4 August 2018

Front Line

A career management briefing for
visionary women

Feminine wiles in the courtroom

This week, we learned about sexism in the courtroom, and how women are often accused of using their “feminine wiles” to win cases (see The Atlantic article) . Elizabeth Faiella, a court lawyer in Florida, stated that “at least 90 percent of her courtroom opponents are male, and that they file a “no-crying motion” as a matter of course. Judges always deny them, but the damage is done: The idea that she will unfairly deploy her feminine wiles to get what she wants has already been planted in the judge’s mind.” Worse still, “research has demonstrated that when female attorneys show emotions like indignation, impatience, or anger, jurors may see them as shrill, irrational, and unpleasant. The same emotions, when expressed by men, are interpreted as appropriate to the circumstances of a case.”

As Lara Bazelon, the article's author, points out, what's at stake is not just female lawyers' career advancement and earning potential. Indeed, “[t]he interests—and, in the criminal context, the liberty—of [the lawyer's] client are also on the line.”

Read The Article

Dressing for others' expectations - or not

The Atlantic article on female lawyers highlighted the gendered scrutiny that professional women come under for their dress choices. It speaks of a standard to which we are held, and roles to which we are ascribed (with varying degrees of awareness about what they are doing in the mind of the 'beholder'). In many senses, it boils down to the very human habit of prejudging and using stereotypes to inform how we assess others around us.

With this being the case, there is arguably a strong role for using how we dress to intentionally guide and shape others' view of us. It becomes another tool in nudging our careers, meetings, and networking towards our desired outcomes. With this said, we recommend a review of How to Dress for Success by Edith Head, a stylist and costume designer for Hollywood's elite (including Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor; view a video of her process here).

Written in the 1960s, and with such advice as “1. Decide what kind of man you want. 2. Find out what kind of girls he likes. 3. Know what kind of fashions please him. .... 7. Choose your wardrobe to please him and to suit his way of life. ... 10. Look reasonably enticing in the morning - better at night”, one might simply dismiss this book as outdated and even offensive. However, in a world that in some fundamental ways doesn't seem to have stopped projecting certain requirements onto women, some techniques from this book may still come in handy. (And if not that, some of the advice on building a wardrobe, analysing your figure, and using colour successfully is priceless.)

Take for instance: “Before you are interviewed for the job you want, try on the complete outfit you intend to wear. Look at yourself in the mirror from every angle, including sitting down which is the way you will look most of the time to the person who will make the decision. Ask yourself these questions: (a) Do I look well groomed? (b) Do I look neat? (c) Do I feel comfortable and at ease? (d) Does my skirt ride up too much? (e) Have I worn too much (or too little) make-up or jewellery? (f) Does this outfit really fit the image of the position I hope to fill?”

You may decide that you don't wish to kowtow to others' prejudices or projections at all. On the other hand, in certain situations, you may feel that there is a value to 'meeting people where they are'.

Shame: A candid treatment. Part IV

We have been talking about shame for some weeks now. We have talked about the distinction between shame and guilt. About how shame is about what we want to show, hide, and protect from others’ looks - regardless of whether the person looking at us is doing it in a friendly or a critical way. We’ve also started to explore some of the internal psychological defences to the negative experience of being shamed. Among these, feelings of grandiosity and fantasies of destruction.

Before we go further, it bears talking a bit about what is at the core of shame. In many respects, it is an unsatiated longing for acceptance, love, and recognition of who and what we are. Where this need is not sufficiently met in our early years, it can leave a wound that remains with us. Subconsciously our unconscious then seeks the recognition that who we are is good enough. This segues into the next internal defence for shame: perfectionism. Here, we endeavour to be so good that we cannot remain unrecognised and, ultimately, undervalued as a person. This last part - ‘as a person’ - is important because shame relates to existential questions.

Perfectionism is an example of our directly taking action in response to shaming. This differs from feelings of grandiosity and fantasies of destruction, where it is quite possible that our responses remain buried within our inner worlds and perhaps only express themselves passively (e.g. passive aggression). With perfectionism, we attempt - through actions - to make ourselves un-criticisable. Best described as a ‘distressed perfectionism’, we try to do everything incredibly well. Thus, we don’t give 100%, we give 110%. Failure becomes something that it is quite difficult to contend with. When it occurs, we may use it and the self-talk it sparks to drive ourselves harder or make our efforts less fallible.

How then could perfectionism be bad for our careers and leadership in a competitive world that demands more and more? In the full article, we explore the key ways in which it can show up negatively for us, including burn out and risk of career derailment and unconscious bias.

Read Full Article

This Week

Articles that shocked, informed, and inspired us

NASA's Problem with Optimism in the Workplace

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Harvard's Secret Admissions Processes Uncovered

The Growing Role of Social Media in Democracy

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