Posted by: A.R. Cherian | September 9, 2009

Women in the workplace: a sexual strategy

A WSJ article from 2000 focused on the changing dynamics of more women in the workplace and some of the strategies they use.

As a man, I do acknowledge that women do indeed face different challenges than men in the workplace. Indeed, times have changed and most workplaces are closer to 50/50 ratio of men and women, however there are still strong underlying prejudices about women’s abilities and place in organizations. Some women have developed strategies to take advantage of this.

A couple of these strategies were flirting and using their physical attractiveness. I applaud the women who were interviewed and their willingness to speak out with candor about the fact that they use flirting or their attractiveness to influence men in the workplace. I know a few women who would likely deny such allegations even if they were caught doing it. I appreciated that the women interviewed spoke clearly what was on their mind. It was enlightening to read about theirĀ  feelings on how they were treated by other men and the types of things they felt they could use to their advantage.

These are issues that generate strong opinions and I’d like to share mine here. I don’t believe that flirting and physical attractiveness should be used as tools to get ahead in your career. There are some long term implications to think about. What about once you get married? Would you still rely on this strategy after that? Also, the older you get and further up in the organization you go, chances are that most of the men will be married. Using these tactics on them is just opening up a can of worms for your personal life and business life.

Another fact to acknowledge is that our looks change over time – most of the time for the worse. The rude fact of life is that we all will get old and/or lose our youthful physical attractiveness. Even an unexpected car accident on the way home from work can ruin your good looks forever. It’s not wise to depend on something that fleeting to get ahead.

Lastly, it can be argued that women will not resort to these tactics if it did not work. Some male supervisors encourage it and reward it. I think any employer or manager who would promote someone based on how much they flirted or how good they looked will just create problems for their organization in the long term. Judging a person’s worthiness for a promotion based on these behaviors and traits can mean passing up another female employee who may have been better suited and could have helped the business even more. I believe that male managers in positions of authority should try to stop these trends once they realize it.

For all these reasons, I’m just not a believer in any sort of sexual strategy in the workplace. I’m not alone. A study mentioned in USA Today back in 2005, stated that women who flirt in the workplace often get fewer promotions and raises.

Dianne Durkin, president of management consulting firm Loyalty Factor, says any unprofessional behavior is detrimental to a career. “Cleavage is not a plus,” she says.

I wonder if men would resort to flirting and using their physical attractiveness in mostly female dominated professions such as nursing? Or are using these strategies only a female thing?


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