Tag Archive for gender

Why Your HR Lady Likes to Tell You “No”

1950s_family_lifeThere’s an interesting dynamic often at play in the workplace when the CEO/Owner/Company President serves as an ersatz father figure while the beleaguered HR lady is assigned the role of substitute mother. (And yes; I realize I am assigning genders of male and female based along stereotypical lines but since the human resources profession hovers around 70% female, for purposes of this narrative that’s what we’re going to work with here).

While Dad fulfills his often-absent but always-looming role as patriarch to a motley assemblage of children (the employees), Mom is left to perform the day-to-day care taking duties. It’s a 1950’s sitcom wherein she wears sensible pearls and high heels while vacuuming, wipes a stray tear here and there, and serves as the nurturer when little Johnny comes home after escaping a schoolyard taunting. But it’s only when Dad arrives home from the office at the end of his busy day that true wisdom can be imparted and the final lessons dispensed. After slipping off his suit jacket and inserting his feet into soft velvety slippers (monogrammed of course), Dad sits little Johnny down (along with big brother Bobby and middle child Susie) and shares today’s important life lesson; how to deal with schoolyard bullies. Perhaps the lesson covers why it’s important to work hard and save one’s own money to purchase a new bike. Dad likes to cover the sorts of topics that led the children of the post-WWII generation to write songs like “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

“Your Mother wants what’s best for you,” Dad is fond of explaining in these fireside chats. “Sometimes she has to tell you “No” so you’ll learn what it’s like to sacrifice, work hard, and earn what you deserve.”

Numerous parents have operated by these instructional principles for decades. And your mom, like mothers everywhere, operates from a place of love where she does things with your best interests in mind.

Your HR Lady/HRMom often thinks the same way.

After all, your HRMom has historically been charged with watching out for your well-being and making sure you’re taken care of from cradle to grave (health care benefit enrollments to retirement plan meetings). She has, unfortunately, been charged with crafting the dress code policy, laying out the rules of behavior and etiquette, monitoring the break room refrigerator, and having conversations with you about hygiene and bathroom habits. In HRMom’s world, Joe in Purchasing might as well be a disgusting teen-age boy the way he clips his toenails at his desk!

As a new parent, she starts off with the best of intentions and tells her friends she needs to “cover up the outlets so the baby can’t stick her fingers in them.”

Before you know it though, HRMom is reminding her children to “Put on a sweater before you go outside because I’m cold” and “We’re going to your Aunt Helen’s so you most assuredly cannot wear jeans!”

“You think it’s not fair? Life isn’t fair” she likes to say. “What part of NO don’t you understand?” she’ll ask when you attempt to argue a point.

When HRMom says “I’m not asking you. I’m telling you” she’s letting you know that you best comply with the antiquated rule/policy/edict she is quoting.

Her coup de grace, as it is for mothers everywhere, is merely to expertly arch an eyebrow and inform you “Because I said so, that’s why!”

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When real mom, living in the pre 2nd-wave feminist world, said “Just wait until your father gets home” she was deferring decision-making authority – and moxie – to the headship.

When HRMom says the same thing it feels a bit like she’s abdicating ownership. Doesn’t it? But perhaps saying “No” is the only way she can retain some sense of control. Power in a powerless world.

Unlike mom-at-home who offers you homemade oatmeal cookies fresh from the oven to demonstrate her love and care, HRMom can float through her day in a somnambulistic state; proffering words of wisdom and platitudes designed to keep you in line; semi-cocooned in blissful tranquility designed to ensure you toe-the-line and don’t drift off into teenage delinquency.

And then your HRmom reads an article like this – telling her that an entire new job category is being/has been created for “Employee Happiness Manager” and “Aim-to-Please Specialists.” HRMom reads this:

“ Nuha Masri, 25, says she can’t imagine working at a company without generous perks. They impressed her at Google, which also offers “nap pods,” and then became “so mundane, you just expect them,” she says.”

So you, figuring that HRMom wants you to be happy while simultaneously forgetting that she has already told you her job is not to ensure your happiness, ask for a change to the cafeteria offerings. Or suggest casual days all week long. Or inquire about adding a “bring your pet to work day.”

And you know what your HRmom – and Dad for that matter – is going to say to that, don’t you?

“I don’t care if Billy’s mom let him do it. If Billy’s mom let him jump off the bridge would you want me to let you do that too?”

In other words…no.

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this post was originally published on LinkedIn

Girl. You’ll be a Woman. Soon.

neil diamondIt’s been an interesting 11 days with the #krewedecrown – the team of 8 Baton Rougeans who served as official Social Media Ambassadors for the Miss USA pageant.  I was exposed to an industry and experience which has never held that much allure for me beyond the dress-up games I played as a child.

I was a bit unsure about tackling this gig being neither a fan of the systemic objectification of women nor a proponent of promoting the princess as role-model. Capturing a crown by sashaying around in full hair and makeup and having super shiny white teeth seems so, I dunno…silly.

Then again I wholeheartedly believe that it’s not up to me…or other women…or men…. to tell any individual woman how to act, dress, behave, or live her life.  Feminism means allowing each individual woman to choose her course. It’s oppressive to dictate what women can’t do and it’s just as oppressive to tell them what they should want to do.  So if Brittany Guidry from Houma, Louisiana thinks gaining titles and crowns is important to her then she surely should have every opportunity to do so.

Choice feminism, right?  When a woman makes a choice for herself (what to wear, what career to pursue, when/if to have children) there are generally no negative consequences; she is doing her thing.  Making her choices.

But the young women who choose to enter the pageant world have started down a path that has ongoing societal consequences and implications; things that go way beyond their individual dream of living in a high-rise apartment in Trump Tower for 12 months. Venerating unrealistic physical loveliness and doing so in a venue at which we ‘crown a queen’ based on her stroll across a stage in ridiculously high heels and a bathing suit is troublesome in 2014.  While monitoring the twitter stream last night I saw comments from viewers including one from a television viewer (paraphrasing): “I wish I looked like that but I eat too much.”    

That’s some sad stuff right there.

Look…I like the sparkly and shiny. I too was caught up in the collective virtual orgasm (mostly females, a few males) that rippled throughout the BR River Center when the contestants came parading out in their evening gowns.  I stood on the red carpet (official duties) and marveled, albeit somewhat cynically, as holders of flawlessly luminescent skin and lush eyelashes posed in front of me for pictures.

We buy into this stuff.

But women have many more options in 2014 than they did in 1952 when the Miss USA pageant began as a local “bathing beauty” competition.  Sadly I didn’t see a whole lot of attention focused on individual contestant’s accomplishments, education or goals even though we are 62 years hence; the addition of evening gowns and bigger hair seems to have been the major adjustment to the competition since its days as a “bathing beauty” competition. While a number of contestants have attained undergraduate degrees, some are pursuing post-graduate degrees and others are working in professional roles, that didn’t seem to be as critical to judging their worthiness as whether or not they could shimmy and shake fetchingly while Marc Broussard played “Iko Iko” in a nod to Louisiana.   And sadly, from pageant organizers to media to hosts to attendees, the word of choice when referring to the contestants was “girls” which drives me absolutely batshit crazy.  Infantilizing. Reeking of “be a good girl” or “isn’t she a pretty girl?” Ugh.

These are women.  And each individual woman can – and should – make the choices that are right for her.  Power to the contestants if this is what they wish to do with their lives.

I would like us, however, to collectively make some changes – intentional changes – to this beauty world.  We need to step away from the bright lights and glossy lipstick and seriously think about the potential lingering effect this pageant world has on on girls and boys and women and men.  The glamorization of unrealistic and unattainable physical beauty coupled with the downplaying of real accomplishments and potential capabilities is maddening.

Over and out. Reporting live from the red carpet.

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image: flickriver via Creative Commons

Trembling hands, “butterflies,” and other nervous symptoms

Lydia_PinkhamThere’s a networking group in town called “Women and Wine on Wednesdays” with which I have a love/hate relationship.  The founders work hard to host successful monthly events, but even though the “wine” part is enticing I haven’t attended an event in eons.  One of the reasons I stopped going was because the gatherings turned into some strange mashup of a bachelorette party, a Girl Scout jamboree, and a Silpada jewelry party.  At the last WWW I attended the middle-aged gals were just plain giddy in their eagerness to get to the bar and chat-up the male bartenders.  It was weird.

So love/hate.   Try to attend with an overabundance of testosterone and you’re turned away at the door…unless you can fill a wine glass?

I’m ruminating on this topic today over at Women of HR…check it out….and pass me the bottle of  Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.

 

Why I care about Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy – and you should too !

Kim KardashianThis year will bring all sorts of celebrity babies; Will and Kate will be birthing a future monarch; Jessica Simpson is entiende again and Kim Kardashian will bring forth a Kanye West, Jr.  It’s not like I ‘follow’ this stuff – it’s really more a matter of I just can’t escape it in this celebrity-obsessed 24/7 news cycle in which we live.

Now I’ve never given one whit about the Kardashians.  In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must admit that several years ago I got momentarily sucked in to 10 minutes of “Kim and Khloe take over Some City” at which point I instantly dropped 5 IQ points.

But I digress.

The impending arrival (at some point this year) of the Kardashian/West bambino is a hugely anticipated event – or so the entertainment outlets would have us believe.  I do, in fact, find it fascinating from a purely observational standpoint.  And yes – I care because:

I’ve learned a lesson in living up to one’s self-proclaimed prophecy – Most people shake their heads in wonderment and ask the obvious question “why, exactly, are these people famous?”  Interestingly enough, other than the sex tape stuff, no one seems to know the answer.  These celebrity overlords have defined their very own reality and the collective public has bought into it.  Talk about the power of positive thinking!!  Imagine if we could all bottle that and make it work in our careers? 

I’ve been reminded how society views women – No matter the opinion one may hold in regards to Kim’s questionable talent, her 72 day marriage or her shameless self-promotion, one has to admit that she is not afraid to show us that women come in all shapes and sizes.  And will I may not personally go for the over-made-up doll look nor would I be caught dead in a skirt that is so tight I can’t bend my knees, I’ve got to commend KK for not feeling the need to adhere to some unrealistic twig-thin standard as demanded by the fashion Hollywood police.   Sadly, however, as an indictment on our culture, I have recently seen stories that call into question her weight gain and exploding curves – essentially pondering “is she getting too fat because of her pregnancy.”  What a sad freakin’ indictment of how we (the collective we) view women.

I’ve come to understand that a ‘family’, no matter how dysfunctional, can be a powerful thing – Sometimes I think the collective lot of Kardashians is on a one-way express train to Krazy Town.  But, wherever they’re headed, it is refreshing to see them go there as a group.  They start business ventures together, they rescue each other from jams and difficult situations and they are the FIRST ones to publicly defend and support each other when there’s some sort of questionable activity.  So who’s got your back?  Cuz it sure is nice when family/co-workers/teammates/friends can travel with you.  Am I right?

And that, my friends, is no doubt the first and last time I will spend any amount of time contemplating the Kardashians.

Well, until the baby comes along……