May 6, 2011

From raising ruckus to becoming a good little housewife

Today was supposed to be New Jersey race report day, but a few other things have come up that I’m compelled to blog about instead.

Last night, I intended to just go out for a drink or two to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. However, as occasionally happens, once I had one drink, I figured one more couldn’t hurt, and then one after that… you get the picture. In a nod to being healthy, though, my drink of choice was seltzer with tequila and a splash of lime – kind of a lower calorie version of a margarita. You definitely have to use high quality tequila for a drink like this, since the tequila is so overpowering, but the strong taste of alcohol also slowed me down a bit, which is never a bad thing!

While at first I totally sucked at bowling, scoring something like 20 points total in the first four frames, I then picked up my game, making it my goal not to finish in last place. I had 82 points going into the last frame, but when the next lowest scorer ended up with 100, I figured I was toast… until I pulled out a spare and ended up scoring a 102 in total! I liked that the TV screen even gave me a little celebrating graphic for breaking 100 🙂

The next day, after lunch, I left our quarterly financial update early to head for another work-sponsored event, titled “Understanding the (Company) Brand and Building Your Own.” The event was being put on by our women’s affinity group, and the description was “Learn how to develop and evaluate your own brand along with how to build and maintain your professional network, and join us for a session on ‘Personal Presence, Professional Impact.'” I assumed it was going to be about communication styles, how to have a firm handshake, etc, which I’ve already had a lot of training in, but figured I might as well go listen to the tips. Besides, this was the first event that the women’s initiative has held that I’ve been able to attend, so I thought it would be good to get involved.

When I got to the conference room, I saw that they had dessert for everyone: itty bitty mini cupcakes! I was psyched to see those instead of the massive brownies and cookies that are usually brought in for these events, and giggled to myself that even the food was targeted toward women.

When the workshop started, what I thought would be generic business skills turned out to be solely about wardrobe and appearance. The speaker discussed how appearance is just as important, if not more so, than the content of what you say. I’m not sure I agree with that 100%, but I’ll concede that perception is really important, so fine. But then we started getting into the details of how we should manage our appearance, and it was so horrifying, I started tweeting direct quotes to make sure that others were as appalled as I was. In chronological order:

There were many other things I didn’t tweet but found equally horrifying. For example, we were specifically instructed that “maxi skirts” that cover your legs were unprofessional, and our skirts should be just below knee length at the longest. In discussing the makeup and accessories, we were provided with a handout on a five minute face routine, which told us to:
1. Moisturize
2. Conceal
3. “Wake up” the eyes with 1 color (light shadow), curl lashes, and apply mascara
4. Add color: powder blush, lipgloss
5. Set with powder
We were also told that it is unprofessional and reflects badly on the company if we come to work without our makeup and hair done nicely, and that accessories are required for a professional appearance.

At a time when my company is making a big deal about how we don’t have enough women at the highest levels, I couldn’t believe they were sponsoring a women-only workshop telling us to always wear our heels and pearls. Meanwhile, in order to attend this, I had actually left a quarterly meeting going over the financial performance of our company. So while the men stayed in the meeting and learned about our performance and what we need to work on, the women were encouraged to attend a workshop on always wearing a skirt, heels and lipstick. Um, I think I see why the women are lagging behind!

And you guys think I’m joking when I say how ridiculous the “perception” part of my job can be…


9 thoughts on “From raising ruckus to becoming a good little housewife”

  1. I had presentation training at a finance company in Boston that reinforced a lot of these ideas. And at my finance job in NYC, we were told not to ever be caught wearing ‘commuter shoes’ in/out of the office building. Crazy.

  2. Just when I think women are making progress in the workforce, I hear a story like yours … grrrr!

    Loved the whole account of your crazy evening and the surreal workshop the next day. Very “Sex and the City”. Have you ever considered writing a book?

  3. Lots of people say they want me to write a book, but so far none of them have been publishers soliciting my story – will keep you posted 🙂

  4. OMG i saw your tweets the other day about this and I was equally horrified. My office is pretty laid back, but I do my best to always look at least sort of pulled together.

    But I commute daily in flip flops and will never give that up. And I wear very minimal makeup.

    I’m pretty sure my coworkers still think I’m extremely professional, mainly because I’m good at my job and get my work done.

    Whooo sorry for the rant haha!

  5. The second half of your post makes me want to throw my laptop out the window. This is the kind of male dominated, non-sensical coporate bullshit that grinds my gear. How you saved yourself from punching someone and/or something during that seminar is admirable.

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