Women in the workplace have made gigantic strides in my lifetime. As a young girl, women who worked outside the home were generally teachers, nurses or secretaries. A lot of them did this only until they got married.
I did not grow up this way. My mother went back to work for a large corporation when I was 5-years old. She worked her way up the ladder. She doesn’t consider herself a pioneer or a product of the women’s movement but I do.
Although the glass ceiling is showing some cracks, it still exists. Is that due to the old boys’ network or the things women do to sabotage themselves? Is that because women juggle more with children, household chores and keeping the schedules?
It’s been quite a while since I worked in a traditional office but I have client interactions that allow me to observe office dynamics. Plus, I have a long memory of my time in the banking industry and how women often set their own traps.
In my opinion, here are some traps that hamper careers and make people uncomfortable:
I can cry at the drop of a hat. I can cry with a sentimental commercial. Crying in the workplace makes everyone cringe. When I was managing departments at the bank, I cried twice. Once was private in my office and the other time was in a bathroom stall. I learned to save it until I got home.
Mother confessor is not a role that any serious business woman aspires to be. Stop trying to get your way by bringing cookies. People will enjoy them but they don’t elevate your professional status. When’s the last time your male co-worker or Sr. VP swept into a meeting with his homemade cupcakes or felt your forehead to see if you were running a fever?
Well dressed is preferable. Save being sexy for your own time. Not that the men won’t appreciate it but it doesn’t exactly elevate your professional status.
I wish I could say that I’ve never made some stupid mistakes in the workplace. I have. But, I have a lot of young girls in my life who some day (hopefully!) will be running cities, companies and families. We don’t have to operate by the men’s rules; we can redefine them. But, I think we redefine them by reversing some of the stereotypes.
I think the leaks in the glass ceiling are due to all the issues Sheri has noted. Our generation of women will never have the perfect “seal”. There are industries where the good old boys network is still very much alive and kicking. I witness this from the outside. Because I am a small business owner, I fortunately don’t experience it often. When I do, I subtly and politely make it clear that I don’t support these attitudes and the behaviors that accompany them.
I also think as females, sometimes we are overly sensitive to those things. Our radar goes up. I have worked hard over the years to overcome this. I remember getting in the elevator with Sheri when we were in banking and one of the corporate lenders said: “Here come the marketing gals.” I was appalled. Today, I would handle my feelings differently and let it roll – because I am comfortable in my own skin now.
I am not a crier. I hide my emotions as often as I can in the work environment. When a major work snafu occurs, I more than likely get that barfing feeling to be sick. I never got the mothering gene – I was missed somewhere along the way. While I think the motherly behaviors often carry over into the workplace, part of that is what makes the world go round. I think it’s hard to flip roles when you get to the workplace – especially if you have kids. Most guys just aren’t wired this way. And God forbid that they are – because people assume they are gay.
While dressing sexy won’t necessarily get you a raise, Sheri, you and I both remember one certain person we used to work with who played that card very well. I remember sexy bikini swim suits at hotels on business trips. Yikes! She was incredibly beautiful and successful with the sexy thing and the upper crust management (males) bought it hook, line and sinker. She moved up the ladder quite fast and was not too good at her job.