This is an interesting question to ask in the midst of so many women coming forward with stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment and sexual assault is a huge problem in our society, and it is interconnected with so many other instances of degradation, dismissive behavior and deeply ingrained attitudes about women who seek equal opportunity and power. I started to write this particular blog post before the #MeToo movement – I planned on simply recounting a recent situation where I was among a few women in a group full of more than 70 male leaders. A very prominent male business leader made a presentation to the group, and afterwards opened the room up for questions. The first hand raised was that of a woman. The presenter proceeded to call on 4 men, all of whom had their hands up after the woman. Finally, when prompted by a woman who was with him, the presenter finally called on the woman who had first raised her hand.
Unfortunately, this is not an unusual story, but it reminded me how often women are still invisible. Yes, it is not as serious as experiencing sexual harassment, but it is never-the-less a symptom of women not being seen as powerful as men. I had a conversation with my step-daughter about this topic and her perspective was that it’s all behavior that falls on the same continuum. It may not be sexual harassment, but to the women in the room, including me, it still felt demoralizing and degrading.
I knew after the meeting that I needed to say something. I pointed out the behavior to the facilitator and reminded him that he needs to be aware of the dynamic in the room. He had not noticed, and was thankful that I had made him aware of the situation. As women, we need to come forward to point out behavior that creates the dynamic that positions women as invisible.
Amy Bell Hou is a writer, early childhood educator and mother living in Oakland. She is a co-founder of Drop Leaf Press, a women-operated poetry press based in San Francisco.
March 8 is International Women’s Day.
It’s also a day that multiple organizations for the advancement of women are calling for a women’s general labor strike. They’re calling it “A Day Without a Woman.”
The purpose of the strike is to shine a spotlight on “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”
Women are a vital, often undervalued sector of the labor force in the world. At our paid jobs, women typically earn less than men in the same roles and suffer career setbacks if they decide to have children. Women also typically take the lion’s share of domestic work, like cooking, cleaning, and child care. Such unpaid labor is vital to a functioning economy and ought to be recognized as such, yet motherhood remains the number one predictor of poverty.
At Heels of Success, we endeavor to support all women as they balance careers, partnerships, children, and their own growth as individuals. We hope our posts can help bring more women into positions of leadership, because we believe the goal of widespread gender parity in the American workplace — nothing less than a major cultural shift — is only going to come when women have an equal number of seats at the table where decisions are made.
As such, we stand in solidarity with women, trans people and their allies for A Day Without a Woman.
While many women, particularly those in the fields of healthcare, childcare, and elderly care may not be able to strike, there are still ways for women and their partners to show solidarity.
The Women’s March organizers have set up a good FAQ and resources page, which will guide you through ways to show your support. Read the full International Women’s Strike platform here.
- Avoid shopping on that day, unless the business is local or women-owned.
- Can’t strike? Wear red to show your support.
- Men can participate by bringing up equal pay and paid family leave with decision-makers at work, leaning into housework and care work for children, and reflecting on their own expectations of women co-workers.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.
So often, I receive heartfelt messages from readers of this blog either thanking me for writing or telling me about a particular post they enjoyed. Recently, I heard from a CHOP employee, Julia Wicoff, who told me about how reading my blog lead her to advocate on behalf of herself. It meant so much to me to hear from her. She kindly agreed to give a testimonial with me to share with you. I hope this inspires you to take page out of Julia’s book!
“When I first heard that CHOP’s CEO, Madeline Bell, was writing a blog about elevating women in the workplace, I was interested and decided to take a look. Quickly, Heels of Success became part of my regular reading material. I feel like each post is written just for me. The topics that Madeline covers relate directly to what I am feeling and experiencing. As a result of reading the blog, I was inspired to approach the leadership in our department to indicate my commitment to a future in our organization. That conversation helped spur a promotion just a few months later. There is no doubt that without Heels of Success I wouldn’t have had the confidence to express my feelings and take the next step in my career!”
Julia Wicoff is the Director of Cause Marketing and the Children’s Miracle Network at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Prior to that, she served as the Associate Director of Events Fundraising and Community Partnerships, also at CHOP. Before CHOP, she worked for organizations such as The American Cancer Society and The Philadelphia Eagles.
Sharing personal stories, struggles or achievements is a great way to support each other as women, but sometimes it’s important to focus on practical advice for everyday situations. No matter how much equality we achieve in the workplace, there will always be certain things that women must consider in business settings that will be different than their male counterparts.
I recently gave this type of advice to a young woman at a social event. She mentioned that she had not handed out her business card to a potential business contact because her purse was too large. It was a challenge for her to fumble through the keys, wallet, umbrella, extra pair of shoes, notebook and pens to find and hand over her card in way that didn’t feel chaotic. In that moment she needed some practical advice from a woman who has been there many times. When I was approached for my business card, I too used to struggle to easily produce it by digging into a large handbag. It would become awkward, especially with men – me digging into a handbag and them waiting impatiently. I learned to carry a small handbag with a side opening where I keep my cards so that I can seamlessly grab one while maintaining a conversation. Simple advice, but something that only came from experiencing this challenge many times in my career.
Another area that I often hear women struggle with is business travel, and how to look and feel your best when on the road without having to lug your entire wardrobe or large cosmetic bag. For example, I choose to keep my nails polished, so I always travel with small portable packets of nail polish remover and one micro bottle of clear nail polish. There are countless other ways I’ve learned to deal with the hazards of ripped pantyhose, humid weather and frizzy hair, carrying liquid makeup in your carry-on bag, and so many more experience females experience from just well, living the realities of being female!
Although it can feel awkward to call attention to the difference between men and women in business settings, the bottom line is that we often dress differently than men. Therefore, women should feel comfortable sharing these practical tips on how to navigate those differences in business settings. I would be interested in hearing from you about the practical tips YOU can share with women colleagues. Please reach out to me Facebook, Twitter or leave your comments below to share your tips!