Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guidance for Women in the Workplace

I saw this article a few weeks ago and have been meaning to share it with you. Let's start with a few quotes, I recently came across that can lead us into a discussion.
"Glass ceilings are going to be broken, not by some announcement that we wish to break glass ceilings, but because their are people who are willing to break them." - Condoleeza Rice, Former United States Secretary of State
"Define yourself, not in terms of the ceiling that you might meet, but in terms of what you want to do, how you are going to get good enough at it to really make a case that you ought to do it, and then go for it." - Condoleeza Rice, Former United States Secretary of State
"If you want a fish, don't get a canary." - Eva Longoria

I am someone who can spend hours just being lost in my thoughts. Most often those thoughts around about my future - plans, goals and aspirations. I learned to imagine things precisely as I would want them. As a woman, I can truthfully admit that at times I am my own worst critic, and even my own worst nightmare, because of those very thoughts. I don't know what it is, we women have a way of digging ourselves into these holes. However, it's because most of us are so new to our professional power driven environments, and we simply lack guidance. I've long felt that women don't do enough to help each other up the ladder, and my own personal story involves a pact of men championing me and pushing me along the way, not women. As Secretary Rice noted in her quote, it doesn't matter what the person looks like. Because most of us are surrounded by men and the number of women in high points of leadership is still relatively low, guidance and understanding our self-worth is key.

I recently came across an article by Fast Company Magazine - 3 Things Professional Women Should Stop Apologizing For

"Ladies, every time the word 'sorry' is about to fly out of your mouth, think: Have I actually done something wrong? Or has this just become a verbal tic?"

Here are three things that women often apologize for and what we can do to stop, today.

1.  Our financial expectations. Ever since women entered the workforce en masse, there have been reports revealing that we make less on average than our male counterparts. Although this gap is lessening, there is still much progress to be made. Yes, talking about money can be an uncomfortable endeavor. However, if you're armed with good ammunition to back up your demand, you'll feel more confident and ready to engage in that dialogue. In other words, be clear what you want, and don't leave until you get it (well, within reason). Moreover, when in contract negotiations for any job or project, engage an advisor so that you have a second set of eyes on the details and can work out what's acceptable and what's not with someone well-versed in the small print.

2.  Our physical appearance. Earlier this week I did a little tally of how long it took me to prepare for one of my other jobs, working as a national TV host on a business news network. The night before our shoot, I spent two hours with my clothing sponsor picking out my wardrobe for upcoming shoots. The next morning I spent two hours getting my hair done, two hours getting my nails done, and 30 minutes in makeup just before the show. Almost a full day, and I haven't even started my job, compared with my co-host, who literally grabbed a clean shirt and was ready to go (yes, he's male).  
While I understand that the demands of the broadcast business insofar as appearance are significant, that same pressure does exist in the average workplace and requires added time for women (time most of us don't have). I have heard women apologize countless times if they're not looking runway-ready at work, due to everything from pulling all-nighters to get a job done or battling sleep deprivation due to taking care of a sick child. Sure, it's important to look professional in the workplace, but it's time to lessen the pressure we put on ourselves to look perfect. Oh, and while I'm on this subject, let's try to band together a little more to support our female colleagues who might not always be in season with the latest fashion or who are not the perfect size 6 (or is it 4 now?). Instead, let's focus on what's important--what we achieve.

3.  Our professional accomplishments. "Women are trained to be sensitive to everyone's feelings, not to be selfish, and not to brag," Bloom explains to me when I ask about this culture of saying sorry. "These are good traits to have. Be we also need to understand that sometimes it's not appropriate to apologize--like when we haven't done anything wrong." 

Ladies, are you guilty of any of these things? Gentleman, have you worked with women who are guilty of these things?

1. Why are women scared of money?
2. Should personal appearance be connected to performance?
3. Any additional items that women should stop apologizing for?
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