GIRLS (as long as we’re dressed appropriately)
Tomorrow at work I’m attending a Lunch n’ Learn for women in the workplace, based on the book “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office“. It’s about the “unconscious mistakes” women make at work that sabotage our careers, which, okay. I get it. There are many women for whom this stuff isn’t second nature. There are women who are shy and unassuming yet still smart and ambitious and want that corner office. There are women who are actively denied raises and promotions because they are women, and that really sucks and must be changed. Millions of young women are entering the workforce, and a lot of the advice in this book are things you pick up after being in the workforce for a few years or more.
The book was first released in 2004. In the grand scheme of someone’s career, 12 years is a very large chunk of time. What may have been seen as a corporate mistake in 2004 is a non-issue today, or at the very least seen through a very different lens. I’m sure that a lot of this book is still valid for “traditional” careers and positions, but as someone who works in tech and has been lucky enough to work with some awesome people who saw past my uterus, a lot of the advice given is baffling. There’s a self assessment worksheet we were asked to do, and some of the questions are making me downright angry:
- 19. I’ve selected a hairstyle that is appropriate for my age and position.
- 26. I take care to wear accessories that complement my clothing.
- 40. I don’t apply lipstick or comb my hair in public.
Why. Why are these things. If someone writes a book for men and how to get ahead, are these questions included? Are ANY questions included beyond “Are you male?” “Are you white?” “Are you rich?” “Here’s your key to the executive bathroom!”
The book probably wasn’t written for women who work in tech, or in any industry where hair and accessories don’t matter. I know not everything can apply to my specific situation. It’s still off-putting, though – and I say this as someone who is actively trying for a promotion to Senior Wizard (my current title is simply “Wizard”, because I’m not the only one who has trouble defining what it is I do). I went about the inquiry in a way that the book doesn’t seem to cover: instead of coyly changing my behaviours to indicate to people that I am ready for more responsibility, I went to my boss and said “yo, promote me”. We had a meeting, talked it out, and now I have a list of direct actions I can take to get that promotion. And not a single item on that list includes “wear appropriate clothing” (thank god), “don’t put on lipstick at your desk”, or “girl you cannot pull off that necklace with that neckline, you are a walking DO NOT right now”.
I’m still attending the session because I’m sure there will be some good information, but I’m also curious to see if those specific things are talked about as valid or dismissed outright (or mentioned at all).