Have you ever watched a movie and wanted to shout at the person on the screen and tell them not to go into the basement because you can see who's hiding there? Did the female lead ever dismiss the good guy early in the movie in favor of the bad boy whose faults are revealed to the viewer but not to her? Don't you want to yell, “Don't fall for him. He's lying."?
Well, that's kind of how I sometimes feel when I talk with my much younger friends. As a woman in my 60's, I've become a sort of elder spokesperson to these fledglings. While life is not a movie, hindsight can imitate it. But just as I did in my 20's and 30's, they listen to well-meant advice with a little “you really don't know what it's like nowadays" echoing in their heads. But some important basics don't change and will help make life a little better in the future. Here goes:
THE most important thing to remember is your future just doesn't happen to you, at least if you take part in its shaping. Sounds simple, right? Somehow, it's always easier to say, “I'm too young to think about that now."
Try incorporating some of these key points in both your personal and professional lives and you'll have your hands on the wheel:
1.The media are the message—social media that is.
Keep yourself up to date on all sites, both professional and personal. Know the difference and make sure you don't over share on the personal ones. This is something I've never been guilty of, but I often wonder why some of you post so much on your sites. Prospective employers don't need to know how you look in a bikini or how fast you can chug a beer. Nor do new boyfriends need to see a history of you and your ex.
2.Have a go-to interview outfit, and invest heavily in it.
If there's anything I've learned, it's that you are what you wear. If you walk into an interview and the first thing your potential boss sees is the 50 wrinkles in your cheap white blouse, they're already too distracted to listen to what you have to say. Buy a good blouse and a power outfit. Spend the money. You will feel better, more comfortable and at ease, and you won't be worried about your clothes while delivering your best interview version of yourself.
3.Keep your LinkedIn and other professional sites current.
Your resume should be updated whenever there are any status changes. I wish someone had warned me about this. Trying to piece together 14 years of job history with my firm when another company bought it was a monumental task. I wish I had kept a “job diary."
4.Don't be pressured to find a mate/husband.
You've time for that. Get to know yourself. Speaking as a single woman, let me clue you in: there are a lot of perks to the unmarried status. While singlehood isn't for everyone, neither is marriage. Going solo can be fun too.
Don't settle for the wrong guy just to have a guy. Don't sell yourself short--you deserve someone you're thrilled to be with, not someone who'll just be "better than nothing." (That's what my friend's father named the husband she quickly divorced.)
5.Don't envy anyone because they look so perfect online.
It's easy to portray a false image for the public. I remember having dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in years. On her Facebook page she looked happy and popular. She told quite a different tale; those “friends" were co-workers she was forced to socialize with for business. She currently was looking for a new job because she was miserable.
6.Be careful not to get involved in office drama.
I had a boss who was always telling me all the details of her marital problems and when she and her husband smoothed things over, I was resented for knowing their secrets. I had to transfer to another department. Also, don't get involved in office gossip. You can't anticipate who will hold what position in the future.
7.Don't box yourself in - be open to possibilities.
You never know where your current career might lead you. This is an area where I definitely could have been more open. I was once offered a job as an assistant manager of a famous antiques shop and turned it down without considering it because I felt I didn't have the knowledge. The owner was willing to train me, and it might have been interesting and certainly fun, but I was too timid to try it.
8.Don't take yourself so seriously that you burden yourself with critical timelines!
Dip your toes in different waters. Remember Gaugin was a stockbroker before he became well known for his painting. Now I'm not suggesting you dump your current endeavors and hightail it to Tahiti, but hey, you never know!
9.Financial health is important no matter your age.
Save the maximum. Bank your raises. Sure you can and should splurge now and then. Just be aware the future is closer than you believe. I wish someone had twisted my arm to get me to follow this crucial advice. I felt the future was so far away that I should enjoy now and save later. Unfortunately, I'm now retired and still paying a mortgage.
10.Pay attention to politics.
Maybe you needn't get into a dispute over your candidate while at work, but stay informed and be active on issues that speak to you. Now is the time to begin to make statements through your actions. Being involved in current events can help shape the future of this country.
11.Take care of yourself both physically and mentally is another investment in the future.
Careful eating and exercising can go a long way to making you a happier, healthier person both now and in the future. I was always interested in nutrition and took courses on the subject in college, but now there is so much information just a click away. Also, don't be afraid to seek emotional support when you need it.
12.Don't be afraid to rock it. You've got youth on your side.
While age no longer makes a difference in fashion, the really wild outfits usually benefit from a bit of young blood. No, you won't see me in dowdy clothes, and my blue toenail polish is anything but dowdy, but I think I'll leave the short jumpsuits to you.
13.Be sure you know the difference between a friend with a problem and a problem friend.
People that are always negative can drag you down with them. I was once in a situation where a friend of mine would have problem after problem, many of them of her own making and would talk about nothing else. She never wanted any advice and would just continue to dwell in misery. After a time, I had to minimize my contact with her. The relief I felt was amazing.
14.Never compare yourself with anyone.
I believe that has been one of the most important principles I have followed. As long as I'm doing the best I can, I only judge myself on my own merits—not in comparison with anyone. That has given me an amazing sense of peace and acceptance.
15.Live your passion.
There's a saying that if you work at what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. When you can combine your work with your passion, you are indeed fortunate. While I can't say that I had a passion for my work, I can say I have always enjoyed it. I could never understand people that complain about their jobs and how they hate them. I have never worked at a job for any length of time unless I truly enjoyed it.
16.Be sure to embrace your talents.
Don't be so critical of yourself that you don't see your own assets. Trust me, you'll encounter lots of people who will be more than happy to lend a hand in pointing out your shortcomings. A little self love is a good thing, although too much is definitely not!
17.Your success can breed success for others.
Share your knowledge, networks and experience with others. I love keeping a file of information if my head and linking people I believe can be of benefit to one another.
18.Invest in social capital.
Friends and acquaintances should be positive additions to your life. Friends can be part of a network, both professionally and personally. Housecleaning friendships can be liberating, and nurturing good friendships can add to your well-being. At this stage in my life, I realize the friends I have had the longest are those with common interests and values. Choosing friends as thoughtfully as you do jobs and mates should be the norm.
19.Don't be afraid to listen to your inner voice.
It may tell you something important. I once had an interview and had a bad vibe about the prospective boss, but I ignored it and took the job. It didn't take too long to find out he was difficult and condescending, and in a one on one situation, it was impossible. I quit within a month.
20.Listen to the voices of experience.
This might be the most important one. Listen to those who are older and wiser. They might actually know something!
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.