Too Sexy for This Job? (Part One)

Recently, I wrote about speaking at a woman’s conference where Gloria Steinem said, “I don’t know why women aren’t more angry these days…because we still have so much to be angry about.”

At the time, I struggled to understand what a room full of successful alpha-femmes could be angry about, but as I reviewed the survey of 700+ executive women for the book I’m writing, I found that a whopping 68% had been hit on at work. While there were a few tales of true love sprinkled in the mix of comments (I married him and glad I did!”), most advances were decidedly unwelcome:

“A coworker crossed the line in both visual looks and not respecting personal space. He left shortly after I raised the flag to a supervisor. It took a lot of courage on my part but I did not feel that it was taken seriously. Perhaps it was management’s inability to know how to appropriately handle the situation.”

“He grabbed me and I slapped him. I quit.”

“I was an expert witness in the courts and a judge put his hand on my knee and made a suggestive comment. We were supposed to be on a professional lunch.”

“I was young and new to the job and he took advantage of my vulnerability. Not that I am blameless BUT…”

This is a tricky tight rope for girls, huh?

Let’s take looks for example. On one hand, we can argue all day long about whether it’s fair or politically correct, but it still won’t change the fact that we live in a society where appearance matters. On the other, if you’ve been lucky enough to hit the genetic lottery – or if you’re really good at faking it – you’ve probably noticed that sending libidos out of control can actually hurt your career. It’s one of those things that – at first – seems pretty sweet.  Maybe you get invited to more events and meetings, maybe you become a confidant to a senior-level exec….however, assuming you’re NOT in the category of those who go on to have a healthy, long-term relationship, this movie has a few predictable endings.

1.) You alienate other colleagues who take offense to your methods of getting ahead

2.) You go “too far” and ruin your reputation altogether

This is where the responsibility of beauty kicks in. That is, it’s okay to be beautiful (you can’t help it, after all). What’s not okay, obviously, is using your femininity in a sexual way to garner attention for yourself at work.

There’s a thin line between being beautiful and being sexual. One is what you are, the other is how you act. 

That said, there will be times when you’re not doing anything and someone else is trying to turn your office into single’s night. What do you do then? Stay tuned for Part Two of this post coming up later this week.

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