Becoming Professional: A Blog

Sexy, Smexy…

Posted on: January 17, 2010

Okay, I’d like for you to imagine you are a young woman. If your a man, bear with me. This can help you, too.

You are starting a new job. Perhaps you’ve been there for a while, but you’re still relatively new. You want to get into a task-force, and you need to do everything you can to make this happen. The man putting the task force together is middle-aged and going through his midlife crisis. You’ve done your homework, you know that he likes SCUBA and respects creativity. And that mid-life crisis. Today you know you will meet him, so you wear a low-cut blouse, right? Mid-life crisis. You want to be memorable, right?


Don’t you dare wear anything like that. It drops your credibility through the floor. According to a study performed by Tulane professor Arthur Brief and colleagues Suzanne Chan-Serafin, Jill Bradley and Marla Watkins that I saw here, though 49% of female MBA graduates (out of a pool of 164, so it’s not the best representative sample, but we’ll go with it) had tried to advance their careers through some form of sexual behavior. I’m not talking about giving out sexual favors. The examples used in the study were “crossing their legs provocatively or leaning over a table to let men look down their shirts.” Nothing terribly overt, right? It’s just nonverbally saying, “I’m a woman! Hey, woman over here!” Yeah, like that’s how you want to portray yourself.

Now, lets see how well this sexual behavior served our 49%.  According to this study, women who claimed to never have tried to advance their career through sexual behavior or to have engaged in this behavior at work had received about 3 promotions each. Women who had done these things, which again is not “sex for a raise” but even just wearing sexy clothes, had received around only 2 promotions each. Perhaps the last statistic rams it home. Non-sexy women earned on average between $75,000-$100,000. Sexy women earned $50,000-$75,000. There’s not even any overlap here.

I got another interesting idea from this survey. Perhaps the glass ceiling isn’t society’s fault. Perhaps its ours. If 49% of those female MBAs were engaging in sexual behavior at work, and the impact of such behavior is this negative, perhaps if we just all made an effort not to sexualize ourselves at work we would rise faster and farther up the corporate ladder? All I can think of is my elementary school bus. It started out where we could talk and have fun on the way to school, but some kids took it too far. They were loud and obnoxious, so the bus driver made a new rule: no talking above a whisper. If you did, he would report you, and you’d get a red light under your name. Big terrible punishment, I know, but we all shut up. Just because a few kids misbehaved, we all got held up to a microscope. Maybe its the same thing here. Just because a boss had one experience with a woman who sexualized herself, he has a poor opinion of all women, meaning we all have to work harder, even if we’re completely non-sexual at work. Maybe the glass ceiling is made by our own short skirts.

So pay attention to how you act and dress. And you men who have stuck with me, you do it, too. Just because women are the usual culprits doesn’t mean you guys are immune. Be professional, folks. It helps you make more money, and who doesn’t want that?

 Okay, I never rode on a bus like that, but it isn’t hard to imagine that happening is it?


1 Response to "Sexy, Smexy…"

[…] about how a good professional doesn’t play up his or her sexuality at work in the post Sexy, Smexy. I recently read an article that takes this idea and turns it partly on its […]

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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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