Thursday, March 1, 2012

Small Town, (Big) City Dreams #10

Gender Reflections

Lately, I’ve been concerning myself with issues of gender in higher education, but this topic has nicely blended into the job search arena. As a female working in an all female building, I have seen many issues related to body image, eating disorders, and frustrating representations of women in academia. Today, my supervisor had our staff reflect on our role in teams, explaining that as a woman, it is often customary for her and others to take a back seat in groups, and suffer from a lot of internal critique. As a job searcher, I have recently reflected on my feminine identity and questioned how this will influence my job search.

The most relevant example is my hope to one day enter into the Dean of Students position at a university. As of now, I’ve applied to two conduct focused positions. While I am by no means “small” (I am 5’10”), I am slender. Additionally, I am very soft-spoken. As an interviewer, I often wonder how my demeanor will communicate to employers. Will my gender identity be called into question, inexplicitly?

In another area, I often struggle with issues of bluntness – I am a very frank person and would prefer to be upfront rather than to leave people guessing about my thoughts. A few people have confronted me about this, I believe, as a direct result of them feelings as though I am not conforming to my gender identity which is usually characterized as passivity. As I enter the job search, it will be important to examine the ways in which gender impacts my image.


  1. Wonderful post. Even though I went to a female college and was exposed to feminist thought regularly, it's only recently in my career that I've really realized how much gender stereotypes are truly engrained in people. It's definitely an issue in higher education, even though you would think the faculty/top administrators would be smart enough to know better!

    I have a naturally high pitched voice - I consciously try to keep it low when talking professionally. I think I'm getting better at that, but I wish I didn't have to do so. I wear feminine clothes to work occasionally - skirts and dresses and sometimes my blouses have bows on them. There's no point though in dressing masculine - I've found that I seem to get more respect when I make an effort to look nice at work and have make-up on. No doubt you've experienced the same.

    If you do some research you'll find that there are a plethora of articles on the positive role of beauty in professional careers. (It seems it will be good for your salary that you are a slender woman!)

    I do suspect that it will take me longer to climb up the career ladder than it would take a man with my strengths. I've been told mid-interview (by a woman) that she thought it would be a nice to have a new man in the office. A man was indeed hired - less qualified (I knew him) than I was for the role. But I know there are millions of stories like that. (I could tell several more.)

    It's a definite shame that the world is like that and I wish you the very best of luck. If your directness is also an indication of an inner confidence, you might still do very well!

  2. I am so happy that I googled Student Affairs blogs and found this! Congrats on the job search! I know it's hard, but try not to get discouraged! I hope that you embrace your strengths and can really sell yourself. Unfortunately, we live in a sexist world...but hopefully this means that in the end you will find the best job for you!