The glass ceiling is still very much in place, there’s still not equal pay, and women aren’t sure if they should lean in or lean out. As a woman moving up the ranks in a business, starting her own company, or treading into executive territory, they’re told some things that men never hear. Whether it comes from a well-meaning mentor or someone who’s against said woman achieving that level of success is irrelevant. They both come from the same place: The belief that women don’t have the same “rights” as men to be in such a position.
While Amy Poehler is staunchly encouraging women to back off according to The Daily Beast, and yet other female executives encourage their younger counterparts to go all in, one thing is certain: Women and men aren’t equal. They probably never will be because, well, there are differences in genders.
However, taking a look at some common things women on track to powerful positions are told is interesting. It might say more about the speaker than the woman, but either way it’s valuable insight into today’s work landscape:
1. Act like a man
This is often advice given to encourage women to toughen up, but what does acting like a man even mean? With everyone from media outlets like The Art of Manliness to books like “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” trying to define what exactly a “man” is, it’s easy to get confused. Take this suggestion as you will, but remember that the person doling it out probably has a very personalized, niche idea of how a “man” acts.
2. Be pretty…or not
It’s confusing how women should look when they’re in the business setting. When a man looks good and dresses dashingly in the workplace, he’s professional. But when a woman has a good fashion sense, moisturizes and exfoliates her skin, and spends time putting on makeup, she’s vain and cares more about her looks than her career. Some men even think that women who dress nicely are putting out and asking for it. However, when a woman doesn’t follow fashion trends and uses minimal makeup, people think she has abandoned her femininity and given up on beauty. These shouldn’t really be the concern of other people. What matters is that a woman is comfortable with her body and appearance, no matter if she’s chic or boyish. Women have the right to care for their bodies and dress to their liking as much as men do.
3. Put your family first
This is most often given as seemingly kind advice to a woman who has a child (or children) at home, and yet how often is that same advice given to a man? The age-old controversy over whether women can really “have it all” is still being debated to death. The reality is that everyone should prioritize their family, and Dr. Phil has given some tips to get started, but your career matters, too (for some people). It’s all about balance, and that’s something both genders struggle with.
4. Join this club…for women
There are all kinds of professional organizations “for women” where you’re encouraged to network, connect, share and build relationships with others who know “the struggle is real.” However, there are very few official organizations that are just for men (save for the unofficial Old Boy’s Club, of course). While some of these organizations certainly have merit, and some members rely on them as a great source of support, why not join an organization that’s not based on your gender? Everyone is responsible for breaking down barriers, including women.
The reality is that women are told a lot of things that aren’t necessarily true or helpful during their career. Sometimes these situations are worse in niche industries, and there are of course some women who enjoy a lifelong career without recalling a single incident of sexism. However, if and when it is encountered, approach it like a scientific project: What can you learn from it, what theories do you have, and put it to bed when it’s no longer serving you.
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