IWD – A MILLENNIAL’S EXPERIENCE WITHIN THE WORKPLACE
As I enter my twenties and begin mapping out my career path, it is evident that my career search is considerably different from my female elders. From the age of 16, I was given advice on how to perfect my CV, along with how to get my desired job. I was given this alongside my male peers. As I entered sixth form, I was made to attend lectures discussing how to get a place at the top universities in the country, alongside my male peers. When I got to university, I was enrolled on a professional development module in which I was given career advice from FTSE100 companies, as well as interview prep and guidance on how to be successful, along with my male peers. It is noticeable how considerably the guidance surrounding my career as a young female has improved when I compare it to the experience of my mother and grandmother from the 1960’s onwards. I feel fortunate to have been given advice and have had the opportunity to listen to the experiences of others to aid my own career search, advice which I appreciate other women across the world are still not provided with. Despite my positive experience, there are many women who do not have the privilege of accessing this experience. With 3 out of 4 women aged 25 in Asia and Africa (1) being classed as illiterate, and women in Yemen still being unable to leave their house without a husband or male relative (2), females within western society must appreciate the opportunities we are given. I hope in the future I will have the chance to aid younger women in developing countries and help them get the life they deserve.
As a female in western society, I am acknowledged to have the same level of capability as men within the workplace. As a result of this, my mindset when applying for roles after university is open to many opportunities. It might sound clichéd, but the world really is my oyster: my sex no longer determines which roles I am encouraged to apply for, although sadly this cannot be said for the majority of women in developing countries. With such opportunities available for both men and women, it is clear there has been a fundamental change of attitude within the workplace. For example, the notion of being a working mother is far more normalised and acceptable than it was for my grandmother, who was expected to stay at home and look after her children (along with being married). Furthermore, the question of what is deemed to be an ‘appropriate’ role for a woman has been thrown out the window. As a final year university student, there are no roles which I feel excluded from because I’m female. The notion of work-life balance is also now an option for women within society. A female’s life is no longer expected to revolve around the household, family or their career – the ‘or’ has been removed. As I step onto the first rung of the career ladder, I aim to reach the top, with the hope of one day creating my own business. If I was a female in the 1960’s, classing myself as an ‘entrepreneur’ would have been laughable. Thankfully, it is now normal for women to be known as empowered entrepreneurs.
Despite a clear change of attitudes within the workplace, I believe some factors are difficult to change. While sexism within the workplace is being acknowledged as an issue and employers are implementing factors to prevent sexual harassment, at 21 I have experienced sexism myself, and I haven’t even taken a proper step on the career ladder yet. When I worked in a restaurant, I was often told by both colleagues and customers that I will do well in life because of my looks rather than my intelligence and have been asked to do certain tasks because I’m ‘prettier than the rest of us men’, which has left me feeling patronised and like my credibility has been disregarded.
In a world where societal standards are increasing as a result of the impact of social media, I believe that there are times when these expectations can seep into the workplace. Although the opportunities for women have widened, I think it is arguable that a woman’s appearance can still determine what their employer thinks they are capable of. When the Prime Minister and SNP leader were judged on their appearance by a Daily Mail columnist – instead of publishing how their meeting to discuss the issues of Brexit went (3) – I was shocked by the level of backwardness. We are no longer in the 1950’s, yet comments like that severely undermine the standards that women have fought to obtain. Both May and Sturgeon have worked tirelessly over the course of their careers to secure their authority. To focus on two sets of limbs over the positions of both these leaders leaves a sour taste in my mouth and fuels a particular mindset and standard for younger females entering the workplace. Such instances leave me questioning if criticisms of women’s clothing and appearance will ever change within the workplace.
While I appreciate that the working environment for women has increased dramatically, with far more opportunities available for females, women are still being subjected to the notion of everyday sexism within the office. On International Women’s Day, I hope the mindset which is still held by so many will continue to change. Women within the workplace have achieved so much, and the workplace can only ever get better for them.
Happy International Women’s Day! May women continue to prosper and support one another’s development.