I had my lunch meeting yesterday and spent a very agreeable nigh two hours discussing law, politics, and gender bias over tamales and taco salad.
The woman I met with has a colorful reputation, and has many times been referred to in less than flattering terms. However, she is in a position of power in a field of law still dominated by men, and as such, I think she gets that lovely double whammy of the double standard. I mean seriously, how can you be tough on crime and feminine, it can’t happen, you must be a bitch to lay down the law. Of course, men can be completly tough and manage to appear “direct” or “authoratative” instead of prickish, but that is the way the cookie currently crumbles.
Happily, I might actually get to work for a woman who knows what I am talking about and isn’t afraid to discuss it. In fact, during our interview, she told me she was impressed that a woman my age was even aware we still had gender bias issues, as so many woman my age seem to think they are things of the past. (Don’t ask your male co-workers what they earn ladies, you won’t like the answer.) I explained to her that after nearly a decade in politics and legal education of one kind or another one would have to be an idiot not to see how differently our nation treats our female leaders and representatives from our male ones, the most recent election being an easy example.
Then she surprised me by telling me that she stopped wearing full fledged suits in court and acting unfeminine. She believes our legal system will never get used to seeing women in positions of authority if all we do when we get there is emulate men. She encouraged me to wear suits with flowing and feminine styles, lots of colors, jewelry, etc. She explained the jury will likely identify with me more too, if I look like a woman, instead of a woman trying to look like a man. Win/Win in my opinion. I would love to wear bright teal to work, and a fish hem looks heaps better on me than an a-line.
She encourages her attorneys to bring their children into the workplace, not minding if their offices contain cribs, so long as the babies don’t really distract other co-workers. She encouraged me to take work home so I can have dinner with my family and tuck my children into bed, you know, so I can actually have a work life balance.
It’s a dream within a dream, a chance to become an attorney with the experience that punches my union card without waving goodbye to my husband and kids for a decade. It’s a chance to work with a boss who gets the woman’s point of view, who understands how patronizing some people become when your suit happens to accomodate breasts and a uterus. It’s a chance to come home at the end of a frustrating day, filled with gender bias and condensencion, and know in my heart that none of it came from my boss. Not one little bit.
I am thrilled. It’s been an issue all my professional life, as an extremely generous cup size and an overabundance of natural blond hair has led to sexual harassment, improper suggestions, and emotions from dismissal to condesecion at almost every job I have ever had. I have been told to dress more conservatively than everyone else in my office, because when I put on something that other women wear, I really fill it out. I have asked to bed by bosses, and I have been treated like a child or an incompetant by older more experienced men.
Since having children it’s gotten worse, this assumption that my value is somehow lessened by their demands on my time and mind. A suggestion, by the way, that I find equally insulting to men, as it basically infers that they think nothing of their issue as they go about their day, caring only for their work. One of the reasons I began my own practice was because I was tired of being treated to the “mommy track” behaviors of potential employers. When I mentioned this at lunch, I was given a woman’s answer.
Of course it’s inconvenient when an employee goes on maternity leave, but it’s an inconvenience we, as a society, need to undertake.
I can’t wait to work for this woman.