Starting off with a powerful quote:
“Women have learned that if we aren’t on the table, then we’re on the menu.” – Cecile Richards
If you’re a woman in the workplace and you’re reading this right now, ask yourself how many times you’ve gone through the following situations:
- getting called bossy or b*tchy for doing your job
- getting hit on or harassed by multiple colleagues
- getting condemned because your professional clothes are “too distracting”
- getting called flirtatious for being a genuinely nice person
- getting called emotional for being passionate about something
- getting passed over for promotions because others assume that your family life will hinder your career
- getting into unnecessary conflict with other women
- getting scared to speak up for yourself because you fear you might get fired or demoted
Being a women in the workplace doesn’t just mean you’re good at your job. It also means that you have the courage and willpower to deal with workplace obstacles on a daily basis. It also means that your mental capacity is twice (maybe three times) those of your peers because you continue to excel in an environment that’s meant to keep you down.
I think Journalist and Activist Gloria Steinem put it best when she said, “Women are becoming the men they wanted to marry.” According to The Washington Post, women account for nearly 60% of all college degrees, and women are making far advances into male-dominated fields, such as engineering and science.
So then why do we continue to be treated as if “we’re on the menu”? Why do we still get paid less? And why is there 95% more male CEOs than female CEOs? Well, simply put, it’s because we let others’ expectations of us shape our reality. Think about it.
For example, whenever a woman is told that she’d “make a good wife someday”, she may feel flattered or even blush a little. But why is she really being told this? Because she’s great at doing laundry? Because she knows how to cook and clean the house at the same time? Or is it because she works hard, owns three businesses and has achieved many of her goals in a short amount of time? Hmm. We continue to let the perception of others define what is good or bad for our lives. And that’s not fair to anyone. Because the potential we have to change society is so great.
And before you go thinking that I’m trying to take over the world, just know that I’m not. What I really want this post to do is shed light on a controversial topic — a necessary dialogue that needs to be had. What you take or don’t take from this post is up to you.
Getting called bossy for doing your job.
Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.org, said that since childhood, she’s always felt like she was walking the fence.
From Business Insider: “If you assert yourself, you’re less well-liked,” Thomas says. “If you don’t assert yourself enough, you’re not seen as competent.” To avoid sounding bossy, women learn to soften their speech with politeness. Rather than saying “do this,” they might say “let’s do this” or “what you could do” or rephrase their statements as questions. For example, instead of saying, “Have this on my desk tomorrow,” a woman might say, “Could you please have it to me tomorrow?” Thomas reiterates, “Does she talk as you expect a woman to talk, or does she talk in the way you’d expect a person of authority to talk?”
Getting hit on or harassed by multiple colleagues.
It gets extremely tiring when women have to ward off men every day at work. No, it’s not flattering to get called beautiful every five minutes and get hit on every time we’re trying to do our jobs. It’s annoying. We have projects and deadlines just like men do.
From Career Addict: Here are some right ways to handle yourself and the ‘flirter’. 1) Be affirmative – Let’s face it, most girls are just too sweet. They either don’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings, or they just don’t know how to say stop. You can be affirmative, without being rude. Kindly tell him that you’re not interested, or that you don’t appreciate his [behavior] or comments. Although this is mainly an issue for females, there are males that are experiencing the same issue. The same advice applies; be stern, but polite. 2) Be Upfront – Tell the person hitting on you that you’re in a relationship. You are happy with your partner, and do not appreciate the flirting. 3) Act bored – If someone is flirting with you, act bored. They will get the hint. If you are not responsive to their comments, they will most likely stop. 4) Walk away – If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t give them the satisfaction. If they say something or make you feel uneasy, simply walk away. This will either send a clear message, or make them feel silly. If they feel silly, it’s less likely that they’ll try again. 5) Become more involved in your work tasks – If you’re busy with work, there’s less downtime to be approached.
Getting condemned because your professional clothes are “too distracting”.
As women, we are blessed to come in all different shapes and sizes. Though it may be a blessing and a curse if you happen to be on the…curvier side of things.
From Mom.me: Over the last few years, curvy girls have become more accepted as the image of what a real woman looks like. Are you a curvy girl? If so, have your curves ever gotten you a side-eyed glance from both males and females at work? Did their glances make you look down at yourself to be sure you didn’t [accidentally] leave your skirt on the bathroom floor? I’ve had experiences like that in my past and sometimes still do. I am a curvy woman. I love fashion. There’s no doubt about that. If other people can’t handle my curves then that’s just too bad. I know the image I want to project and have learned how to dress as myself in a professional environment. As I get older, I feel I look better than I have ever looked in my life. I’ve also adopted my own body image as adequate for the corporate and wider world. I am certain what I wear is appropriate for whatever arena I bring myself to, so long as I wear it well.
Getting called flirtatious for being genuinely nice.
From NYMag.com: Most women have probably experienced being friendly around a man, only to have it be misinterpreted as flirtatiousness. Simple signals of interest in a conversation — smiling, laughing, being interested in a conversation — are all somehow perceived as come-ons. Straight men, research has found, are a lot more likely than straight women to fool themselves into thinking someone is romantically interested in them when they aren’t. As Mons Bendixen, a psychologist at the Norwegian university of Science and Technology, writes in a study recently published in Evolutionary Psychology, there are two main theories. Error-management theory argues that men have evolved to overperceive sexual interest in non-familial female relationships, so they don’t miss out on the opportunity to reproduce. Women, on the other hand, have evolved to underperceive sexual interest, because sex with the wrong guy means risking pregnancy and child-rearing without the help of a mate, not to mention lost opportunities to procreate with other, less flaky men. In other words, the sexual stakes are higher for women than for men — or they were, at least, in the distant past, when evolution shaped behaviors that linger to this day. [This study] can’t fully unravel how this stuff works, of course. There’s still a lot to learn about how nature and nurture interact when it comes to sexual misperception. So, ladies, the next time a guy misinterprets your friendly smile in a sleazy way, try to keep in mind that somewhere deep in his brain, he may still be a bit of a caveman.
Getting called emotional for being passionate about something.
The difference between being passionate and being emotional at work? Either you’re a male or a female.
From Harvard Business Review: It’s a recurring theme in our coaching sessions with women. Although passion has a legitimate place in business, it can be misinterpreted — especially when women are doing the communicating and male colleagues are on the receiving end. That’s what we’ve found in our review of more than 1,000 360-degree feedback reports on female executives. When women fervently sell an idea or argue against the consensus, for example, we’ve seen that male colleagues or managers say things like, “She was too hyped up” and “She was emotional,” whereas the women themselves say they are simply advancing their cause or expressing an opinion, albeit passionately. Overall, male executives shared “an ongoing perception that women are more emotional than men,” and they largely felt that women “need to be aware of it and remain composed.” We also heard from men that unchecked emotion by women makes their ideas less convincing and compromises their credibility, because it focuses attention on style rather than content.
Click the Harvard Business Review link to learn four ways that women can show passion without seeming “emotional”.
Getting passed over for promotions because of your family life.
There’s a reason why women all over the country are being advised to keep their marital/family status private when applying for new jobs and promotions.
From Business Insider: New research by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. yields some disturbing findings about women’s prospects for advancement in the workplace. Though women and men say they want to be promoted in about equal numbers (75% and 78% respectively), women are significantly less likely to make it to the next tier in their organization. There’s a common misconception that women who start families are subsequently less ambitious in their careers. But mothers in the survey were 15% more interested in being a top executive than women without children. Very few people participate in flexibility and career-development programs offered by their organizations. More than 90% of women and men believe taking extended family leave will hurt their position at work. At every level, women were at least nine times more likely than men to say they do more childcare and at least four times more likely to say they do more chores at home. There’s a clear disparity between how women perceive their opportunities for advancement and how their companies see it. Researchers say one solution is to quantify the problem. For example, companies can track key metrics such as the number of women and men in the hiring process, promotion rates for women and men, and women and men’s satisfaction with their roles.
Click this link to read women’s stories about the bullying/betrayal they received for being pregnant.
Getting into unnecessary conflict with other women.
Now let’s back off men for a second because it’s well known that women can cause themselves problems, too.
From Forbes: This week, one of my coaching clients [Cara] shared with me that she was ambushed by her female boss in an executive meeting. It’s not the first time. It happens pretty regularly. Her boss will chastise her, belittle her, and unjustly accuse her of committing some horrific mistakes. And she does this in public. Cara is beside herself with anger and frustration. She fears her reputation will suffer. She did nothing to provoke her boss and these verbal attacks seem so unfair. What likely triggers her boss’s bad behavior is the fact that Cara is great at what she does; she is considered a top performer. Her boss sees Cara as a threat. Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, co-authors of ‘Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things Get Personal’, state, “women are complicated. While most of us want to be kind and nurturing, we struggle with our darker side – feelings of jealousy, envy, and competition. While men tend to compete in an overt manner – jockeying for position and [fighting] to be crowned “winners” – women often compete more covertly and behind the scenes. This covert competition and indirect aggression is at the heart of mean behavior among women at work.”
Getting scared to speak up for yourself.
From Marie Claire: Researchers have officially debunked the myth that women talk too much and they’ve done so several times over. On average, women talk less than men in classroom discussions, in the office, in meetings, in parliaments, in courtrooms and yes, on televised political panels. Part of the problem is that there is an unconscious bias that operates in workplaces that means men are expected to participate in debate and discussion but women should sit quietly. Perhaps fetch the tea, or take the notes – or even miss out entirely and ‘cover the phones’ instead. Unfortunately it’s not only how much women speak but also the way we speak, that’s holding us back. When I worked in with lots of women, there was a regular chorus of ‘sorry’ that echoed around the office. We were sorry for interrupting. Sorry for going on annual leave. Sorry for not chatting when we were working on something urgent. Sorry for being in the bathroom and not at our desks. Sorry for wanting a pay [raise]. We still operate in workplaces that were mostly built by men and for men. While women are entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, there’s still something about the competitive, hierarchical way offices are structured which make us feel like outsiders. Workplaces make us feel like we’re visiting at best but more often than not, like we’re imposing. The workforce may have been designed to help men thrive but women are here now. We are here to stay. And you know what? It’s high time we started talking about it.
I’ve been in the workforce for approximately five years, and I’ve already felt the effects of being a woman in corporate. But I’m happy to be a woman. The obstacles we face on a daily basis only make us stronger and wittier. Do you have anything you’d like to add? Any stories you’d like to share? I’m open to all opinions. Please share them in the comment section below!
*Note: For the full Women in the Workplace report, please click here.
Sorry for the long post, guys. Just kidding. No I’m not.