So I got a pretty drastic haircut last weekend. It’s summer in Texas, y’all, and I was tired of sweating while I curled my hair in the morning. It’s not fun to have to wait to stop sweating before you can get dressed.
I like it, but as I was walking down the hall at work today, one of my coworkers gasped. “You look like a BABY,” she screeched.
“Um, thanks?” I said.
Later, someone tried to explain to me that looking young is supposed to be good, right? Everyone wants to look young.
“Not when you’re trying to get people to take you seriously,” I explained.
I get it—I looked young. Now, I look even younger.
A few years ago, as I was getting into an elevator with a coworker, he introduced me to the people with him. They asked what I did there, and my coworker explained that I was the executive over Communications. Someone asked how long I’d been with the company, and I explained it had been about 10 years.
“Wow, did you start when you were 12?!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, I absolutely DID,” I said, grinning like I found it charming.
It Wasn’t Charming
And although I admit that I feel giddy when waiters ask for my ID, I do not have the same reaction at work.
Because at work, I need to be taken seriously. I need to be listened to. I need to be taken into account. Otherwise I can’t get the things done that I need to get done.
A friend who is a big-deal executive and also young and cute told me once that her mom explained that she’d have to do everything twice as well as a man because of how she looked.
God, when we’re already being good and nice and playing politics and working our butts off and doing what people expect and yet still kicking ass, how do we do all that? It makes me so tired sometimes.
Today, I made a rookie mistake—I spent some time on Facebook. And I happened across a bunch of articles in my feed that just depressed me on the topics of women or women in the workplace. (Thanks, Harvard Business Review.) Particularly:
- Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?
- The Ambition-Marriage Tradeoff Too Many Single Women Face
- Women Are Not Here For You. You Do Not Own Us. (Which opens by describing a situation that almost every woman you know has experienced.)
In no way do I think that a bunch of misogynistic old men are sitting around trying to discriminate against women. (Although actually that may describe how I feel about Congress now, but that’s another post.) Honestly, though, I don’t think most people are ACTIVELY TRYING to discriminate against other groups, women included.
But studies have shown that we like people who look like us. And many of the cultural and structural norms we have built do cause or reinforce these problematic issues.
So while I don’t think that being or looking like a young woman makes me a victim—I understand how truly privileged I am—I think it does mean I often have to work harder to be taken seriously.
And Now The Good News
Luckily though, I think that we really are making progress. And I am getting older by the day, so there’s that, too.
I’m feeling positive about our chances, probably because I spent the weekend with an amazing group of women who are all very different, but still part of the same. . .tribe. Meant to be together. Accepting of each other. Encouraging to no end. Loving cheerleaders. It was so healing.
And one of them happens to be a captain of industry. She runs a $6 billion business that also happens to be the largest public benefit corporation in the U.S., which is a type of organization that is required to have a positive impact on society in addition to maximizing shareholder value. It has to make a difference AND make money. (But it’s not like I know about all of this because she TOLD any of us about it; I read it for myself in Fortune, magazine y’all. Like you do.)
Not only that, but one of them happens to be a 70-year-old who decided to take up hip-hop dancing in her 60s. And then stand up comedy a few years later. (Also, the phrase “hip-hop dancing” sounds so unbelievably white. Wow.)
Nevertheless, each woman has an amazing story, has faced insurmountable odds, has achieved jaw-droppingly spectacular things, is making a real difference in the world. (Which is why I don’t have time to tell you about all of them, but trust me when I tell you that they are spectacular.)
At dinner on our last night together, we celebrated our friend the CEO for her accomplishments. And as we talked about our dreams, one woman said, “I could see us starting a non-profit one day.”
“A non-profit?!” the CEO exclaimed. “Why not start a BUSINESS?!”
Good question. I’ve heard a lot of spiritual people brag about how they “got out of corporate” because it was such a horrible, godforsaken place. But the world needs more spiritual people in business these days, not less. That’s how we change things.
So bbs, let’s start a business this week, whatever that looks like. Kick some butt at work even if you look stupidly young. Donate to a good cause. React lovingly to a real asshole. Don’t believe the lies the culture tells you. Dare to think, even for 5 seconds, that you are a ridiculously good-looking. Call your mother. Tell someone who’s doing a good job how impressed you are with their work.
Don’t get bogged down in the details, just get out there and START A BUSINESS! The world needs it and you probably do, too.