12 September 2008

lost girl power

this article, 'girl power at school but not at the office', by hannah seligson resonated powerfully with me, particularly the parts about the workplace not being a meritocracy and the necessity of having to ask for what you want, without being sensitive to people saying 'no'.
When I was in college, the female students excelled academically, sometimes running laps around their male counterparts. Women easily ascended to school leadership positions and prestigious internships. In my graduating class (more than half of which was female) there was a feeling of camaraderie, a sense that we were helping each other succeed.

indeed. succeeding at university was easy, and largely, girls did better than boys. and yet, even there, i remember having a conversation with one professor about how even though his best students were girls, they were the ones who found it the hardest in the workforce.

as for myself, i totally expected the environment at work to be similar to that of university: the same equality, opportunity and fairness.
...a larger issue that women, coming directly out of the colleges that nurtured and rewarded them and gave them every advantage, may have trouble grasping. For me, it was crystallized in a comment made to me by Myra Hart, a retired senior faculty member at Harvard Business School who studies women as entrepreneurs: “By and large women believe that the workplace is a meritocracy, and it isn’t.”

the other thing is the issue of pay. even after working for five years, i still find asking for a pay rise difficult and distasteful. as seligson says, "Coming into the work force, I thought that, just as my professor had given me the grade I deserved on my political science midterm, my company would pay me what I 'deserved'." this is not of course the case. instead, 'the central tenet of a bigger paycheck is ask and you shall receive'.

and this requires some other qualities seligson mentions: a thick skin, the ability to promote yourself, to stop being a perfectionist, and creating a professional network, all of which are "abilities that men are just more likely to have already".

well, now i know what to work on..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very true. So are you asking for a rise or what?