The Cleavage Advice

Linkedin_icon

Women-in-Office


Something happened a few weeks ago that first surprised me and then made think how we might be playing with double standards.

Everything started with a short notice to attend a meeting with a potential client. I did not have enough time to prepare for it, about 30 minutes before the meeting I googled him. Turned out, he is a well-recognized lawyer, public speaker, the full package. I thought OMG why did I google him?  Perhaps ignorance will prevent a panic attack.

I shared my hysterical moment with some friends, their advice was  “smile to everything he says and wear a dress with nice cleavage”. This came from both male and female.

I couldn’t stop thinking, how today when we are fighting for equality, trying to demonstrate that women are as capable as men, we still have this mentality. Even as a joke, we must be careful with the message we are sending.

Am I overreacting… maybe, but what would  your reaction be if a male colleague, who is in excellent shape, goes to a meeting with an open shirt so we can see his chest and abs?

Although the situation is not exactly the same, the intention behind the action is the same. The attention received is based on your look, rather than your knowledge on a particular matter.

I am not saying that we have to wear long dresses, neither that someone covered head to toes with clothes is more capable than a woman with a big cleavage nor that women have to dress like men to cover her femininity.

In my opinion, if we do not want to be treated as objects, we should not use our look to get attention in a professional environment. Otherwise, we are playing with double standards.  In one side, we want to be respected based on our qualifications and at the same time we are flirting.

It could be tempting, it seems easy, everybody will be distracted and you will get some attention. Even though it might work with some people, this attitude can backfire badly.

We should ask ourselves, how would I like to be remembered? As the woman with a big cleavage or nice legs, who might be a good date, or as this smart, capable woman who is perfect for the job and is an asset for any organization.

In the same way how we raise our voices asking for equal treatment, we have to accept the responsibility that comes with it, understand that our words must be supported by our actions.

Some people may argue that men have to control themselves and we can wear whatever we want, I agree with that until certain extend, but everything has a place and a moment.

The sexual attraction will always exist; you can meet the love of your life in a business meeting, why not. Regardless, if we want to be taken seriously, we must forget the smile and cleavage advice and keep those sexy outfits outside the office, women do not need that to succeed.

Should I wear a ring…?

This idea of wearing a ring came to my mind with a couple of questions, why should I do that? and how many women have experienced sexual harassment?

As part of my job I have to attend conferences and networking events. I went to a regional conference in the Caribbean; my goal was to make some good connections, nothing new right?

The first day I accepted a dinner invitation from a banker to discuss products and business opportunities; which is pretty common in this type of events.  However, he started to act different, following me everywhere; I was not able to interact with other people because of him. Therefore, I decided to cancel the dinner/meeting.

I ended having a quick bite with a colleague, I told him what happened, how bad I felt, maybe I made a wrong business decision because of my defensive mood. His advice…you should wear an engagement ring. My answer, but I am not engaged, why should I do that? He told me that a couple of female friends were doing that to prevent, as much as possible, these situations. I just laughed and said to myself I am not doing that. 

The next day, I met a lawyer in his late 50s; we shared a table with some other professionals. Later that day, we were all invited to dinner.

What happened next was an unpleasant surprise. During dinner, he started to ask me questions, first work related and after personal questions; if I was married, why I was not married. I handled the situation with a strong attitude, which I thought was clear enough to make my point  …”I was not interested”. 

Back at the hotel, he insisted in having a “last drink” I said NO, the situation was so uncomfortable, here I was telling NO in all possible ways and this guy decided to ignore it. I jumped from the elevator and ran to my room.

Later, I checked my e-mails and…voila… a message from this “colleague” telling me how impressed he was with me and that he truly regrets that we did not have a “last drink”.

Next day I was desperate to go home, I left early to the airport as I did not want to see this guy anymore.

During the flight, I was thinking… the first thing I will do once I get back is buying a ring. I thought about this experience, I was disgusted and frustrated.

The truth is we do not have to buy a ring; why women have to pretend something, because for some men it is too difficult to understand that we are professionals and they have no other choice but to respect that.

This happens all the time, what can we do about it? We can talk, but not just with other women, we need to include men. Thankfully not all men are like this one, those are the ones we must reach to create conscience and change their mentality.

How I see things, you can’t let this behavior stop you from achieving your goals, we have to teach them and move forward. 

When I shared this with a friend, she said…well that is why we are getting better positions little by little; they are thinking in an “affair” we are thinking in business.

For me is not a competition between men and women, it is about respect, plain and simple.

So, NO, I will not wear a ring, I am moving forward.