Miscarriages, Fertility Troubles, and the Office

miscarriage-at-workHow do you deal with a miscarriage at work?  Reader K wonders…

I don’t think you have done a post on having fertility issues while working (please point me in the right direction if I am wrong!). I am an associate attorney and have been trying to start a family with my husband for about a year. Last month, I had an early miscarriage during a busy time at the office, which was, frankly, horrible. I have since recovered from my miscarriage and work has slowed down, but I am wondering if you (or your readers’) have any thoughts on how to deal with fertility issues while working full-time when no one at the office knows what I am going through. I have thought about sharing with a close partner/friend, but worry about putting “baby=leaving” into her head before I am even able to get pregnant.

I am so, so sorry for your loss, K.  We’ve talked about how to survive the first trimester while keeping it on the down-low, and when to tell your boss you’re pregnant, but we haven’t talked about how to deal with a miscarriage.  [Read more...]

The Gentlemanly Limp Hand

Untitled, originally uploaded to Flickr by ginnerobot.Reader C has a great question about sexism disguised as gentlemanly behavior:

I am a woman in a male dominated field (architecture). Many times I am the only woman in a meeting. All of the guys shake hands upon introductions. When it’s my turn, they hesitate or give me a lame shake the tips of my fingers. This really bothers me. I don’t have any desire to talk football with the guys, but I think it’s rude not to offer the same courtesy. I don’t think this topic has come up before on Corporette. I would be interested to see what other women think and have experienced.

I haaaaaaaaaaaate that limp handshake. I really, really do. It’s always seemed based in notions of gentlemanly demeanor, as if our frail little hands might be crushed — or a forceful handshake might be too passionate. (Ladies, clutch your pearls — did you see that handshake he gave her?) (Pictured: Untitled, originally uploaded to Flickr by ginnerobot.)

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Oink Oink: When You Work with Sexist Pigs

Pigs, originally uploaded to Flickr by andjohan.How DO you deal with misogyny in the workplace? Reader J writes about a less than stellar lunch with male coworkers…

My current workplace is relatively gender-balanced, and after a year of working here I haven’t really encountered any overt sexism. However, at a colleague’s small farewell lunch two weeks ago where I was just one of two women, I was unpleasantly surprised. 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?” (It is a software I use daily and most of them use once or twice every two weeks.) It was a very unpleasant lunch, and I came away with the perception this was par for the course for my co-workers, as they didn’t indicate their conversation was in any way unusual.

I have had similar experiences at a previous workplace where I did an internship.

I am looking to leave my current company for unrelated reasons (there is an iron ceiling into management, and it’s not likely I’ll be able to move up unless someone dies or is fired). As I work in a fairly male-dominated sector I’m worried I will run into this more frequently at my next places of work and as I move up the career ladder.

What is the best way to respond to casual workplace sexism like this? I don’t think running to HR would be very effective, especially when it is so endemic – but I also don’t want to ‘grin and bear it’ and give the impression I approve or think it’s funny.

This is such a great, great question, and I can’t wait to see what the readers say. First, let me just say that this doesn’t sound so “casual” to me — the fact that these men were making these comments knowingly in your presence is shocking, and says a lot about the power dynamics at that lunch and in your sector. I’m also going to assume that everyone at this lunch was, more or less, on the same “level,” and no supervisor was present.  So how DO you handle such sexism in the actual moment? (Pictured above: Pigs, originally uploaded to Flickr by andjohan.) [Read more...]

Networking with Older Men

male mentorsCan a younger woman network with older men without getting into questionable situations? My friend J told me of her interesting dilemma over the weekend…

She’s traveling a lot for business these days, and on one of her latest trips she sat next to an older businessman. She’s generally against talking to her seatmates, but wanted to have a bit of chitchat before she made him move to let her go to the bathroom — and she discovered that he’s the Chairman of the Board of a huge non-profit foundation (like, huge). They exchanged business cards when they got off the plane. Great contact to have, right?

Later that night, the text messages started. [Read more...]

Diamond Rings and the Working Girl

should-i-take-my-engagement-ring-off-for-interviewThis should be a fun conversation. Reader S wonders what size diamond ring is appropriate for a professional woman…

What size wedding ring/engagement ring is appropriate for a professional office? Personally, I think giant rings are gaudy and tacky. But I overheard a couple of attorneys saying the other day “”Do you ever see a friend posting pictures on facebook about her recent engagement and when you see her ring, you think to yourself ‘oh, honey, I’m so sorry!’”" so I guess rings can be too small as well. What size will keep you safe from the gossip?

I’m glad she asked this question, because I remember some of the comments turned to engagement rings in our conversation on the intern with the Hermes handbag, and there were some fascinating differences of opinion in there. For my $.02, I think that any size ring is appropriate for a professional office, provided that the ring is actually an engagement ring, and not a cocktail ring worn as an engagement ring. (Engagement rings are fairly simple, in part because they’re intended to be worn on a daily basis. Diamond cocktail rings (full disclosure: I own one, love it, and wear it a ton) can be gorgeous, but they’re often bigger (either in length, width, or height), sparklier, and to a certain extent, gaudier, than what an engagement ring is; they should be worn only when the occasion calls for it. I’m right handed, so I like to wear mine on the middle finger of my right hand, particularly if I’m attending a cocktail event where I’ll be holding a glass with my right hand.)  I will say, though, to those of you looking to get engaged, pass this tip on to your soon-to-be fiance: don’t go into debt to buy an engagement ring.  You can always add to the ring later, either by adding diamonds to it as baguettes, by “upgrading” your diamonds (from a less-clear one to a clearer one), or so forth.  (Pictured above:  Acadia Ring Emerald-Cut Diamond Platinum Ring , available at Gemvara for $61,297, also available in combinations of white gold, yellow gold, and almost any other gemstone (for a huge range of prices) — just click “customize”.)

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What to do when your male boss tells you you dress “too well”

Essential Stretch Striped ShirtToday’s reader question comes from a reader in a small, private firm on the East Coast…

I’ve been at my first job out of law school for 15 months. I’m 26 years old, but have a young face and often get asked if I’m an intern instead of an attorney. I am a litigator and I wear suits when I go to court, which is roughly twice a week.

Joking in the office one day, I mentioned to an Of Counsel with whom I am comfortable that I got the intern comment again. He said that, while I do have a young face, I dress “too well.” He said that I need to “be a little frumpier or dowdier.” That, while I dress well for a young, female professional, I dress TOO well for a young, female attorney. The analogy was made that I dress similarly to a middle aged male attorney who wears a blue pinstripe suit, blue shirt with the contrasting white collar and French cuff, cuff links, and a giant diamond pinky ring – just “a little too cheesy.”

Is the Of Counsel right? Do I need to wear silhouettes that are more boxy, as he also suggested? I want to be taken seriously as an attorney, but don’t see the reason to cater to ultra-conservative views on wardrobe when I would be uncomfortable in such things, as it is not my personal style.

(We’ve edited her e-mail for space; she also notes that she has a second job working at the local Express, and owns much of what is sold there; she attached the above blouse as an example.  Essential Stretch Striped Shirt, $49.50, Express.) [Read more...]