That’s my most basic advice to women starting their careers today.
I invite my contemporaries (okay, my friends from 30 to whatever) to contribute your words of wisdom to women entering the professional job market for the first time.
What can you do, even subliminally, to ensure that you are respected and taken as seriously as your newly graduating male contemporaries?
- Don’t take equality for granted. Don’t assume that because the doors are open to you that equality in the workplace exists. It doesn’t.
- Stand up for yourself and go for the wages you deserve to be making. Don’t stop with the first rejection when you ask for a raise and get denied. I guarantee you that your male counterparts will not accept no as an answer. If you can’t get through to those in charge of compensation, find a new place to work and start there at the appropriate salary level.
- Learn to play golf. I’m not a sports person even a little bit, but I see the merit for a women entering business today to be able to participate in this off-site networking venue.
- Don’t take the meeting notes. The men’s fingers are as capable as yours at recording minutes. Don’t fall into the Donna Reed* as-perfection position.
Polish your shoes and keep them professional. Party shoes are for partying; not wearing in the office.
While we’re on attire, don’t dress the way women on TV do to go to the office. It’s absolutely not acceptable to wear micro-mini skirts/dresses or to show off inches of cleavage. Again: save it for the club.
- Pay attention to the men in your office and how they interact with each other and what behaviors are acceptable. Then be better than them.
- Don’t get the coffee. Really. I can’t stress it enough. Don’t offer to get it for the gents, bring it to the meeting room, or do anything else that for one brief second will let any male view you as the hired help (with absolute respect to professional wait staff).
- Never, ever, ever cry at work. It’s our normal reaction when stress hits a high note. If you must burst out with the tears, do it in the bathroom stall or your car, but never succumb to the waterworks in front of anyone at work—male or female.
Feminism has opened doors and lowered ceilings.
Not too long ago I had a twenty-something scoff at something I had said and accuse me of being a women’s libber. I shook my head at her and marveled: did she really think she could be earning her living as an AutoCAD expert and licensed land surveyor had women before her not opened that traditionally male door?
I’m too young to have been at the forefront of prying open any of those doors, but old enough to have been fully aware of what their road-paving did for my graduating class of women with the diverse bachelors’ degrees we achieved. I puzzle that women under thirty don’t seem to understand that opportunities open to them can often be attributed to women who weren’t afraid of pounding loudly on doors they wanted to charge through.
Okay, my friends—cough up some more advice and spread the word. It’s May and colleges everywhere are graduating a new round of young women with goals as lofty as ours—let’s help them succeed.
(*If you don’t know Donna, do a quick YouTube search and you’ll discover what I mean.)
Read: Follow Your Bliss