Role Models and Older Women in the Workplace

Lisa Miller writes in the Cut about being hired as an editor at The Wall Street Journal at the age of 30 by a 40-year-old woman whom she considered a role model because she possessed all the qualities Miller dreamed of having one day:

I admired her. I wanted to please her. They say that younger women evaluate their female elders both in terms of their achievements at work and the way they manage their lives at home, and I suppose the fact that my boss was also a mother and a wife (who left the office promptly at 6 p.m. no matter what little fires were erupting on deadline) appealed to me. But that wasn’t the first thing. The first thing was her relentlessness, her comfort with her own hunger, and the good humor with which she wore it all. It was she, more than anyone I’d ever met, who gave me the gift of a vision of a future in which I might be sustained by work, comfortable (if often extremely frustrated) competing with men, in an office full of impatient, profane, curious, demanding, creative people whose company I loved. Love.

But, Miller argues, ambitious older women don’t tend to stick around for very long, and that’s a problem for women looking for role models and support as they get further into their careers:

They dial back, drop out, start their own thing. They want more control, flexibility; they find themselves trapped in one more meeting listening to one more self-serving anecdote by one more male superior who feels no urgency to head on home, and they reach their limit.

In Miller’s dream scenario, a woman would enter a workplace and see all different kinds of women she could glean from: loners and ass-kickers and diplomats and brainiacs and yellers and backstabbers and do-gooders and on and on.

And here’s a last word, from our pal Helaine Olen, from whom I found this story:



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