I truly enjoyed the article “In Today’s Workplace, Women Feel More Free to Be Women”, by Ellen Joan Pollock. Being a more “mature” woman in the workplace, it is easy to see both the advantages and disadvantages of “being more feminine” and flirting at work. In my 16 years in the professional workforce, thus not counting the 8 years I worked in various retail jobs while in school, I have seen a lot of changes in the behavior in not only in the women around me but within me as well. Before the age of 25, I can truthfully say that I engaged in a lot more shameless flirting at work than I did from the ages of 30 on. And, so did a lot of my female co-workers. It seemed to me, working in NYC, that flirting and somewhat overt sexuality was somewhat expected by young women trying to get ahead; especially by a naturally blonde woman such as myself. Luckily, I never had to act on my flirting. I had enough guy friends at work to look out for me. That said, I am sure there were those that felt the need and did in fact take their flirting to its final consequence.
One idea that was presented very briefly in the story was the idea of the “the women that came before us…” The ones that had to manage like a man. I wish that the author had explored this issue further. The woman managers of my past had to deal with many of the typical glass ceiling stereotyping that thankfully I didn’t have to go through. That said, it seems that the struggles women of the 70’s and 80’s had to go through to try to get ahead in the business world left my early female managers (in the early 1990s) with what seemed like an aggressive manly demeanor, a type of boss that was much harsher than their male counterpart managers. I think this demeanor came from two sources: 1) my female boss’ need to have me suffer like she did coming up the ranks and 2) a jealousy that I may some day claw my way past her at the organization. Little did she realize that I wouldn’t be there long enough to do such a thing. What she failed to notice was that, as a Generation Xer, my commitment to one single company (at that point in my career) was essentially nil.
So, what is my take on how women should behave in the workforce? Nowadays, I act much like Ms. Owen from the story. I “become” the woman that a particular situation necessitates. Sometimes the helpless little blonde, sometimes an “innuendo girl” and, most times, the professional woman that I have worked so hard to become. A woman today must exploit all of her assets. If that means wearing a revealing blouse and/or a skirt that is a bit too short, I say go for it—with care. Find your balance and stick with it. Men have been using everything they have for hundreds of years, it’s about time that women do the same.