Would you boil down your appearance to get ahead at the office?
Have women come as far in the workplace as we think?
Recently I was reading a story in The Atlantic, “All the Single Ladies,” that ran through the gains women have made professionally. Writer Kate Block reported a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 that found women actually earned 8 percent more than the men.
Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in 2010, 55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female. Additionally, as of 2010, women held 51.4 percent of all managerial and professional positions, up from 26 percent in 1980. Women earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in 2010, and men are now more likely than women to hold only a high-school diploma. And, 2010 was the first time in American history that women made up the majority of the workforce.
But even with those substantial gains, women still face some… er, unique complications when it comes to the workforce. Yesterday, I received a baffling BBM from my boyfriend who wanted to report that I would be livid had I been sitting next to him in his accounting class.
Apparently his professor, a woman, launched into an off-topic tirade about how married women in the workplace shouldn’t wear their wedding rings. “Women should take their rings off because it means that they will have children who will call and they’ll need to leave work and they have husbands who can take care of them so they can quit at anytime,” she told the class. Married men were encouraged to wear their rings as it showed stability and commitment.
This is what we’re teaching in the classroom in 2011?
But maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising in light of a recent Harvard study that found women in the workplace were, as the New York Times put it, “more capable, reliable and amiable.” In “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand,” Catherine Saint Louis writes: “Want more respect, trust and affection from your co-workers? Wearing makeup – but not gobs of Gaga-conspicuous makeup — apparently can help. It increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.”
People are reading all that into a little blush and gloss? Eek!
I’m a woman with her eye on the prize. I work hard and, more importantly, smart, to make my dreams a reality. I’ve earned the degrees, toiled in the trenches for the accolades, and maneuvered all manner of office politics to get ahead. I’ll play along strategically, swallow my tongue to win wars and make odd alliances. And if I feel like beating my face, I will. And if I don’t? Eh… I won’t. And when I’m lucky and loved enough to have a “ring on it,” you best believe I’m not hiding it from anybody.
We all know a woman’s success shouldn’t boil down to appearances, but it seems like it does.
Would you hide your family/commitment or the extra doses of mascara and eyeliner to get ahead?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk
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