Sunday, April 11, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman in business.

It seems like we automatically skip right there instead of talking about what it means to be a woman in business school.

Anyone who has done business either at the undergrad or graduate level can tell you about their ethics courses. Sure, they're there, but somehow the majority of the class is spent on what happened to the whistle blowers - the kids that got blacklisted for bringing to light ethical issues within the company. They're literally blacklisted. Many couldn't get jobs, and when they were finally employed, it was at salary levels far below what they were making before. ...Is that actually true? I don't know. At the very least, two of the biggest whistleblowers in recent history, Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom and Sherron Watkins of Enron (both women... huh.) are doing okay. Ms. Cooper has a consulting agency of her own, and Ms. Watkins does management consulting. Along with a third (female) whistleblower at the FBI, they were named Time magazine's people of the year in 02. (...through the fabulous source that is wikipedia).

Anyway, the point is this: you have the fear of god put in you when it comes to whistleblowing. They really make it seem as if whistleblowing is something you need to think through carefully. ... In reality, it should be obvious, right? Enron is defrauding... everyone. Maybe you should say something, you know?

This same fear of god is put into you with regards to talking back to anyone in a business setting. And while we're in school, it's for sure less intense than it should be at work, right? But we still have professors, and presidents of clubs that are connected, and networking events, and interviews. You're derided for being unprofessional for expressing your opinion, and so the obvious result is that you bite your tongue because you're going to graduate in debt, and if you can't get a job... (Thanks Obama, for making this a little less terrifying).

So what does it mean to be a feminist in business school?

It means I'm "unprofessional" if I speak up, and hate myself if I don't. One classmate discussed his Christian-based homophobia at length in the hallways, and what can I say? He gets to decide if I get into a club that is vital for my resume (trust me on this). Professors perpetually use the "he" pronoun. I'm shamed from talking about my male classmates grabbing my breasts and butt in public without my explicit consent.

So what does it mean to be a woman in business? Why am I even bothering, when I'm clearly having so much trouble with the social proprieties of B-school?

I'm so determined to break down these walls. And maybe it'll be okay for a woman to stand up and say, hey, it's not really professional to discuss how you look down upon teh gays and teh wimminz. And maybe I'll win that argument. It seems like it should be obvious. Like whistle blowing.

It should be.