Women have a long history of inequality. For generations we endured stereotypes and ideals that limited our professional growth. Although we have progressed over the years, women are still not entirely equal to men. We may be more likely to attend college, yet the gender pay gap has only narrowed. Recent reports from the White House Council of Economic Advisors show that today women make, on average, 78 percent of what men make. So if all the intelligence and formal education in the world can’t get us the positions and salaries we deserve, what do we resort to? Often times our looks.
Some Say It’s The Way to the Top
As a young, educated woman with experience in various capacities, I have been advised to use my looks as a gateway to a successful career. I’ve heard comments about how much easier it is to land a job as a woman so frequently that I’m almost a little bitter about the “all you have to do is look good” philosophy. So you’re telling me that rather than use my formal education to land some dream corporate job, I should wow a hiring manager with looks and sex appeal? Thanks, but no thanks.
But You’re So Pretty
I recently came across the opportunity of a lifetime. After about 4 interviews and weeks of anticipation, I was hired as the youngest woman in a male-dominated corporate world. It seemed great. I had a title, business cards, a company phone and laptop – you name it! But then I attended an annual convention that did all but motivate me. It was the deal breaker.
Suddenly, the “all you have to do is look good” philosophy I despise became more prevalent than ever. Here I was among the highest paid decision-makers in the company whom, not surprisingly, were all men twice my age, and rather than thinking of what to say to showcase my intelligence, I found myself being extra careful of petty things, like what I wore to the fancy dinners we attended. See, there were a few ladies twice my age, that held the same title that I held, and the last thing I wanted to do was let their piercing eyes burn holes through my dress as they looked me up and down, wondering “who did she screw to get here?” I wanted the women to be on my team, but it seemed they mingled only with whomever they felt would help them climb their way to the top. After about the tenth time I heard someone comment on how gorgeous I am, I knew I was out of place.
I could’ve easily made it my world, but I wasn’t willing. I wanted out. It wasn’t the workload, the high stress levels nor the extensive traveling that made me pull away. I simply didn’t feel like investing time and energy working for a company filled with politics, old practices, and remnants of ‘machismo.’ It dawned on me that I’d become one of those bitter women, holding the same title for over a decade if I wasn’t willing to flirt or mingle with the right decision-makers. But I was there to work and be an asset to the company, not to worry about having to prove to anyone that it was my brains that got me the job and not my pretty face. The more I thought about it, the more sure I was of the decision I needed to make. It wasn’t an easy one, but deep down I knew it was the right one.
Time for a Change
I walked away from my first corporate job knowing that although I was highly qualified for the position, I was worth far more. Today I search for the type of job that will both satisfy me intrinsically and make way for a great quality of life – one where my physical appearance will be nothing more than a bonus. I am more than a pretty face or sex symbol, as are all women. But unless we let go of the notion that we must resort to our looks and sex appeal when decision-makers overlook our degrees, that 78 percent will remain 78 percent.