MSNBC keeps seeking new ways to trump up the so-called “war on women” that is allegedly ubiquitous in American society. The latest front in that war: casual Fridays. Yes, according to the panel on Morning Joe, that staple of American working life is just another example of the sexism women supposedly experience on the job.
On the July 11 edition of the program, following a worthy discussion on the importance of communication and how individuals can project themselves more effectively in the workplace, the panel devolved into nonsense. Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, complimented Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the author of Executive Presence, for her attack on casual Fridays as being blatantly sexist: [MP3 audio here; video below]
I love the point in your book, Executive Presence, where you talk about casual Fridays which are fantastic for men but if a woman turns up in the equivalent of khakis and a polo shirt she is more likely to be asked to make the coffee. And you have actual data showing that on Fridays, women are more likely to be asked to do menial tasks because they are not dressed with the uniform and the authority of a blazer or whatever it is in your particular industry.
Unsurprisingly, Mika chimed in with her approval: “I get what you're saying and I agree with it at all. It's amazing we are talking predominantly about clothing right now.”
MSNBC hype of the "war on women" is nothing new, although one must give them credit for finding increasingly obscure ways to highlight it. Who would have guessed that casual Fridays would be the next ‘sexist’ institution to feel the wrath of the Lean Forward network?
The relevant portion of the transcript is below:
July 11, 2014
7:48 a.m. Eastern
SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT, author: The worst mistake is to dress in a sexually provocative way. It strikes you off the list for the next job. But, more importantly, understanding that dressing for the job you want to get and not perhaps the one you have implies a level of put togetherness and polish that works in all environments. Silicon Valley. You know, famously difficult for women because the nerdy, slumpy, hoodie thing simply doesn't work much for women. It's hard to look like a leader. And dress that way as a girl.
JOANNE COLES, editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan: I love the point in your book, Executive Presence, where you talk about casual Fridays which are fantastic for men but if a woman turns up in the equivalent of khakis and a polo shirt she is more likely to be asked to make the coffee and you have actual data showing that on Fridays, women are more likely to be asked to do menial tasks because they are not dressed with the uniform and the authority of a blazer or whatever it is in your particular industry.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, host: I get what you're saying and I agree with it at all. It's amazing we are talking predominantly about clothing right now. It's just the reality. Thomas?
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC: The presence that you talk about. The executive presence and I know when we had the graphic up and we talk about different categories. Gravitas is a word, something that I heard early on in my career that I was lacking and I hated that word. Now that I'm older I like the word. I feel I've achieved that sense of gravitas. But seriously, for young women entering the work place, and young men too, there is not the gravitas. And for a lot of women, maturity brings that. So how do you explain that to young women who want to have that coming out of the gate but it's just not there without that time in the barrel?
HEWLETT: Two amazing pieces of data from this work. First off, make sure you are three questions deep in terms of your field of expertise, that you can at a drop of a hat just demonstrate you know your stuff cold. Secondly eye contact, huge. You know, don't hide behind those notes or that podium. Again, square your shoulders, have the courage to actually engage directly with people, and make sure that comments you make at a meeting are value-added. It's not rambling, it’s not redundant, it's new, valuable points. And this requires a whole bunch of work, right, so it's not that this comes easy to anyone, and the communication piece I often see as the way into confidence. I grew up in the coal mining valleys of south Wales. When I arrived at Cambridge, my tutor told me this, I was seen as uncouth because of the way I spoke. You know, I dropped my h’s, my grammar wasn't great, but I had this thick working-class accent. I remember so clearly the albatross that was. So I spent two years listening to the BBC world service, trying to get my speech down so I wasn't letting myself down when I opened my mouth, so that I could get my points of view across. Now, looking back on it, it's a mixed story. I needed to fix the grammar, I needed to learn to speak this language well.
BRZEZINSKI: But don't lose your authenticity.
HEWLETT: But don't lose your authenticity. And I don't think I needed to lose that regional accent. So there is this tension between authenticity and conformity.