Guest Writer: Laura Noble
I appreciate when I am invited to participate in women-centered business events and I am grateful for the women who organize and facilitate them. Earlier this year, at an event for business women, I sat through several speeches designed to educate and illustrate our common shared experience.
Speakers Playbook – “Play big. Be strong. Go outside your comfort zone. Fight through the glass ceiling. You go, girl.”
Is anyone else left somewhat unsatisfied by the tone of this language? Perhaps if the speakers were addressing these “empowering” and encouraging words to young women early in their career or disadvantaged women who may not have heard this message, often enough or ever; then maybe. But, often, I’m in rooms full of incredibly smart and accomplished women in their 40s-60s who are subjected to platitudes about how to achieve. I find it terribly condescending and, worse, a reminder that we are still “other” from our male counterparts. And we are doing it to ourselves! Can you imagine accomplished senior executive men sitting shoulder to shoulder in a large conference room smiling at each other when someone tells them; to “be awesome!” and “don’t be afraid of your success!”
I’ve been working my behind off for decades and have created a career that I am proud of; as have most of the women in those conference rooms. Instead of talking generally about “how to make it in a man’s word,” what I think we should be talking about is:
- Electing legislators who will actually change laws that make real strides toward preventing sexual harassment and gender pay disparity in the workplace;
- Recruiting educators, financial planners and accountants who can get to young women early on and advise them about ways to ensure their independent financial success;
- Finding mentors – male or female – who will advise and coach women about maximizing their career opportunities;
- Convincing policy makers to examine why the United States ranks so far behind other industrialized countries in terms of supporting women with child care duties and equalizing pay disparity.
An in-depth, analytical and even controversial discussion about anyone of those things would make me cheer. Instead, we too often revert to the classic hits – learn from a woman’s unique struggle of clawing and scratching her way to the top. If she can do it, you can, too!
Yes, we need to talk about the glass ceiling and sexual harassment and discrimination and male-dominated fields but we need to do it in a way that isn’t filled with over-used truisms; potentially falling on deaf ears. The possibilities are limitless; as we harness the collective energy of all the accomplished women and men in the room towards those deeper conversations.
Laura Noble is the founding partner of The Noble Law Firm, offering employment law counsel and representation to both individuals, facing problems in their employment relationship, and companies wishing to execute “best practices”. You will catch her thoughts on women in the workplace, from time to time, here on Kuel Life.