood farther away when someone else was in the room.

Perhaps the reason job interviews are harder on men is more nuanced than my original assumption. Perhaps, along with being more at ease with small talk, women worry less about being watched as they perform a task.

Taking the theory that women concentrate on getting a job done, regardless of who is observing, and that men concentrate more on not appearing wimpy, I can see how men have a tougher time. I mean, what is more emasculating than sitting in front of someone and explaining: a) why you lost your last job, and b) how much you want the next one?

There are several experts who believe that women will come out of this recession better off than we were before the crisis hit. As the great job shift happens and people lose and find new work, our skill at focusing on the end goal will help us tremendously, and not just in job interviews!

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
rugbymom July 16, 2009, 10:13 AM

I’ll agree with that.

atlanta jobs December 22, 2010, 2:04 AM

Many people are able to enjoy comfortable lifestyles while many others are left with jobs that pay minimum wage, or barely over. Many Americans are busy working 40 hours plus a week and barely struggling to make enough to cover the bare essential bills. It is a tragedy the way the economy is functioning; with a great number of people getting richer, those who are financially struggling are continuing to struggle in a perpetual cycle of debt and poverty.

Sydney Boehner March 25, 2011, 4:35 PM

You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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