The Common Career Advice Women Should Ignore

Career_Advice_Women_Always_Ignore_Slide01Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
As a young professional a couple of years into my career, I am surrounded by well-intentioned job advice. However, I suspect that some of this advice might only lead me to a future of upholding the corporate status quo that would pay me, a Latin American woman in the United States, 55 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
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Below are the three most common things I hear around the office. Maybe some of them sound familiar to you, too? My advice: Ignore it!
Don’t discuss pay with your coworkers.
Speaking about salary is considered to be in bad taste at best and unprofessional at worst. But, thinking critically about the taboo that surrounds salary, who does it really benefit? From my perspective, certainly not the workers. As The Atlantic points out, pay discrimination against women and people of color can be perpetuated with no one being the wiser when companies are not transparent about compensation. Encouraging employees to keep each other in the dark about their pay only works for the corporation since it gives employees less motivation to seek higher compensation and benefits.
Career_Advice_Women_Always_Ignore_Slide02 (1)Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Conform to a different set of rules and expectations than men.
This is a common thread that runs through sexist career advice. In college, I had an advertising professor who was truly a relic of the past. He began the semester reminiscing about the “good old days” on Madison Avenue and the "broads" that catered to the executives’ every whim. From there, his comments grew worse, peaking when he wondered out loud whether the reason there were few high-power African-American advertising executives was a result of genetic differences in creativity rather than, I don’t know, centuries of racism. When giving the class career advice, he suggested that breaking into the corporate world might be easier for women since women have the option of beginning their careers as administrative assistants, but men don’t.
There are layers upon layers of awful in this advice. First, the suggestion that women have an easier time entering the workforce is akin to suggesting that the world is catered toward women because of ladies’ nights. Women entering the workforce face challenges that men never need to think about, from grappling between being perceived as likable or competent to the wage gap. Ignoring these issues does not help us overcome them.
Second, while there is nothing wrong with administrative work, advising women who wish to pursue a career in a different area to start as administrative assistants and then hope a new door will open from there is effectively advising us to start one step behind the men who are encouraged to try harder to find work in their desired field. Finally, at the core of it, limiting this advice to women suggests that we are playing with an entirely different rulebook than men. Rather than working to even the playing field, this advice admits that the corporate world treats men and women differently but takes no issue with it. This train of thought bleeds into a range of gendered expectations that harm women, from judging women who are assertive at the negotiating table harshly to expecting men to take less time off work for family matters than women.
Career_Advice_Women_Always_Ignore_Slide03Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Don’t make waves.
A recent University of Colorado-Boulder study found that women and people of color are reluctant to hire and promote other women and people of color since they will be reviewed negatively if they do. It is no surprise that working to change the system won’t earn you any fans among the people who are invested in keeping the scales tipped in their favor. I have been told to avoid pointing out sexist and racist attitudes in a business setting because it will be the only thing people remember of me, and this has been some of the most discouraging advice I have ever received because it has come from other women and people of color.
When women advise other women not to make waves, they truly think they are looking out for their peers’ best interests. They believe this is the only way to get ahead. But this is one of the most dangerous aspects of the patriarchy: It manipulates even those it oppresses into upholding it. What do women gain from upholding a system that is biased against them? I refuse to keep quiet about sexism and racism in the workplace even when I’m scared that speaking up will work against me, because my silence won’t change anything, but my words might.
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Some days it feels like nothing I do can make even a dent in the corporate world. But other days, when a colleague approaches me to say they admire that I speak up, I feel hopeful. Well-behaved women never make history, and quiet employees never achieve change. I am neither of those things.