“Go home, take a paper bag, cut some eyeholes out of it. Put it over your head, get undressed and look at yourself in the mirror. Really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. And be honest.” Mad Men, Joan Holloway
I am NOT talking about the oldest profession in the world here, (although I am sure that is a profession where there is pay parity for women). I am talking about sexual capital in the workplace, as defined by Catherine Hakim, a professor at the prestigious London School of Economics and author of “Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom”. She explains that “sexonomics” is the sexual allure that people use as a commodity for profit and professional advancement just as they would use education or their network. Hakim explains that the “male sex deficit,” is something that women should leverage often in order to attain career advancement or a wedding ring.
Sexy in the workplace?
As the pendulum is sure to swing – are we starting to see a time where women will no longer be repressed in the workplace and be able to flaunt their sexuality and femininity without the repercussions of being labeled as “prissy”, “distracting” or worse yet suffer unwanted sexual advances…. I sure hope so!
The TV character “Joan Harris” on Mad Men – reminds me of the very good lessons that the legendary Ariel Allen, VP Creative Services, Global Advertising at Colgate-Palmolive taught me very early on in my career - Always apply lipstick before and sometimes during a meeting, and touch up your make-up before going to battle in the boardroom.
She was not only brilliant, sharp, fearless and a no bullshit kind of lady, but she was also beautiful, and never missed an opportunity to show the world. She was completely contrary to what I had learned in college – we where taught that to be non-sexual was important, by not wearing heels or showing cleavage, we could level the playing field and be equal to men (needless to say that spawned a number of very poor wardrobe choices, including wearing those stupid tie things in the 80’s……)
If I could go back, I would have been bolder and sexier in the workplace and used my looks and youth to get ahead! (my apologies to Gloria Steinem) Especially in light of a recent British report, which states that women will not reach pay equality for 100 years!!!! Ladies, we need every advantage we can get!
But not every woman would agree with this – there are those feminist like Steinem, that took up the fight to give women the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that guarantees “equal pay” under the law - which to this day still does not exist, AND we work twice as hard for our pay - what’s equal about that? In fact women ONLY make .77 cents to each dollar that men make,and it decreases significantly for minorities.
“The world today is vastly different than it was in 1983, but sadly, one thing that has remained the same is the pay gap between men and women….. If this continues, the only guarantees in life will be death, taxes and the glass ceiling” US Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York
Should we use our looks in the workplace – Hell Yes!!!!!
Consider these statistics
- Women’s wages have increased just half a penny on the dollar for the past four decades.
- Women earn less than men consistently in all industries and occupation groups surveyed by the US Census Bureau.
- According to the GAO (General Accountability Office) Report GAO-04-35, weekly full time earnings for women where about three-fourths of men in 2011.
- Men with children generally get a pay boost, while women loose earnings.
Consistent with this information is a 2008 study by University of Chicago sociologist Kristen Schilt and NYU economist Matthew Wiswall “Before and After: Gender Transitions, Human Capital, and Workplace Experiences”, people who underwent a sex change – men who transitioned to women earned, on average, 32% less post surgery, women who became men, earned 1.5% more.
What to do???
I say embrace your inner “Chonga” and get yourself to Banana Republic where you can outfit yourself in fetching 60′s fashions like “Joanie” from Mad Men….. walk into your office, with a beautifully made up face, head held high in a tight dress, push up bra (don’t forget the Spanx) while balancing on your 5 inch leopard stilettos, sashay into your bosses office, lean over his desk and get that promotion or pay raise that your male colleague already has!!!!!