I have worked professionally since I was eighteen years old (long story) and therefore have in the past ten years experienced a lot more corporate (and public sector) ridiculousness than a lot of my peers. As someone that likes to remain informed on as many topics as possible I definitely try to stay current with the present state of women in the American workplace.
The New York Times recently posted a Q & A with Gloria Feldt, the former president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood, Where Is the Female Steve Jobs?
I have several issues with the feature. First Adriana Gardella, the author of the piece, begins by stating:
For American women, the days of overt “Mad Men”-style discrimination are largely gone
I am not yet thirty and somehow I have experienced repeated overt discrimination. I sincerely doubt that these days are "largely gone". How about the time that a committee chairman (an obese man) told me to "watch it" since I was getting fat (I was a size 6 versus my usual 0 - the horror!), or told me to stand up and turn around (I did. I was 19! and stupid) and then told me I had the nicest legs he had ever seen (Thanks, wait...what!), etc. I could go on for DAYS.
Anyway rant over. Maybe I AM the only woman in America that witnesses completely inappropriate sexist hijinxs on a regular basis. Fine.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
I do not disagree with everything Feldt says and do plan to read her book:
No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power and Leadership
However my main issue with her statements is that I feel that she is placing the blame on women for the lack of female leadership in corporate America.
For instance when asked by Gardella: Why aren’t women walking through the doors that are open to them?
Feldt responds "It’s partly about overcoming social norms that overemphasize niceness, deference and attractiveness to the opposite sex".
Why is it a woman's responsibility to overcome these social norms? Speaking from personal experience I have done everything within legal limits to counter these norms. I am not nice. I do not defer to anyone especially not men in the workplace. Ever. In terms of my attractiveness to the opposite sex well there isnt much I can do there. If they arent turned off by my constant nose picking then that is their problem.
There is absolutely no way for women to counter these norms aside from raising our sons to value women as people and to not expect women in the workplace to be sweetheart Stepford robots.
The return on investment will be great but the gratification is far from instant. What can be done now Feldt?
Feldt's response to What are some examples of the barriers women create for themselves? was:
Waiting politely to speak during a meeting only to hear a male colleague offer the idea you planned to suggest. Learning that a man with the same qualifications and job as you started at a higher salary because he asked for it and you didn’t. Taking on the major burden of household duties because you know it’ll get done that way.
I do none of these things and I am still not CEO of the major corporation I work for. Do you see what I did there? Ridiculous generalizations and tired stereotypes of women help no one.
Once again we can raise our daughters to never lack the confidence to speak up in a workplace setting, to negotiate better terms up front when accepting job offers, and even to only marry partners that believe in equal household & parenting duties but will this solve the problem?
Perhaps the problem is that we live in a society that values corporate success over domestic success. The issue might not have anything to do with the workplace at all. Maybe women do not want to be Steve Jobs. When did Steve Jobs become the go-to example for the pinnacle of success anyway?
To make matters worse when Fedlt was asked How do women who flee the work force have an impact on those who do not?
They make it harder for the rest of us to remedy the inequities that remain. We have to make young women aware of how their choices affect other women. It should be acceptable criticism to point out that, although everyone has the right to make their own life decisions, choosing to “opt out” reinforces stereotypes about women’s priorities that we’ve been working for decades to shatter, so just cut it out.
So let me get this straight: In order to change the patriarchal hierarchy within American corporations women should put the careers of faceless women before their family's needs in an effort to band together for the good of the corporate sisterhood?
Attacking women that choose to stay at home seems to be en vogue these days but I personally find it tacky and shameful that Feldt would go there.
If choosing to raise one's family in the best fashion that one deems fit is considered reinforcing stereotypes then the problem is a much bigger issue than even Feldt has touched upon. This is a WOMAN telling other women to "cut it out".
If a woman as powerful as Feldt has these obvious biases against women what hope is there for the sexist male mentality lingering within corporate America?
Feldt is not doing women any favors and neither is Gardella. Why did she choose to use the word "flee"? How are these women fleeing? It is a personal choice some women have made and should be respected, valued, and revered by society AND corporate America.
It is incredible that we live in a society that considers putting one's family needs before one's career to be a negative thing.
Do you find this as pathetic as I do or am I overreacting as usual?