I was on the fast track. It was just a little over a year since I was hired for an entry level position with a medical management company and I was promoted to executive status. I loved my job and got to travel and meet and work with wonderful people. I was good at managing others and excelled at my job.
Corporate headquarters was on Madison Avenue in New York City. We had just completed another three day meeting when I was summoned into the office of our SVP of Marketing. “I need to speak with you,” she said. You need to change the way you dress. It is not appropriate.”
“What?” I replied. I had a closet full of Calvin Klein and Armani suits. “What do you mean inappropriate? I asked.
“You show too much cleavage and it’s not appropriate as an executive of this company.”
Well, others might have responded sheepishly that they would certainly address the issue.I just looked at her in disbelief. What was she saying? My attire was certainly not offensive. (Maybe in retrospect , it was to HER.) My suits were all attractive and professional. I had enough self-confidence to dismiss this conversation as “her issue”. Was she jealous? Was she insinuating that I was successful because I was using my sexuality? Not MY issue. I never changed one item of clothing to please her. I continued to dress to please myself and had a terrific few years at that company.
Fast forward a few years and I am at the pinnacle of my career. I am in Chicago at the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 500 company interviewing for CEO of one of their heathcare companies. I am wearing my power red suit. This was my final interview in a long drawn out interview process and I wanted to “close the deal”. A woman approached me as I was waiting for my interview and whispered, “Women don’t wear red here. It’s not appropriate.” What? Are we back with Nathaniel Hawthorne feeling the shame of the Scarlett Letter? Apparently so.
Well, I got the job despite the red suit but it has never ceased to amaze me how as women we are always walking a fine line when it comes to professional image and attire.
If we wear pants, we are choosing a more masculine appearance. Is this what is takes in some corporate cultures to succeed?
If we wear attractive feminine clothing, we are often called on the carpet for using our sexuality to advance our careers.
Should we wear high heels or not? Pants or skirts? Should our hemline be above or below the knee?
As women, have we made any progress in this area? Can’t we just be our authentic selves and wear what feels professional and comfortable? After all, wasn’t Hilary Clinton chastised for wearing pant suits during the campaign? Was she judged on her attire more than her talent? And what does all the criticism of Michelle Obama’s wardrobe have to do with all her accomplishments?
Thank goodness for dress down days! Then we all get to wear jeans, no questions asked.
Don’t we have enough obstacles in the workplace without having to deal with other women sabotaging our efforts? Why can’t women just get along and support each other in their efforts to advance their careers?
The New York Times this week ran an article, “Backlash: Women Bullying Women at Work”, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/business/10women.html that presented statistics to support the fact that 40% of all workplace bullies are women and that women bully other women 70% of the time!
Bullying is categorized as behavior that can include spreading rumors to derail someone’s career, withholding important promotional information, pushing and shoving (yes, do you believe this one?), bad mouthing others, passive aggressive behavior and more.
So why does this type of sabotaging behavior occur in the workplace?
There are several theories:
- Women need to adopt aggressive behavior to get ahead and once they are in a leadership position they still maintain this behavior.
- Women see other women as potential threats and competitors.
- There is not much opportunity for advancement and so women are more competitive.
- Women are being stereotyped as “bullies” but this is not necessarily the case.
- Women are insecure in their leadership positions and feel the necessity to sabotage other women to maintain their position of power.
Here is a wonderful quote from the article,
As we get into the corporate world, we’re taught or we’re led to believe that we don’t get ahead because of men. But, we really don’t get ahead because of ourselves. Instead of building each other up and showcasing each other, we’re constantly tearing each other down.
Do you see evidence of women bullying other women in your workplace?
Have you experienced another woman sabotaging your efforts at work?
I would love to hear from you. Please send your comments!
Cindy is a certified business coach and change agent. Because change can be so challenging, Cindy created beautiful bracelets to reinforce her message of changing behaviour with her clients. Now she has a whole new business! Listen to this great story of how she developed her new business and check out these lovely bracelets on her website.
Her website: http://newleaftouchstone.com
I read a very interesting article recently in The Boston Globe called, “The Female Advantage. A New Reason for Businesses to Promote Women: It’s More Profitable”.
The premise of the article is that companies with more female leadership in place at the Board and executive level are more profitable. From the article,
Measured as a percent of revenues, profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher by industry means, a 2001 Pepperdine University study showed.
The call for women’s advancement in business has been primarily focused thus far on gender diversity and fairness. Equal representation. Equal pay. Now there is a new perspective to consider. There is a sound business reason to promote women. It is a proven advantage that companies with more female leadership have greater profits.
Why does the correlation exist between higher profits and female leadership representation? There are several theories presented in the article.
- women have a better understanding of the consumer market
- gender diversity leads to more vigorous discussions
- women have a different leadership style
- women are more risk adverse
Though I believe that all of the above factors contribute to the success of high performing companies, I also think that organizations that are sensitive to gender issues and actively support female managers in the pipeline are more likely to be high performing companies (true meritocracies) to begin with.
As the author states about these companies,
They’re picking the best and the brightest and letting them bloom.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Why do you think that companies with more female leadership are more profitable?
Please send me your comments.
Catherine shares her story about her passion for organization and how she helps creatives to create and maintain an environment that will help them do their best work and one that will enhance their creativity and productivity. Her company, Sorted, does onsite and virtual work to assist anyone in need of organizing their physical or electronic space.
Her website and blog are: http://get-sorted.net
It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it. ~ from the television show The Golden Girls
This post today is to honor all my clients, colleagues, friends, and family who are mothers. Words can barely express my admiration for all the wonderful talented women that I have the good fortune of knowing through business and pleasure.
Everyday, I speak with women who are balancing their roles as mother, wife, and business woman. They accomplish this with elegance and grace. Their daily routine of running a household, running a business, and running around to baseball practice and games, piano lessons, hockey, girl scouts, dance lessons etc. seems effortless. They are on auto pilot most of the time and manage to make it through their busy schedules and keep everyone happy. It is truly amazing to see. How do we as mothers manage to focus on our profession and family and do everything so well?
Of course, we are not perfect though we try so hard to achieve perfection. We expend a lot of energy attempting to keep the many different balls in the air and hope that nothing drops. Most of the time, we are as near to perfection as is humanly possible. Super heroines!
Each role that we take on as women whether it’s motherhood or career or relationship partner and spouse is a really a full time job and we are constantly under pressure (though most of it self-directed) to perform all these roles perfectly (or at least to the best of our abilities). We rarely let any one down.
So let’s take the time today to honor our mothers and also to acknowledge OURSELVES as mothers and give OURSELVES credit for being the amazing women that we are!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Susan has a unique coaching practice that helps her clients be present in the moment, releasing them from the past and their fears of the future. Her specialties are clients with infertility, high risk pregancy, miscarriage, anxiety, sudden illness, and recovery from accidents. She has also just started a new business venture based on wellness and nutrition.
Visibility is the key component to any successful marketing campaign. There is no limit to the ways that you can market yourself. Visibility is contagious and once you get started it takes off. The biggest challenge is to get started.
Be aware that everything you do and everything you don’t do or choose not to do is all part of your personal brand. It all communicates your value and character. The way you answer your phone is part of your brand message. Your voice message, the way you respond to emails are all part of your brand so it’s important to be conscious of the way you are communicating to people.
Here are some tips on how to create visibility for yourself to enhance your profile at work:
- Sign up for a special project or committee that has visibility within your company which will introduce you to new colleagues and showcase your skills or teach you new skills.
- Become a SME (subject matter expert). Teach at a community college or an adult education course.
- Start a blog on the subject. Create buzz about you and your brand.
- Write a contributing article/column for your local newspaper or alumni magazine. You will have a track record of your work.
- Sign up to speak at a conference. Volunteer for a panel discussion.
- Be strategic about social media networking sites. Choose the sites that best suit your needs to promote your brand and carefully craft your promotional message and profile online.
- Nurture your network. The best way to market your brand is word of mouth marketing. Find conscious ways to communicate your message to your contacts. What they say about your contributes to the value of your brand.
Marketing your brand requires you to act selfishly to promote yourself and to grow yourself. This is a win-win situation for you and your company. Everything you do to promote your personal brand and grow professionally is gravy for them. When you are learning, growing, building relationships,and delivering great results, it’s good for you and good for the company where you work.
Julie Roads is a copywriter, professional blogger and social media expert. If you want someone to help you write content for your website and marketing materials or need help with your blog, Julie can help. She just launched a new website to help social media newbies. www.socmedia101.com.
Her website: www.writingroads.com
Her blog: www.writingroads/blog.com
Caroline talks about her boutique real estate firm on Martha’s Vineyard and what has contributed to her success and ability to survive during tough times in the real estate industry.
Her website: www.carolinetaylorproperties.com