Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gender Discrimination: Still alive and well...

This week in my Public Relations seminar, we read articles about gender discrimination in the field of public relations. The upshot is that while there are more women than men in the field of PR, women still don't have access to the power positions that men do, are paid less, and respected less. The research was based on surveys and interviews of both men and women, and some of the quotes were quite revealing: men whose wives stay home, wondering what women are doing at work; men who think that women aren't fast enough decision makers, using furniture shopping as the basis of their thinking. Here I thought that my work experiences were old and out of date, but these articles proved that sexism is still alive and well.

In my first job at General Motors as a college intern, I was placed in a department with a white-haired man who directed me to the filing cabinet as soon as I arrived. When I asked when I'd be investigating suggestions, like the other college men, he said that his wife stayed at home so he didn't see much point to women in the work place. He said all of this while his head was bent over a putter in this office. Welcome to the corporate world! I ended up filing for a few weeks, which was fine. But by the end of that rotation, I was out in the plant, investigating suggestions with the guys.

The other insight this article mentioned was that women don't know how to get ahead because they are not conditioned to ask for promotions, like men are. I also learned this the hard way. After finishing my MBA, I saw that my male colleagues at Johnson Controls were getting promoted faster than I was, so I realized that in order to get ahead, I would have to ask for a promotion, and ask I did. In four years, every single promotion or pay raise I got, I had to ask (or fight) for. I learned that you only get what you want by speaking up.


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