Preoccupations - Girl Power at School, but Not at the Office - NYTimes.com

I have also seen young women — myself included — getting in the way of their own success. I have found that we need to build a new arsenal of skills to mitigate some of our more “feminine” tendencies. Having lived in a cocoon of equality in college, we may have neglected these vital, real-world skills.

NEWS FLASH: Hannah Seligson repeats the same advice I got in college -- Act Like A Man.

Whenever I first read these things, I first hear a little voice in the back of my head saying, but if I'm good enough as a woman to do the job, why should I have to change so much just to let people know that?

The answer, of course, is presented at the end of Seligson's article -- the workplace is not a meritocracy. This is correct, no doubt about it. No matter how much anyone wishes it were, politics are at play in every workplace.

So I dig a little deeper. What really gets to me is the assumption that all men have the necessary qualities to succeed and all women lack them. We (not we as women, we as a society) are conditioned to adopt the accepted gendered social relational traits as we grow up. Instead of shy people are uncomfortable promoting themselves in the workplace, we get WOMEN are uncomfortable promoting themselves in the workplace. All of a sudden you as a woman get a message about what is appropriate for your behavior, regardless of whether you were previously comfortable with self promotion.

Finally, can we wonder why some people feel conflicted about family and work? The one-step-further message is that women either need to shape up to be in the workplace, or find something else to do like raise a family. It doesn't surprise me here that our current image of suburban mom-hood is the self sacrificing mother who always puts her children first, sometimes to the detriment of her own well-being. Just look at programs like How Do I Look, How to Look Good Naked, and What Not to Wear. They are chock full of women in "mom jeans" and t-shirts who have spent so much time on their children they have forgotten how to look good, as the hosts tell them -- and if we connect the dots, possibly because they never learned to promote themselves in the workplace.

Elizabeth is a science teacher who focuses on gender and science education. She is a little bitter because of the sexism she experienced as a physics major in a college.


  1. cross posted at feministing community blog - check it out there for more comments


  2. Loved this piece. Keep writing!


  3. Seriously...write some more!
    oh!press pass