September 3, 2008

It’s Not a Meritocracy

Posted in Careers, On the Job tagged , , at 8:56 pm by Katelyn

Hannah Seligson’s book “New Girl on the Job: Advice From the Trenches” has long been on my to-read list, but after reading her article in the New York Times on Sunday, it has moved to the top of the queue.   She very realistically presented her query into why females perform circles around their male counterparts in an academic environment, but can’t seem to do the same in the workplace.

Aside from the typical outside forces – men who can’t see past appearances, women who undermine other women instead of helping them, or women who continually take “assistant-like” positions – it is often women who are the ones getting in the way of our own successes.  Seligson realized that in order to match men in the workplace, she needed to “develop a thick skin, feel comfortable promoting [her]self, learn how to negotiate, stop being a perfectionist and create a professional network – abilities that men are just more likely to have already.”

I can relate to wanting improvement on 4 out of the 5 above.  Creating a professional network is something that I have been aware of and something that I try to think creatively about improving on.  Feeling comfortable promoting myself and learning how to negotiate are two traits that I have seen more now that I am in the business world and I would have to agree that males typically have these 2 down.  They love to talk about how well they are doing and they are not afraid to argue or stand up for a point of view and they are often recognized for it.  I definitely need to work on those in order to keep up and surpass.  But ‘stop being a perfectionist’ is not something that readily comes to mind when I think of skills needed to advance or do well at work.  I am somewhat of a perfectionist at work because my job requires me to be detail-oriented and juggle tons of balls at once.  When I actually think about it though, I am always saying that I feel like I am ready to move into a position where I can look at the bigger picture, make bigger decisions, and delegate work.  A person at that level does not have the time or energy to be a perfectionist…I think she has something here and it’s something that I want for my career.

Ultimately, the quote that really drove Seligson’s point home was:

“By and large women believe that the workplace is a meritocracy, and it isn’t,” said Myra Hart.

Meritocracy (noun):

1.) a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.  2.) leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria.

If that isn’t reality, I don’t know what is.  For me, this article was motivating and a heavy dose of reality.  I am ready to bring that good old academic environment, where females succeeded above and beyond, to the workplace.

October 31, 2007

The Age Factor

Posted in Careers tagged , , , at 8:58 pm by Katelyn

Lately, age has become a real issue with me.  I know why, I’m just not sure how to make it less of one.  I believe the reason it is usually at the forefront of my mind is because I have very little interaction with people my age – people in their 20s.  My 40-hour work week puts me in constant interaction with people twice my age, as does another organization I belong to.  I know that you can learn a lot from others with more life experience, and I do learn a lot, but lately I have only been able to notice the differences and those differences seem to be building a wall that hinders communication. 

1.  The Knowledge Difference:  Not only do their references to pop culture from the 70s and 80s leave me clueless and speechless, but their constant references to events and “the way things used to be” at the company make it extremely difficult to break into the club.

2.  The Mommy Difference:  In my department alone, I think I am 1 of 2 employees who do not have children and I don’t even want to think about that ratio for the entire company.  This factor in itself creates a communication gap.  How do you relate to or share your weekend experiences with a colleague who spends her evenings doing her kids’ homework and her mornings watching cartoons.

3.  The Technology Difference:  This is the biggest difference I see.  Being in a company where so many of the employees did not grow up or enter the workforce with computers, their lack of knowledge becomes a huge barrier for work efficiency and communication.  Even though I may be more knowledgable when it comes to computers, my rank does not allow me to be an advocate for mandatory upgrading of employee knowledge and skills!

I think this all boils down to my feeling that there is a lack of respect (at least in my current experiences) for people of a younger age.  I couldn’t possibly be wise beyond my years, make sound decisions for my life and for my job, or be uncharacteristically knowledgeable with skills unrecognized.  How do I make them look past my youth and look at me?  Or better yet, how do I use my youth to command respect?

~DC