At Corporate Class Inc., we strive to foster excellence, confidence, and leadership in all professionals. Yet even today’s workplace, not all professionals are considered equal. Among many other stereotypes, differing perceptions of the roles of men and women in the workplace prevail – sometimes beyond our awareness.
You may have seen the Whip It ad from Pantene Philippines, which has gone viral since its launch in November 2013. To date, it has received over 14 million views. The video depicts a professional man and woman functioning in the exact same business contexts. The differences lie in the perceptions of these two professionals: when exhibiting confidence and authority, the man appears to be the “boss,” but the woman appears “bossy.” While the man delivers a “persuasive” speech in front of a crowd, the woman at the exact same podium is read as “pushy.” And while a man taking care of his professional image seems to be “neat,” a woman with the same concerns is written off as “vain.”
Through these differences in perceptions, the ad addresses the underlying stereotypes that prevail in the workplace and can put professional women at a disadvantage. These perceptions happen all the time, whether or not we consciously recognize it.
We have been discussing the implications on professional women as a result of these stereotypes in our local Lean In circle. Lean In is an organization dedicated to supporting women in achieving their goals and to addressing the challenges women face, like the gender stereotypes depicted in the Pantene commercial. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, is one of the founders of LeanIn.Org. The book and the organization offer concrete advice and support to counter the negative stereotypes and other kinds of roadblocks that women face, in the workplace and elsewhere.
While we at Corporate Class Inc. strive to enable all professionals to master and demonstrate Executive Presence, which includes qualities such as confidence, command, strength, and poise, we too face the challenge of how others perceive successful women who exhibit these qualities. As such, it is important to address this problem in the workplace and in other spaces like a Lean In circle. By addressing the problem, we can instill awareness of this kind of discrimination, which is often enacted unconsciously. Then we can begin to eradicate such behaviour – and both men and women can find success without the added baggage of how their perceived personalities can weigh them down.
We applaud efforts like those of Pantene and Sheryl Sandberg to tackle these issues for women in the workplace. For more commentary on the Pantene ad and other examples of gender differences enacted in the workplace, check out this post from Upworthy. For more from Sheryl Sandberg, visit the Lean In website or check out the book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. How will you continue this conversation?