Young Women in the Workforce

So here’s the deal…

It’s rough being young and in the workforce.

But it appears that young WOMEN have it the hardest.

Why?

Because not only do we have to prove ourselves capable despite our age, but despite our gender too.

This is not okay.

I mean really, why is the notion that we’re young, intelligent women, so ridiculous? What do we have to do to gain respect from both our male and female colleagues?

It’s true that we’re young.

But we’re also hungry, ambitious, and yes, contrary to popular belief, many of us are smart.

Check out my full article featured in Urbane Sophisticate’s Women’s Issue——>here.

If you’re a young woman in the workforce, you may relate.

And if you’re not, you should still be aware of the hardships that we face.

Then, start taking us seriously.

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From Urbane Sophisticate’s Women’s Issue:

by: Kayla Cruz

I should have known that being a young woman in the workforce was not going to be easy. There were particularly obvious signs: my first, which I completely disregarded, took place my sophomore year in college. I remember sitting in class, making up an exam when my professor came up to me, a bit too close for comfort, and said, “You know, you’re going to have a hard time being taken seriously at work with legs like that.” I assure you he said that. Two years later, when interviewing for a new job, the hiring manager (who was a woman, for the record) looked at me, in my tailored Calvin Klein business dress, and said, “I’d like to hire you. But we’re going to have to put you in scrubs. I won’t have you walking around with those legs.”  That was my first career lesson: my legs are an issue.

It seems that Gen Y women entering the workforce today face a tremendous challenge in being taken seriously as professionals. Not only do we have to deal with negative stereotypes regarding our young age, but we also have to navigate the workforce as women and unfortunately, regardless of how far we’ve come, there are still some people that undermine our ability to take our careers seriously.

Most of us attend college for four years in hopes of landing our dream jobs upon graduating. We dream of making a difference, and becoming successful and powerful women, a goal we know that we’re perfectly capable of achieving. However, what we discover when we enter the workforce often does not meet up to these expectations. We find instead that most organizations are severely flawed in their infrastructures and make it nearly impossible for young women to attain the acknowledgement that they deserve. I know that for me, that was certainly the case.  I entered a male dominated workforce where I was perceived as an object of desire, incapable of possessing intellect. The understanding that I was a young and smart woman did not exist.

Nearly nothing I learned in college prepared me for what I encountered as a young woman in the workforce. During my first year as a professional, I faced sexual harassment on a daily basis. When men would approach me, it was hardly ever to talk about work, and it was never in a serious manner. They failed to respect me as an intellectual and that upset me. While I was flattered that men perceived me as desirable, what I wanted more than anything was to be acknowledged for my talents and the knowledge that I possessed.

This longing to be respected in our careers that we, as Generation Y, bring to the workforce is not a bad thing. However, when added to our naiveté, it makes us prime targets for sexual harassment, which I learned first hand. In this case, one that occurs way too often, a young woman becomes frustrated because no one seems to respect her work. Then comes along a male superior who assures her that he does see her value. He then takes a “special interest” in her and ensures that her career development is given high priority.  She is given new projects and challenging work and she is happy until said superior is calling her at 3 a.m. demanding her resignation because she failed to report to his apartment that evening. 

To add to this is the sad reality that a young woman is seldom able to take credit for her success. As she advances in her career, she is automatically perceived as “the girl that slept with her boss.”  It is seemingly unfathomable that a young woman may succeed based on her own hard work.  What people struggle to understand is that women are just as capable as men in the workforce.  Add to that factor a young age and it is nearly impossible to be taken seriously, to be perceived as anything other than an executive’s secretary. I don’t aspire to be a secretary. I want much more than that and I will spend my entire career making sure that I am known for my intellect and the outstanding work I produce, not just for my legs.

Being young in the workforce today is difficult. Generation Y is striving to make employers aware of the fact that they are capable of doing serious work, beyond the process of making copies and other clerical duties. They yearn for challenging work and want to be seen as equal teammates by their colleagues. It appears that young women have it the hardest. We have to prove ourselves capable despite our age and our gender. But why is the notion that we are young, intelligent women, so ridiculous? What do we have to do to gain respect from both our male and female colleagues? It is true that we are young, but we are also hungry, ambitious, and yes, contrary to popular belief, many of us are smart.

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