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Gini Dietrich

The Double Standard in Women’s Equality is Alive and Well

By: Gini Dietrich | August 22, 2013 | 
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The Double Standard in Women's Equality is Alive and Well

By Gini Dietrich

Alright boys and girls. We need to have a little chat.

The chat isn’t a new one for Spin Sucks readers. In fact, it’s not a new one in the movement for women’s equality in the past 60 years.

But, even in 2013, there continues to be a double standard about women in the workplace so we have to continue to have the chat.

Marissa Mayer, the new chief at Yahoo!, did an interview and photo shoot with Vogue, one of the more serious fashion magazines out there.

STOP THE PRESSES!

A female executive put on pretty clothes and talked about how much she loves her new job?

Well, crap. There goes women’s equality. Now if we put on a Michael Kors dress and Yves Saint Laurent stiletto heels and do photo shoots for Vogue we won’t be taken seriously.

I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not supposed to say this, but if Vogue asked me to do a photo shoot and interview with them, I would jump at the chance. Put me in pretty clothes, do my hair and makeup, photoshop out some of my physical flaws, and let me talk about the business I’m growing? I would LOVE that.

The Double Standard

But apparently there is s still a double standard in this world.

CNN, among many other serious news outlets, used headlines such as, “Sexed Up and Smart,” “The Geek as Babe,” and “Women: Please Don’t be Stylish. Also Please Don’t Be Frumpy.”

We can’t freaking win. Hillary Clinton is lambasted for wearing pantsuits.  Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, for wearing “unflattering styles.” And now Marissa Mayer for – gasp! – looking gorgeous in Vogue.

If she were a man, this would not be news. Richard Branson has been photographed and interviewed. Mark Cuban has, too. Where is the backlash about either of them looking sexy with a couple of buttons undone on their shirts?

I just finished reading Lean In (blog post forthcoming) and one of the things that struck me was this: Women make up more than half of the world’s population, but we don’t have more than half – heck, not even half – of the power.

Work Together…Not Against One Another

What would happen if we all worked together to gain equality versus fighting one another all of the time?

What would happen if we refused to be interviewed for these kinds of stories?

What would happen if we stopped nodding our head in agreement about the double standard and letting it make the rounds?

What would happen if, oh I don’t know, we supported one another instead of judging each other because someone might not make the same choices we make?

Men do that. Why can’t we do that?

I will leave you with this: We can’t expect men to treat us differently than we treat ourselves. Marissa Mayer doing an interview and photo shoot with Vogue is not news. If anything, it helps her gain more exposure and brand awareness for the work she’s doing AND it empowers young women to set their sights on big career moves (if that’s what they want to do).

I read the article. I looked at the pictures. I’m inspired and feel empowered. Why not leave it at that?

P.S. You can thank Lindsay Bell-Wheeler for getting me fired up about this. After we had an email exchange about the ridiculousness of it all, all she wrote back to me was, “BLOG POST!”

P.P.S. We have Jay Baer joining us on August 29 for a free webinar about his new book, Youtility. You can register here.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

251 comments
KateNolan
KateNolan

I haven't read all of the comments yet, and I while, because this is a conversation that has to be read, responded to and generally pushed into the open, but I have to say that I've seen both the best and the worst of this in myself and my company.

First, I'm jealous of Marissa Mayer. It's true. She's smart, successful and attractive. Would I want that? Heck yes, but instead of being threatened by it, I'm inspired by it. And this is true for Gini, too. A woman who has busted her butt to get where she is and (I assume) is dedicated to helping other women (and men) make their way. I say wear that Feminist hat/skirtsuit/pantsuit/whatever with pride, but also make sure to call out the negative connotations as BS!

On my role in this: For the last four years I've worked with a group of women, for the first time essentially. I've worked mostly with men previously (other than one or two women) and it simply astounds me the attitudes that they have about ourselves and that our other coworkers have about them. They're "the girls"; these women who have DECADES of industry experience and know more about printing than our salesmen (yes, all men) but they don't trust their own guts when it comes to navigating some the managerial/relationship stuff. I've caught myself being overly negative with them because I have some "preferences" for office behaviour and dress that they don't and I have a different roll (we'll say "specialty" customer service and marketing) that is tough for us to all determine how, exactly, I fit into the office. That isn't something the men have to deal with. Definitely some food for thought on my part and, I think, I'll have to step up and take the role of leader in facilitating better communication as much as I can.

(Just had to delete and repost because I forgot my manners and wasn't speaking ladylike... uh, wait a minute...)

Quietglw
Quietglw

Excellent post! I read Lean In a few months back and it really got me fired up too. Some of the statistics are seriously depressing, particularly in the ways we hold ourselves back. In Canada we are lucky to have Federally mandated 12 month maternity leave, which certainly makes being a working mom easier, but the cost of day care ends up making working with young children not worth it for so many families. Why should we have to choose?

In regards to the Vogue article, there are so many men who have done similar shoots and are never made fun of or taken less seriously for it.

We definitely do need to support ourselves and one another more often. What got to me the most about Lean In, was the fact that women in power are less likeable...by other women! What the hell ladies?! We need to seriously give our heads a shake the next time we think a female executive is a b*tch for being tough.

Anyway, I could go on, but I look very forward to reading your post about Lean In!

photo chris
photo chris

i KNOW EXACTLY what you mean; it's SO HARD. Unfortauntly, I don't  think there's a kid out there who doesn't feel that way. Even the kids who are shredding others are doing so to make themselves "look good." I just don't think this sort of confidence comes until you are older....like 75. ;-)

DrgnflyMktSci
DrgnflyMktSci

@ginidietrich Late to the convo...I'm sorry, but people think this photo is "sexy"?! She is in a dress that goes from her neck to her knees. *Gasp* she is showing her arms and is laying on a lounger, while skinny and a curved pose! She looks good, but certainly doesn't cross some imaginary "to sexy" line. 

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

This might annoy you, but here goes...I guess part of me thinks you should stop caring and just do what you want! I promise you'll get the respect you deserve--self-respect, which translates into external respect. I think Marissa Mayer doing Vogue is awesome, not because it enhances her hotness, but because she felt like it! She doesn't ask men's (or anyone's) permission, she just acts. She runs YAHOO!! She's bad to the bone. She gets it done on her terms. Love that.

Men have traditionally had the power because they were initially physically stronger in a world that demanded it. Now that the playing field has been digitally leveled, the time to seize the future is now. Take what you want. Achieve what you want. Own it! I for one will not only get out of your way, I'll help any way I can. There is nothing more attractive to me than a strong, confident, powerful woman who is self-assured, self-aware, accomplished in her chosen path, courageous enough to be herself, and not offended by her own feminine beauty, whether that lies within or without. 

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

All too frequently, women are women's worst enemies when it comes to career development. I certainly wouldn't pose in underwear and expect to be taken seriously as a business woman, but there's certainly nothing wrong with looking nice and being smart. C'mon, people!

Nikki Little
Nikki Little

Others have already expressed my same thoughts throughout the comments, so I'll just say a simple I totally agree with you, and thank you. :)

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

Great article! As a mother of a teenage daughter we have had this discussion a lot.

mmcottrell
mmcottrell

@ginidietrich Totally agree. Did anyone think Vogue was going to do an ugly, serious photo shoot? No fan of Mayer, but that pic was fine.

creativeoncall
creativeoncall

As a dad of two teenage daughters, I get fired up, concerned, ticked off about this... but I think that, as women graduate from college in ever larger numbers than men (even though still getting paid less as they enter the workforce), and as men in our culture continue to revel in extended adolescence... well, sooner or later, all of my testosterone-laden brethren will wake up from seeing/acting out "Hangover 12" and discover that all the Marissa Mayer's in the C-Suites across America have taken over all the good jobs... while looking great doing it.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I just got here. Saw 122 comments figured either you riled up @jasonkonopinski about trout fishing is cruel or something gender based.

I never thought about this before. The C Suite is looked at as jobs you give up your life for money because you work so much. I personally think the C Suite should have a glamour side to it. It is there we see it. The cover shoots for men CEOs all the time. In $10,000 suits in a penthouse office. They get interviewed and often are hauled before congress. They often have or have access to private jets and first class air fair. All I can say is go Marissa! oh and you @ginidietrich  I will buy a case of that issue and put your spread up in my future mancave.....oh wait like the wife would let me have that over a makeup room for her...I lost.

Sjeanne06
Sjeanne06

I've been staring at this empty comment box for at least 15 minutes (don't tell my boss) trying to figure out exactly what I want to say.  I still am not sure, but I do know this: there is absolutely a fundamental difference in how women and men are treated in the workplace (and in society in general).  

An example that affected me recently? I wore a dress to work for a client meeting and had a manager make a comment to me along the lines of, "well, we want to impress the client, but not because we have hot employees." Yea, so there's that.

I love Secretary Hilary Clinton's response when asked by reporters about what designers she wears... "Would you be asking me that if I were a man?" Of COURSE they wouldn't be.

I've written blogs about this subject; about how women are expected to be pretty but not too pretty, smart but not intimidatingly so, well "groomed" but not high maintenance, successful but not MORE successful than the "man" in the relationship, etc. etc. 

Unfortunately, I'm not sure these perceptions will change in my lifetime, or even my daughter's.  Do we have to accept them? No.  I refuse to allow someone who is narrow-minded to affect me to the point of being upset. (Although, trust me, there are times when they do win, and I, too, get fired up). 

Rise above... go to the spa, buy clothes you feel comfortable in (no matter what brand they are), splurge on expensive heels and rock that sh*t (excuse my language) to work, OR DON'T either way, do what you want! Just do it while also being an innovative, creative, hard-working team member.  

As the wise Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I choose not to give that approval. @ginidietrich 


ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KateNolan Ha! Now I'm curious how you wrote it to begin with. I had a similar conversation to this with a friend of mine the other night. I think part of it happens because we're just not aware - that's the way things are done, if you will. But the more aware we are and the more willing we are to step up and change things, the more change we will see.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@mickeygomez I'm pretty sure you should never be put in an awkward pose because you'd end up breaking your head or something

shedoesdesign
shedoesdesign

@ginidietrich thx for the post! Read both first thing this morning, and had a great conv. piece for the table full of (male) devs. at lunch!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Sjeanne06 There is almost nothing I love more than an expensive pair of heels and a skirt. I have a pair of red-soled shoes I got for my birthday a couple of years ago. Every time I wear them, I either hear snickers about my glamorous shoes or right out jealous comments. And trust me, it's not the men who make the comments.

KateNolan
KateNolan

@ginidietrich @KateNolan It wasn't that much different than the current post, just some key editing to make it PG! (I didn't want to get in trouble with the SS police.)

Yup, awareness is probably a major part of it. We're all so used to things the way they are that it can be hard to see it when it's happening. I think I need to better recognize why I'm frustrated with someone and deal with that versus automatically going into catfight/takedown mode (or succumbing to it if I'm on the other end).

mickeygomez
mickeygomez

@ginidietrich But I have to think that those copies of Vogue would fly off the shelves, amiright? Or maybe that would be better for Time.

Sjeanne06
Sjeanne06

@ginidietrich @Sjeanne06 I hear you, girl! I LOVE a new all leather patent heel or an awesome new handbag... they're a couple indulgences that I allow myself.

Your comment also brings up an entirely different issue, Gini! This embedded competitive nature and jealousy among women... why do we treat each other so poorly?  As if there's not enough drama that we need to deal with on a daily basis to just feel like we're being good enough mothers, employees, bosses, members of society, etc. We somehow feel the need to just be out right mean to each other!

It's something I have made an active effort to work on.  I know I've been guilty of it.  We're almost expected to be catty and judge each other on appearances, status, careers, relationships (and the list goes on)... it's ridiculous.

Let's just all make a pact that we'll be supportive and encouraging to each other, female OR male.  I'm good with that.  Kumbaya! 

PS: Let them snicker; you're absolutely right, it is almost always based in insecurity and jealousy. Again, NOT your problem. (Of course, advice is easy to give and hard to follow... just keep kicking butt, lady!) 

shedoesdesign
shedoesdesign

@ginidietrich it was interesting! Mostly gave props for her code skill+google history, plus talked obv. "controversy" re: new Y! policies

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @Sjeanne06 If Oprah really was on the side of women she should fund a male version of sex in the city and she should have reporters for her O magazine ask men what hair products and shoes they wear.

Hey John Kerry is that Armani or is that custom made in hong kong? Rockports or Kenneth Cole shoes you sexy Hombre?

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