[Note to readers: This first post from our newest contributor, Le Loup-garou, discusses some of the advice she's received over the years on how to be a 'professional woman.' You can expect a longer introduction to the amazing Loup later this week, but for now we hope you'll say hello in the comments, as well as leaving your own stories about the gendered 'success advice' you've received over the years, and your reactions to it. And now, Le Loup-garou...]
I have been in entrenched in academia for all of my adult life. I have accumulated a number of "tips" about being a successful woman from various mentors that I thought I’d share.
- Work harder than the men. A female doctor once pulled me aside and told me her tip to success, which is let the men leave work first. According to her, in order to be seen as an equal, a woman is required to work twice as hard as a man and accordingly will be judged harder for "laziness."
- Speak in a professional, deep voice. My graduate school mentor teaches all of his female students to speak clearly in a deep voice to command attention and respect. I realized the strength of this after I heard a talk by a woman with a high voice and began to unconsciously dislike the data. I also have heard women give professional talks like kindergarten teachers, with excessive enthusiasm and too much of a chipper attitude.
- Be aggressive. In the operating rooms, there is typically one person in charge of organizing the instruments and handing them to the doctors called the scrub tech. As a medical student, we stand nearest to the scrub tech, furthest away from the actual operation. We’re mainly there to just observe. There was this operating room nurse that every time I scrubbed into one of her cases, she would constantly whisper things into my ear. Typically it was “A boy would be more aggressive and involved!” It was disarming that, as the surgeons were trying to teach, I had this angry bird in my ear, but I did see her point.
- While at work, never talk about wanting children. It’s fine to want children someday, but until you are actively pregnant it’s none of their business. I spoke with one doctor who did not choose to go to more prestigious residency programs because the other residents and applicants there spent their time talking about their future pregnancy desires.
- Wear skirts. This is the classic thing we’re taught for medical school. Almost all of the women wear skirts to their interviews. I even once had a patient tell me he was glad I wore a skirt into clinic because “women today just don’t dress like women anymore”. I also had a country patient who called me “Honey” after every sentence. I was slightly offended, until I saw he did the exact same thing with the male doctor.
What advice have you gotten, good or bad, for being a professional woman?