A little while ago, I wrote a post on how women are often not taken seriously in the workplace or in professional settings. I love when people tell me their thoughts and send other articles to keep the discussion going, and when someone sent me a follow up article on the topic, it got me thinking about what we believe a confidant, assertive woman looks like in the workplace.
The article argues that while assertiveness in women is often penalized when expressed in a verbal manner, there may be room for women to behave more assertively in nonverbal ways. While the article maintains that it’s most important to fight gender bias on a societal level, it points out that there are at least some tools women can use to express ambition that won’t incur penalty. Many things came to my mind after reading the article. Just as the article itself contemplates, does this mentality keep the burden on women? Or is it just down-to-earth advice that allows women to work around sexism in the office, where salary and promotions are on the line?
I honestly don’t know for sure, and the article admitted that it’s a tough call. But one general thought that comes to mind is how complicated the suggestion to behave or act assertively is for women. In a time when girls face pressure from an extremely young age to be “sexy”, acting confident has become profoundly intertwined with a woman’s sexuality. If sexiness has become the new confidence, then why not start early? For many girls, it’s a long, confusing, awkward, and even humiliating road that doesn’t necessarily get easier with age. I recently came across a video advertisement online for Pantene Pro-V, where professionally dressed models rehearsed their “confidence poses” by themselves in luxury offices for a few moments. For the release of Jessica Alba’s new makeup line, Honest Beauty, their debut video showcases new looks women can create, including the sultry “Like a Boss” look. The popular hashtag and nickname #GirlBoss has also started an ambitious movement among young women that gives a flirty and fierce spin to women’s leadership (that not all women are fond of).
All of these campaigns seem to give young girls and young women the impression that they need to become sexually desirable, mature, and experienced in order to become good, feminine leaders. What does this mean for girls and women who don’t fit into this mold? For the women who find this ideal of feminine leadership confusing and full of additional pressures? What does it say about our culture that we require our female leaders to know how to rock a red lipstick?