Advice women should not skirt

January 22, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

If you know a young woman who is about to graduate from college or who has just started working, you ought to buy her a copy of Skirt! Rules for the Workplace: An Irreverent Guide to Advancing Your Career, by Kelly Love Johnson.

It is advice on how to work smarter, faster, tougher and better than any guy - or any other woman - and get ahead.

Johnson is the managing editor of the unfortunately titled Skirt magazine (Why not call it Dame or Doll magazine?) and she uses her own up-from-the-freelance-pool story to illustrate her tips.

Lively but no-nonsense, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the movie Working Girl, Johnson's style helps the medicine go down. But it is the same kind of advice our mentors were giving us 30 years ago, and I had hoped we'd be done with this by now.

"Alas, no," said Joan Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

"This kind of advice is particularly important because very often young women haven't yet been in situations where they have encountered gender bias - they didn't experience it in college - and it comes as a profound shock to them."

The fact is, there are more women than men enrolled in college; more women are graduating, and their salaries are increasing faster than the salaries of their male counterparts, according to research by the Brookings Institution.

You'd think we'd be calling the shots.

But it is also true that a woman still earns only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and he is three times more likely to ever earn six figures, according to census data.

We might be about to nominate and elect the first woman president, but the candidate's pantsuits and the sound of her laugh get a kind of unpleasant scrutiny her male opponents have not had to endure.

In fact, even Hillary Rodham Clinton can't decide whether this election is about the ultimate glass ceiling or not a referendum on gender at all.

Taken together, it is easy to see why our daughters might need a how-to on navigating the corporate labyrinth.

"They are not going to face this until they are older, when the glass ceiling bias is triggered and you find out that you have to work twice as hard to be perceived as half as competent," Williams said.

"Young women who have been very successful in school are often astonished. They are deeply distressed when they realize it is not a thing of the past."

In her book, Johnson tells young women not to wait for the "Career Fairy" to flutter down and make things happen. Work your butt off, she says, and make sure the boss knows you know how to do the job you want.

There is plenty of other smart talk, too. Control your temper. Embrace change, because you will stand out from the rest of the crowd, which is acting afraid and reticent. Listen, don't talk - sometimes it is good to be inscrutable. Shoot for perfection - spell-check everything, even your e-mails, and double-check everything. Dress the part. Lead before you are asked. Don't watch the clock.

And the one I liked best: Don't bake for the office. Even if you are a world-class pastry chef, you are not the office den mother.

The author also handles what might be the toughest assignment for young women in the workforce: how to be assertive without being considered a, well it rhymes with witch.

She talks about how to repair your reputation if it has been damaged. She gives tips on when and how to negotiate for a raise, and, when you hate your job, how to handle it.

We need to remember this about the daughters - actually, all the young people - we send out into the workforce: They were not born knowing how to be good employees. It is a learned behavior. They won't know what is expected of them unless we, whether parents or mentors, tell them.

This book is a good start.

It's just a shame that it is still the young women who need it more.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

online

Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.