In Defense of Citibank HR (Sorta)

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Citibank HR allegedly posted this (un)helfpul tipsheet at the office.

I don’t know the real truth behind this document. I don’t know the context. I don’t know if it’s real or fake. I do know the book from which these tips have been pulled. Yes, it is a book. It’s called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Career.

Up until just recently, many of my HR colleagues felt that the book was quite a feminist statement on work.

If I understand it correctly, the author is trying to encourage women to dial back some of the sexual and girlish overtones that have slipped into mainstream professional behavior. Whether it is the media or the general tone of our society, the author advises women to drop the soft sexuality of our culture and operate in a more gender-neutral way.

And honestly, at face value, that’s not such a bad idea.

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I know, I know, I know. Human beings are inherently sexual and it’s unfair that women are penalized for feminine behaviors while men are rewarded for similar behaviors. Agreed. And yes, please, I know it’s appalling that a book like this exists.

But this book is known throughout Human Resources departments across America as an invaluable tool for coaching young women who work in traditional corporate environments — especially those women who grew up digesting bullshit images of powerful women on TV who traded their sexuality for power.

Hello, Amanda Woodword?

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And this is where things get interesting for me. Traditional corporate environments are on the decline. Half of all workers are employed by small businesses. The Obama administration is a champion for women owned businesses. It’s conceivable that, at some point in the future, it will be normal for women to twirl their hair, groom in public, and apologize excessively because more women will be CEOs, leaders, and entrepreneurs.

Frankly, I get this. It’s my life. We’ll fund our own organizations, model better behavior for younger women, and shit like that won’t matter.

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Unfortunately, not every woman can start her own company and be a CEO. If you’re not ready to opt-out and start your own company, you have to find a way to game the system to your advantage until you can kick the system in the teeth.

This book is one of many tools meant to help.

And I truly believe that women can use their brains and pick out what works from this book — and any book — and disregard the rest.

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