Young Women in the Workforce

11 May

So here’s the deal…

It’s rough being young and in the workforce.

But it appears that young WOMEN have it the hardest.

Why?

Because not only do we have to prove ourselves capable despite our age, but despite our gender too.

This is not okay.

I mean really, why is the notion that we’re young, intelligent women, so ridiculous? What do we have to do to gain respect from both our male and female colleagues?

It’s true that we’re young.

But we’re also hungry, ambitious, and yes, contrary to popular belief, many of us are smart.

Check out my full article featured in Urbane Sophisticate’s Women’s Issue——> here.

If you’re a young woman in the workforce, you may relate.

And if you’re not, you should still be aware of the hardships that we face.

Then, start taking us seriously.

*******************************************************************************************************

From Urbane Sophisticate’s Women’s Issue:

by: Kayla Cruz

I should have known that being a young woman in the workforce was not going to be easy. There were particularly obvious signs: my first, which I completely disregarded, took place my sophomore year in college. I remember sitting in class, making up an exam when my professor came up to me, a bit too close for comfort, and said, “You know, you’re going to have a hard time being taken seriously at work with legs like that.” I assure you he said that. Two years later, when interviewing for a new job, the hiring manager (who was a woman, for the record) looked at me, in my tailored Calvin Klein business dress, and said, “I’d like to hire you. But we’re going to have to put you in scrubs. I won’t have you walking around with those legs.”  That was my first career lesson: my legs are an issue.

It seems that Gen Y women entering the workforce today face a tremendous challenge in being taken seriously as professionals. Not only do we have to deal with negative stereotypes regarding our young age, but we also have to navigate the workforce as women and unfortunately, regardless of how far we’ve come, there are still some people that undermine our ability to take our careers seriously.

Most of us attend college for four years in hopes of landing our dream jobs upon graduating. We dream of making a difference, and becoming successful and powerful women, a goal we know that we’re perfectly capable of achieving. However, what we discover when we enter the workforce often does not meet up to these expectations. We find instead that most organizations are severely flawed in their infrastructures and make it nearly impossible for young women to attain the acknowledgement that they deserve. I know that for me, that was certainly the case.  I entered a male dominated workforce where I was perceived as an object of desire, incapable of possessing intellect. The understanding that I was a young and smart woman did not exist.

Nearly nothing I learned in college prepared me for what I encountered as a young woman in the workforce. During my first year as a professional, I faced sexual harassment on a daily basis. When men would approach me, it was hardly ever to talk about work, and it was never in a serious manner. They failed to respect me as an intellectual and that upset me. While I was flattered that men perceived me as desirable, what I wanted more than anything was to be acknowledged for my talents and the knowledge that I possessed.

This longing to be respected in our careers that we, as Generation Y, bring to the workforce is not a bad thing. However, when added to our naiveté, it makes us prime targets for sexual harassment, which I learned first hand. In this case, one that occurs way too often, a young woman becomes frustrated because no one seems to respect her work. Then comes along a male superior who assures her that he does see her value. He then takes a “special interest” in her and ensures that her career development is given high priority.  She is given new projects and challenging work and she is happy until said superior is calling her at 3 a.m. demanding her resignation because she failed to report to his apartment that evening. 

To add to this is the sad reality that a young woman is seldom able to take credit for her success. As she advances in her career, she is automatically perceived as “the girl that slept with her boss.”  It is seemingly unfathomable that a young woman may succeed based on her own hard work.  What people struggle to understand is that women are just as capable as men in the workforce.  Add to that factor a young age and it is nearly impossible to be taken seriously, to be perceived as anything other than an executive’s secretary. I don’t aspire to be a secretary. I want much more than that and I will spend my entire career making sure that I am known for my intellect and the outstanding work I produce, not just for my legs.

Being young in the workforce today is difficult. Generation Y is striving to make employers aware of the fact that they are capable of doing serious work, beyond the process of making copies and other clerical duties. They yearn for challenging work and want to be seen as equal teammates by their colleagues. It appears that young women have it the hardest. We have to prove ourselves capable despite our age and our gender. But why is the notion that we are young, intelligent women, so ridiculous? What do we have to do to gain respect from both our male and female colleagues? It is true that we are young, but we are also hungry, ambitious, and yes, contrary to popular belief, many of us are smart.

12 Responses to “Young Women in the Workforce”

  1. Just remember, you can’t please all of the people some of the time but some of the people all of the time. Or something like that. Eventually you may have to break free and become your own boss, the CEO of you and create your own empire. Trust me, I wore your shoes and now am the CEO. But, I am still judged. Ironically mostly by women in my own generation. Some are just plain jelous and others make me feel guilty for being a women business owner instead of at home baking cookies for my kids. Believe it or not, I now get the most respect from men who have seen me navigate through rough waters but still managed to succeed. Many men can respcet a woman who can juggle both career and family. Now I am not telling you to walk around the office with a fake baby in a stroller, but stay true to who you are and what your ultimate career goal is. You are the only one who can make it happen. Demand the respect! Heck – just by reading your blogs, I would hire you today and not to make copies and collate! All the best to you!

    • fiztrainer May 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      I have to concur with “turn around and swim life” above there. What you describe has been going on through the ages. I also have to agree that women will probably end up being your worst enemies. You may feel like you have to prove yourself to a man but once you do you’re done. Like she said above you are the navigator of your life. Do what you do best and do it really well Angela refuse to take less than you deserve. If you value your self others will too. Great post!

  2. Alyssa May 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Interesting topic! As a young female starting off in the VERY male dominated field of engineering military training devices, I agree that it can be hard to be taken seriously. Fortunately, I have not seen the extensive harassment that your article portrays at my work place. Do the men treat me differently, of course….but I am always treated with respect (I am very lucky). I will admit that yes, I do believe that as a young women, I get a little more professional attention then the male Gen Yers in my field, but I do not feel threatened by it…I’m not asking for it, and I won’t apologize for it. Surprisingly, I see the most prejudice when it comes to my male peers. In school, if I got better grades than my male counterparts or if I got a second round interview and the other candidates didn’t…It was not uncommon to hear the “he grades girls easier”, “he liked how you looked”, or “duh you got that interview, you are a girl.” After a while these comments made it hard to feel good about my accomplishments because I was always second guessing if I deserved them or not. I know I worked hard in school and I work hard now at my job, but did I get grades or a job because they liked my skirt suit? Some of my fellow male Gen Yers would probably say so. Why is it so hard to believe that I didn’t sleep my way to where I am? Once I was asked how I got my internship, and I responded with “I applied and interviewed just like everyone else.” I think as long as we have respect for ourselves and keep everything very professional, we will be alright :)

  3. Tina Del Buono, PMAC May 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    This is an age old problem, but I do think it there is less of it than 20 years ago, but I could be wrong. The women that I know in management and executive positions are ones that promote, and support our female younger generations. I think it is very important for women to do this and find it very sad when a women think that they need to act like a man when they are in a leadership or executive position. We have just as much to offer and smart men know it and embrace it. Thank you for your excellent post.

  4. Michelle May 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    Work hard, be yourself, be true to yourself and it will all come together!

  5. Lauren May 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on Lauren Out Loud and commented:
    I can definitely relate!

  6. smallivy May 12, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    Kayla,

    Please take this as an honest question from someone wanting to know the answer:

    Why do women dress provocatively in the workplace if they want to be seen as “smart” and “capable?” I mean, why the high heels, why the low-cut shirts, why the sheer blouses? It seems like it would invite the unwanted attention you speak about in your post.

    This is not to say that a woman shouldn’t be taken seriously if she wears a lowcut blouse or a pencil skirt. This is to say, as a guy, it is hard to concentrate on what a woman is saying if her cleavage is hanging out. It has to do with survival of the species and is hard-wired in.

    • Alyssa May 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      Smallivy,

      I will agree with you that a lot of young women are not properly taught what “business professional attire” means. As a young women, it can be hard to navigate through the crap a lot of stores will label as professional attire in their stores (actually turns out to be a bunch of sheer/spandex crap). You must understand that every women wants to look well put together and attractive, but some young women do end up dressing provocatively. And I agree that would attract the wrong kind of attention. But a woman should not have to go to work looking unattractive to be taken seriously. I 100% agree with you that there is absolutely no need for cleavage at the work place, but I disagree with you about the pencil skirt and heels. A conservative length pencil skirt is taught to be what you SHOULD wear. As a young professional you hear a lot of advice on how to dress, and for the record my university prints this statement in their information about how to dress as a female for Business Professional Attire:

      Suits:
      “A skirt suit is recommended, unless your
      research indicates that pant suits are very
      common in the company.”

      Shoes:
      “Choose basic, conservative pumps”

      Heels should ALWAYS be worn to an interview or a work place that has a business professional attire dress code. I think the height of the heel is what should be looked at (no more than 2-2.5 inches usually). As I stated earlier, cleavage is unacceptable. But as you have seemed to group skirts and heels in the same category I am lead to the conclusion (and I apologize if I am misreading your comment) that you think a women should not wear skirts or heels because men just can’t control their natural “survival instincts.” Sorry Smallivy, but that isn’t saying much for the male species. If a women is following the company dress code by wearing a skirt suit and heels then she has nothing to apologize about if her male counterparts “can’t concentrate” because they are too busy staring at her butt. That’s not, and should not, be her problem.

      • smallivy May 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

        Alyssa,

        Thanks for the information and confirmation that some of the “styles” are not appropriate for the businessplace. I also probably should cast dispersion on all skirts and heels. I started to say that the problem isn’t with all males, just the harassing bosses Kayla described that would call a woman up at 2 AM, but then they would probably still be a problem no matter what the woman was wearing.

      • smallivy May 14, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

        Should have said I should NOT cast dispersions on all skirts and heels.

  7. thelostkerryman May 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    Smart is very sexy…with or without your laptop…

  8. I am Reptard May 14, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    It’s funny, but the majority of the managers and executives at my company are women! My male co-workers seem to not be able to multi-task as easily or deal with stress as easily as some of the women at work do. I think (well, hope) that women will be discriminated against in the workforce less and less as time goes on. We are surpassing men in our fields and it’s because we are more ambitious and ready to break glass ceilings than ever before! :)

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