Chapter 2 Reading – Wall Street Journal Article – Women Feel More Free to be Women

September 9, 2009

I have mixed views on this article. On the one hand, I think it is a sign of definite progress that women are starting to feel more comfortable and able to be more expressive of who they are in the workplace. The fact that women in today’s workforce do not feel that they have to hide who they are in an effort to fit in and be accepted, much less advance, shows progress. As the article points out, this may be indicative of the fact that there are now more women in the workplace than there were in previous generations, which is also a good thing. While there is still significant progress that needs to be made in ensuring that women have equal opportunities and pay and are not held to different or higher standards than their male counterparts, it is nonetheless heartening to see that some progress is being made.

On the other hand, to the extent that this article indicates that more women are becoming flirtatious with male counterparts, clients, and potential employers, I think that can be problematic from a sexual harassment standpoint. The article’s discussion of this issue focuses on men not knowing how to react to these types of flirtations and responding inappropriately, but what about harassment claims lodged by coworkers who may feel that they got passed over for some opportunity in favor of a female coworker who flirted with the boss? While this would likely result in a harassment claim directed at the boss, it would nonetheless be damaging to the woman’s career as well. And what about a situation where a male coworker views the flirtation as an unwelcome advance and makes a sexual harassment complaint against the woman? It seems like there are a number of pitfalls that could result from this kind of behavior beyond that discussed in the article.

Finally, I found it unfortunate that a couple of the men interviewed for this article expressed the view that men are somehow more vulnerable because of women flirting in the workplace or are hardwired to respond in certain ways to workplace flirtations. This implies that these folks view themselves as unable to control their impulses—that they cannot help what they say or do. To me, this is simply an effort to redirect responsibility for any inappropriate comments they may make or actions they may take away from themselves and towards their female coworkers. Part of being able to function in the workplace is learning what is and is not appropriate. If you think something might not be appropriate to say or do—do not do it. It is that simple.

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