'Enlightened Sexism' in Media Obscures Reality

9780805083262 In her latest book, Susan J. Douglas finds the treatment of women on TV is putting a haze over young women's awareness of sex discrimination. In real life, writers at Newsweek and NPR and business researchers are speaking out.

(WOMENSENEWS)--American women turn on the TV to prime-time dramas and see powerful mature women everywhere.

They are surgeons on "Grey's Anatomy," district attorneys on "Law and Order" and high-powered cops, lawyers and politicians. Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer anchor the newscast, often spotlighting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's state visits. Television has even seen female presidents of the United States, something yet to be achieved in reality: Cherry Jones on "24" and Geena Davis on the short-lived "Commander-in-Chief."

Isn't that just so empowering?

No, says Susan J. Douglas in "Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done," published by Henry Holt this month. Why?

Continue reading "'Enlightened Sexism' in Media Obscures Reality" »

Career Burnout: Maya Luz

Rising star Maya Luz quit Project Runway after just 10 weeks. Journalist Marina Khidekel, writing for Marie Claire, explores the question: Are you headed for a career crash, too?

The night before the final six designers on Project Runway's season seven were to face their next challenge, Maya Luz lay awake in bed, racked with doubt. She was thrilled to be cast on the series — a bona fide career-maker for the promising 22-year-old design school grad — but as the weeks of filming went on, something felt increasingly off. "I believed in my work, but while I was always in the top three or safe, I never won a challenge, and that really messed with my head," she says. The show's nonstop hours, constant camera presence, and rigid work rules (contestants aren't permitted to listen to music while designing and can't do any research before diving into a challenge) also threw her off. It all just felt like too much, too soon. "I started to feel like a puppet, as if I were losing myself, and I realized I wanted a sense of control back," Luz says.

The next morning, she told producers she wanted out. After a heart-to-heart with Tim Gunn — "She was on a trajectory to be a finalist," he says — and a quick announcement to her shocked castmates, Luz packed her things and boarded a plane for her mother's house in Naples, Florida.

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Harrin, Elizabeth. "You Can’t Be Serious? 6 Ways to Get Taken Seriously at Work." Web Log post. The Glass Hammer. 25 Mar. 2010.

Harrin, Elizabeth. "You Can’t Be Serious? 6 Ways to Get Taken Seriously at Work." Web Log post. The Glass Hammer. 25 Mar. 2010.

“A lot of young women just assume they’re being ignored if they don’t hear back from a boss, client, or coworker and they never follow up,” says Dr. Debra Condren, who interviewed 500 women for her book, Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word, and founder of ManhattanBusinessCoaching.com. “Never assume someone is ignoring you,” she says. “I see young women do this all the time—they imagine the worst. ‘He didn’t respond to my email or voicemail; it’s been five days. That can only be a bad sign.’ They stay silent, fail to follow up, then miss an opportunity; they find out after it’s too late that the person never received their earlier communication. People are crazy busy; sometimes a gentle prod can dislodge the answer you’re looking for. Don’t assume you’ve been rejected. Make it easy for people to get back to you. Always state your phone number twice and provide your e-mail address, even if you know they already have it.”

Continue reading "Harrin, Elizabeth. "You Can’t Be Serious? 6 Ways to Get Taken Seriously at Work." Web Log post. The Glass Hammer. 25 Mar. 2010." »

How To Take It Back

Dear Debra: After I spearheaded a major project for our division, my boss singled me out for praise I deserved. I don’t know why I did it—to be humble and nice, I guess—but I “shared” the glory with a coworker I felt sorry for who did barely a fraction of the work. Now, it looks like that co-worker (who has turned out to be manipulative and backstabbing), not me, will be joining my boss at the next inter-departmental briefing on this project. Can I recover from shooting myself in the foot? –Limping, 29.

What do you do when you’ve missed an opportunity and given away your credit? You need to fix that mistake. Here’s how one of my clients—Liz—did it.

Continue reading "How To Take It Back" »

WMC Demands Apology from O'Reilly for Helen Thomas Insult

We urge you to join The Women's Media Center in sending an official complaint to Fox News about Bill O'Reilly. His sexist and ageist comments about legendary reporter Helen Thomas require an apology.

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It has been said that "the surest way to keep a man in prison is not to let him know he's there."  And the surest way to keep a woman from embracing her pure career ambition is to make her believe she's already done it. 

Don't believe it. 

Heading into 2009, we women still are not advancing in our careers the way we should.  We're not getting the fulfillment we desire or making the money we deserve.  And this time it's not men who are holding us back.  This time, sisters, we're doing it to ourselves, because ambition-for us-is still a dirty word. 

Do you unconsciously buy into our prevailing cultural paradigm, that double standard that says: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitchy, greedy, cold, arrogant females who attract enemies, repel lovers, make rotten mothers, live lonely lives and, in one way or another, miss out on fulfilling lives because of their ambition? 

Are you not advancing in your career as quickly as you'd like?  Are you not making the money you deserve and getting the fulfillment you desire?  Are you afraid of what you might have to sacrifice if you pursue your big goals? 


Continue reading "PROTECT YOUR PASSION IN 2009" »

Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Ambition? Part II: Let's Get Real


When it “sunk in that mainstream schools shortchanged her severely autistic son”, Amy, 39, closed her thriving medical practice to help start charter school. For a long time, it seemed to be working out. “Then I found my husband in bed with a woman on the school committee. We went through a horrific divorce. I had to try to revive my career; at 49, it’s finally starting to take off again. But at my age, with everything I had to deal with, it was f_­­_g hard.” 


What If? Could this be you?

Continue reading "Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Ambition? Part II: Let's Get Real" »

Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Dreams?

Debra: You preach ambition for women. Aren’t you forgetting something? What about life balance? Mothering? –32, with better values than “just career”

Say your ambition is to be a great wife, mother, friend, or fair-minded coworker who refuses on moral grounds to educate herself about office politics. That doesn’t bother you, does it? No, because that’s socially sanctioned ambition. You’ll likely regard the following women as having chosen “honorable ambition”.

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The Day My Son Almost Died

I make my living teaching women how to unapologetically own their ambition in a society that has a double standard. It’s our prevailing cultural paradigm: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are the b-word.

I define ambition as that which drives our creative existence, provides an outlet for our talents and passions, defines who we are, and allows us to earn our full worth without apology. I walk my talk.

But just like you I take hits.

In a moment of trauma, I too succumbed to those deeply ingrained cultural beliefs about how women are supposed to behave. It happened to me when my son almost died.

Continue reading "The Day My Son Almost Died" »

The S.O.B. Diet: Silda Spitzer & The Sisterhood

We women always try and look on the bright side. Case in point: a friend who was going through a painful divorce and custody battle said to me, “Well, at least I’ll lose a few pounds—I’m on the Son of a Bitch Diet.”

Her husband—father to her children, ages two and four—had been having an affair. She kicked him out. He begged her to try again. She took him back. Several months later, she discovered he was back with his mistress.  He couldn’t help himself, he tearfully explained to his wife, his mistress was “the best friend I’ve ever had.” (Not surprisingly, he didn’t end up with the mistress after their divorce.)

After all that stress, my friend had shed her Mom jeans and was back in her skinny jeans.  She was right—the so-called Son of a Bitch Diet is the one surefire diet that works.

Continue reading "The S.O.B. Diet: Silda Spitzer & The Sisterhood" »

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I am a business psychologist, researcher, author, executive coach, and career advisor. I lead workshops and lecture frequently on women’s need to embrace our ambition. I founded the Women’s Business Alliance, a motivational think tank for more than 2,500 women. For more details, see my about page.

I’d love to hear your story. Ambitious women owe it to ourselves—and the world—to make the contribution we were born to make. Let’s keep the dialogue flowing.


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