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An Early Career Introduction to Gender Stereotypes

gender roles

The Glass Ceiling personifies more than barriers to upward mobility

My first professional job after college was also my first exposure to gender bias in the workplace. I was a bright-eyed and eager 23-year-old who had just finished sales training and was assigned to run a large retail merchandising territory for books, music, and video. I realize I’ve dated myself, as all of these industries are mainly digital now. (But I do still love the feel of an actual book in my hand – or that crackling sound when you place the stylus on a record.)

My memory is vivid. I was in the inventory space with the male store manager of this large retail chain, looking for my delivery, when he asked, “Why are you working so hard? Did you not just get your MRS degree?” I was vaguely aware of the term but was never surrounded by women who held a “Mrs. degree” as an actual professional plan. 

And, it was not just the one store manager. There were a few managers insistent on setting me up on a date, usually with an “up and coming” assistant store manager that would be making “good money” soon and could support someone like me. At the time I was not sure what it was about my appearance or actions that led these men to believe I needed a date or someone to support me. To be fair, these store managers also tried to help me make new friends (“The Tampax representative is here on Wednesdays and I’m sure you two have a lot in common.”) This is where the use of an emoji could bring value to an article, as I am sure you are rolling your eyes right along with me. 

I never did meet the Tampax representative, and I only suffered through one blind date before deciding this particular merchandising role was not a long-term fit for me. That large retail chain is still around, and I’ve only stepped foot inside those blue doors a handful of times in the past 25 years. 

Life has a way of bringing you full circle, even if that road has a few twists and turns. My first professional job took place around the same time that the US Department of Labor issued its Environmental Scan with the findings of their Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. And my recent career move (as part of the current Great Realignment) afforded me an opportunity to work with Women in Technology International (WITI) as the Lead Writer on updating that 1995 federally commissioned report. The WITI Glass Ceiling Report 2.0 highlights the diversity and inclusion work that has been done, the voices that make up these statistics, and the great opportunities that lie ahead. 

To learn more about WITI and the 1995 Glass Ceiling Commission, download the Glass Ceiling Report 2.0 and visit the Glass Ceiling Institute, powered by WITI.