The Story of a Girl in the Professional World

My project’s topic consists of how young professional women today continue to face adversity in the work place, different yet too familiar of the discrimination faced in the Mad Men era. My original writing was an op-ed piece about my own personal experience interning at a technology firm juxtaposed with the issues presented on AMC’s show Mad Men. I plan to re-purpose this into a creative story that conveys the view point of a young professional woman today to the viewpoint of Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway from Mad Men.

In my search for writing in various genres on this topic, I came across many different rhetorical situations, ranging from op-ed to “how-to” and an article that speaks directly to the employers of tech companies.

First up: The Mad Men Woman of Today: The Next Chapter

Published in the Forbes Woman section of Forbes, this article reaches out to a narrow audience of women who work in the business world. The piece’s exigence surrounds the season finale of Mad Men and how women today should see the end of the show as an opportunity to pay homage to the primary female characters, Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway. It eloquently combined statistics of the Mad Men era with statistics of today, illustrating how much women have succeeded but how much more room there is for improvement.

I think my only critique of this piece was how limited its goals were. Why not publish this for men and women to see? After all, men and women both watch the show. Furthermore, the piece talks about women leaving traditional men-centered cultural businesses for entrepreneurial ventures. Why don’t we encourage women to spark a change within the organization they already work for? There is room for entrepreneurship of thought and culture within an already established company.

Second: Oink Oink: When you Work with Sexist Pigs

I have to say, I do appreciate this title. It perfectly describes some of the men I worked with at my internship over the summer. This post included a user’s story of sexism in their workplace, and how to best deal with that situation. Long story short, this woman had to deal with actual pigs. Here’s an excerpt:

“Most of the men (five out of six) started discussing which women in the sales department they’d like to sleep with, joking about planting webcams in the women’s bathroom, responding to advice I suggested about a software problem with “Oh, but you’re a woman, so you don’t know anything about computers, am I right?””

ARE YOU SERIOUS? At least, that was my initial reaction. This blatantly misogynistic behavior is completely unacceptable. But… is it? Many readers suggested to A) Get away, B) Grin and Bear it, or C) Leave the company. I don’t know about you, but I would select option D) None of the above! Why should you satisfy these men by doing any of these options, especially leaving the company? In my perspective, they are in the wrong here, not you. If anything, they should be reprimanded while you are admired for working to create an open-minded, ethical and diverse culture.

Last but not least: Fixing the Leaky Bucket: What Tech Companies Must Do to Retain Their Best Female Talent

This article, published in The Huffington Post, speaks directly to employers and recruiters at tech companies. It speaks to the need for more diversity, specifically more women, in the tech industry. One excerpt that really resonated with me was:

“Women are leaving the tech industry because they feel unfulfilled and unsupported. (And Silicon Valley’s reputation as a boys network endures, as underscored by the recent news of a “Twitter Frat House” party held while the company was contending with a gender-discrimination lawsuit.) No amount of energy dedicated to hiring more women makes a difference in company cultures when current female employees slip through the cracks.”

This passage could not be more true regarding my personal experience in the tech industry. Believe it or not, when sitting in on an interview as an intern, fellow colleagues described the company’s culture as a “Frat House.” So don’t be too quick to judge that Twitter is the only company with these gender discrimination issues. If a company’s culture truly resembles that of a frat house, it does not matter how hard recruiters work to hire women. Those women will come, and then they will leave. As soon as possible. The article really drives this point home in the last paragraph:

“But without a culture that supports women and responds to their legitimate needs – one that encourages them to not only remain but fosters their growth as employees – these efforts are essentially pointless. Rather than putting all of our water into the recruitment bucket, those cultural problems first need fixing if we are to prevent the further loss of key talent at any company. “

This article echoed all of the issues I encountered as a female intern at a tech start-up. Before hiring women, the root of a company’s problem is its diversity and culture. I think this article will help me understand the key audience I am trying to address in my project as well as the points to drive home in terms of various demographics. For example, it needs to be apparent to males in the tech industry that women are vital to success, and success is vital to them receiving a high paycheck – which according to this article, is the 3rd most important reason that they stay at a company. On the other hand, women valued satisfaction in their current role and honest communication. Understanding these key statistics will help me cater my creative story to reach audiences personally and professionally.

Peace. Love. Peggy Olson.

peggy olson

 

Dismantling the Power Paradigm of the Academy’s Patriarchy

First, I just want to say that I really enjoyed this article – it was well researched, thought out, and most importantly, interesting.

Of particular interest to me was when he talks about how women may actually have been the genesis of the novel.  It’s such an interesting point to make. He rationalizes this claim by explaining that men were traditionally the ones to receive educations in rhetoric at schools and universities, while women, if they went to school at all, were taught subjects conducive to running an effective home or business.  So, when women start coming to the academy, they bring a completely new perspective to language and particularly writing – they’ve not been trained in traditional rhetoric, and thus it doesn’t hold as much importance for them, which is why the novel starts to rise as a legitimate form of writing; it allows for more freedom of form. You can still kind of see the echoes of this today, in that many popular or well known authors of novels are females: JK Rowling, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, Audrey Niffenegger, Suzanne Collins, and (*cringe*) Stephenie Meyer. Obviously, if Ong’s argument is true, then women have given to humanity a great artform.

Twilight
Twlight, a "book" by "writer" Stephenie Meyer. (Source: twilightsaga.wikia.com)

So then, it’s curious to me as to why academic institutions still favor a fairly patriarchal view on writing; non-academic writing still seems to be thought of as somehow “less” in an university setting.  In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re learning about different approaches to writing as well as how to tutor writing. We recently read an essay that applied Feminist critical theory to the idea of writing, which aims to equalize the role of tutor and the student; the practice attempts to dismantle the power hierarchy present in the traditional student/teacher paradigm, which the academy perpetuates by often times forcing students to learn “good” writing by making them conform to the abstract standard of an “ideal text” as imagined by academia. Since this “ideal text” is often a traditionally academic paper, filled with classical rhetoric, and since rhetoric is a subject that was created by men, for use by men, this ideal text is inherently patriarchal; it makes the writer conform to invisible, “acceptable” standards envisioned by men and only men years and years ago.

Ong’s text got me thinking about writing a lot more about what writing is, and more specifically, what “good” writing is.  Is it this generally agreed upon standard, or can it be something more?  Why is it so difficult to break away from the academic form instilled in writers from the time they’re taught to write? Why can’t fiction be just as effective a mode for delivering an argument? Why did I just make fun of Stephenie Meyer, if in fact, she may have written a very good piece of writing, and I’m just not seeing it fromt he correct perspective (this pains me to write, fellow writing minors; I just need you all to know that)? I’m not sure I have any answers to any of these questions, but the article definitely got me thinking about them.