Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Exciting Game of Career Women: You Can't Win

You show too much cleavage. Bad for: Executive.
You are angry. Bad for: Every job. You should be nicer. No wait, you should be more assertive. Actually, maybe you should just stay home.

We've come a long way from What Shall I Be: The Exciting Game of Career Girls. Or have we? Women's career options have certainly expanded, but there are still wage gaps, double standards, and a whole set of conflicting rules and messages about how we're supposed to wield our feminine "personalities" in the office.

The New York Times reports that professional women just can't catch a break. Expressing anger is a plus for men, but it's a big negative for women. Women executives are seen as incompetent if they show cleavage (Secretaries, you can sex it up all you want. Your colleagues will still see you as competent. Mad Men, anyone?), but please don't be unfeminine, ladies. No one likes a butchy boss. And that's pretty much the bottom line. “Women have to choose between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked,” says Joan Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law. When people are asked what qualities they value most in a leader, it doesn't seem to matter what qualities they name. In every case, they say women are lacking. Ouch.

Is there a silver lining here? Study after study clearly shows that gender stereotypes are alive and kicking all of us in the ass. Most researchers agree that companies need to step up and do something about it. Perhaps we can get things started with a fun-filled night of playing board games with our co-workers? [New York Times]

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