I recently attended a women’s conference that focused on gender bias, diversity in the workplace and how values are important in your job.
It reminded me that although the number of women in the workplace has dramatically increased since I entered the corporate world in the mid-1970s (yes, I was one of the few that wasn’t a secretary), the need continues for women to remind each other and the world about gender bias. What will it take for females to have the same opportunities when they have the same qualifications?
As I scanned the crowd of several hundred women (and a few men), I was struck by the casual attire of the majority of the females. Granted, they weren’t in the office, but they were among other professionals. Since then I’ve asked several upper-management women about the appearance of the women in their environment. They agreed that there seems to be a lack of concern about professional appearance, yet there was agreement among us that how you present yourself is very important if you want to move up.
In the workshop I attended on owning your values for leadership success, we were offered 26 “value” words to pick the ones we felt best described ourselves. I chose hope, creativity and perspective. They reflect my age now but probably aren’t the same as I might have chosen when I was 50.
Discussions focused on how your values are reflected in your work life. It caused me to reflect on workshops I attended and sometimes led 30 years ago on what women needed to do to succeed in their job. A professional attitude and appearance were stressed as well as holding the line on harassment. I would use as an example how when I was the speaker for my company, the men who accompanied me as we traveled would go to the bar after the program and I would go to my room (alone). News of my joining the men would not have ended well. Standards change, but basic values do not.
In a recent New York Times article on “The Office: An Analysis,” the author speculated that GenZ-ers and millennials are looking differently at work and demanding more flexibility in when, where and how. My 30-year-old granddaughter has just completed training to perform her boss’s job while she is on a six-month maternity leave. She will have 200 people reporting to her, most of them older than she is. Yes, we have had many conversations on being professional and maintaining her values as well as a balanced life.
I wonder how corporate life will be in another 50 years?