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Women at Work: Straight Talk to Stay Smart

Women at Work: Straight Talk to Stay Smart

By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Resource Center

No one would deny that women at work have come a long way — women today are excelling in education and outperforming their male counterparts in employment in many urban markets. And yet when it comes to equal pay and parity of power, equality remains elusive. 

Certainly when it comes to mastering the qualities of great leaders, women have more than proven themselves capable. 

Could it be due in part to the fact that women are more likely to display their emotions in the workplace?  

While the reasons why are complex, the time has come for women to reclaim their brains, says Lisa Bloom, award-winning journalist and legal analyst for CBS News.

In her book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, Bloom looks at how women often underestimate their own self-worth and offers a strategy on how they can regain focus and take charge of their lives.

Monster: In your book, you look at the ways that women have “dumbed down” their abilities and sense of self — can you briefly explain what you mean?

Bloom: We all know girls who dumb themselves down to attract boys. I didn't understand this when I was 12 and I still don't. I tell girls that that may attract some boys, but those aren't the boys you want. You want a guy who loves your heart and soul and mind. Those are the absolute best ones. Hold out for those guys.

But in my book I talk about a larger issue: how twenty times as many American women read tabloids than real newspapers, for instance. Gossip magazines reward women with covers for pregnancy, childbirth, getting married, or plastic surgery. You never see women on the cover for her accomplishments. It's as though the women's movement never happened.  Our obsession with celebrities lowers our IQs and self-esteem, and makes us think stars' sex lives and DUIs cosmically matter.  

Monster: Is some of this to blame for why women at work are still often paid less than their male counterparts — and often overlooked for top promotions?

Bloom: Tough question. I'm heartened to see that young, urban, childless women in major cities are now out-earning their male counterparts — largely because we're kicking ass in education, graduating colleges in significantly greater numbers, with better grades, and more honors and awards.  (Go team!) 

Twenty-somethings are now the first generation in history where the women are more educated than the men. Pay equity is a complicated issue that is partly about women opting out of the labor force to have kids, partly about hitting the glass ceiling and partly about the old boys' club still existing intact atop some organizations. 

I'm optimistic that the landscape for women in the workplace will change as this new generation of highly educated girls ages and get the plum promotions.

Monster: What would top your wish list of changes for working women, changes that women themselves can initiate?

Bloom: I'd like women to know their worth, know how to negotiate salaries and raises without embarrassment and know how to promote their accomplishments. This knowledge seems to come more naturally to men.  We have to have more confidence in ourselves. In many studies, women have equal skills to men, but men have far more confidence in their abilities. They have a natural swagger that sometimes we just have to fake.

Monster: What about employers — how can they better utilize the talents and abilities of their female workers?

Bloom: Know that women are less likely to crow about what they've done, are more likely to praise others and the team and are less likely to speak up when unhappy.  

Monster: How can we move away from the cultural model that defines a woman’s looks as more important than their capability and experience — particularly for women in the workplace?

Bloom: That's what my book is all about. The entire second half of THINK is a step by step guide to reclaiming our brains. It's up to all of us (and by the way, many of the steps are a heck of a lot of fun). 

Interestingly, men always tell me that their women are too focused on their looks. They like their woman as is, they tell me, with less makeup, without the plastic surgery. 

We women are setting ourselves up against an impossible beauty standard. Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, wear a little makeup if you like, and otherwise, get on with your life. Define yourself by your ideas, your contributions, and your connection with others. It is the only road to happiness, and ultimately, a meaningful life.

Monster: Are there other cultural models/approaches that you’ve seen in your global travels for how men and women can work together more equitably?

Bloom: In THINK, I point out how far behind we are the rest of the world in women's political leadership. We still have yet to see a female president or vice-president, but dozens of other countries have had female heads of state. 

Iceland's current president is an out lesbian. Ho hum. They don't care. Ireland's had presidents named Mary for 20 years. 

I believe that when boys and girls grow up seeing women run companies and countries, they understand equality on a gut level.  It's up to us to model that for the next generation.

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Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World, is an award-winning journalist, legal analyst, trial attorney, and the daughter of renowned women's rights attorney, Gloria Allred.

A daily fixture on American television for the last decade, Bloom is currently the CBS News legal analyst, appearing frequently on The Early Show and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, as well as the legal analyst for The Dr. Phil Show. Bloom appears regularly on CNN and HLN prime time shows such as Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell, The Joy Behar Show, Anderson Cooper 360, and The Situation Room.

For more information please visit http://think.tv/ and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.