Gender Caution in the Workplace

Gender Caution in the Workplace

In a poll conducted for The New York Times, nearly two-thirds polled say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. Some people avoid individual interactions with the opposite sex for ethical or religious reasons, but many fear sexual harassment, or being accused of it. Unfortunately, “organizations are so concerned with their legal liabilities, nobody’s really focused on how to reduce harassment and at the same time teach men and women to have working relationships with the opposite sex,” said Kim Elsesser, author of “Sex and the Office: Women, Men and the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace.” In fact, when men avoid one-on-one interactions with women, research shows it puts women at a disadvantage, even stalling professional growth. Establishing protocols and using caution can be good, but men and women need to figure out how to work together.

My first reaction to the results of this poll: I was sad. So I sat back and reflected on it for quite some time. Of course I would really like to know more about the questions and data collection, knowing that statistics can be skewed by those selected for polling, the sequence in which the questions are asked, etc.

I do NOT want to minimize or discredit anyone’s response. I believe that those responding did so truthfully and based on their own experiences.  I am sad that their interactions and experiences have led them to feel this way.  I really worry that these responses and the resulting articles could influence young professionals of any gender and prevent them from gaining access, experience, and mentoring that could make all the difference to their professional development.

But in the end, after all my reflection, I am left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  It starts with the vast majority of male students and male teachers I encountered when I was one of a handful of girls who integrated an all boy’s high school nearly 40 years ago.  It continued not only with male classmates and professors in college, but in graduate school as well.  When I did encounter harassment in the workplace, how ironic that it was in an open office setting; even without walls, words can create a hostile environment and demean someone based on their gender.

Often, traveling for work required many dinners with male clients or co-workers.  I have tried to recall even one incident where someone hinted or made an inappropriate suggestion.  I cannot. I wouldn’t be the professional I am today without having spent some very long hours, on some very complicated projects, well after 5.00 o’clock, without some amazing mentors and colleagues, many of whom were men.  I thank them: for imparting knowledge, instilling trust, and suggesting nothing else. Read More Here

Why Failure is Important for the Workplace

Why Failure is Important for the Workplace

“The idea that an 18-year-old doesn’t know how to fail on the one hand sounds preposterous. But I think in many ways we’ve pulled kids away from those natural learning experiences.”

When he was seven or eight, my son was on a losing soccer team.  I was thrilled.

Why? Because every week he still had to show up at practice and participate in games.  I knew then that failure is an important lesson.

Why? Because I was in HR.  I had discussed the importance of failure (and how to recover from it) with a former boss and mentor;  try coaching an executive who has never gotten a “B.”The danger in the workplace is often that when high achievers fail, they are in high profile positions, with large amounts of money on the line, and absolutely no experience or coping skills.

Will employers gravitate toward hiring graduates from schools like Smith that are offering these programs and resources that help young adults cope with failure? They should. Read More Here