Women’s Expectations in the Workplace

By Skye Haynes and Andrea Cwieka 
For Unwind magazine

When entering the job search, one is full of expectations. Will they get the job? Will the boss be kind? How much money will they make? For women, however, expectations can be a little more specific.

Will they come off as bossy? Is maternity leave going to be a vocational death sentence? Will they be overlooked for promotions?

Students walk on the University of Maryland campus on Sept. 5. Photo by Rosie Kean/Unwind.
Students walk on the University of Maryland campus on Sept. 5. Photo by Rosie Kean/Unwind.

There is a disparity between men and women’s expectations and treatment in the workplace. Whether it manifests itself in wages, employment opportunities or climbing the corporate ladder, that difference is always evident.

“Women aren’t expected to be as good workers as men, because originally they weren’t allowed to work,” sophomore computer science major Alex Bryant said. “I feel as though women have to play catch up with men.”

A poll in The Wall Street Journal reported an alarming 46 percent of women feel they have faced gender discrimination in the workplace. These results are consistent with the findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found that full-time working women earn 79 percent of the weekly earnings that men are paid.

For women, career searching and maintaining a career can be an intimidating experience. Rather than performance and efficiency, women also have to consider their appearance and behavior when applying and interviewing for jobs.

“When I was interning, I realized women aren’t allowed to express themselves as much in a business setting,” sophomore business student Lambert Aryee said. “They’re encouraged to live up to others’ standards … that includes the way they wear their hair, the way they dress, even their demeanors have to appear more submissive.”

Aryee added that his fellow interns were mostly men, but others have reported different experiences.

“I didn’t see much of a difference in the workplace,” said Anika Reed, a senior journalism major. “However, I noticed in dress code how simple and easy it is for men to find and buy professional attire. I had internships in the spring and found myself struggling to find professional attire that could also keep me warm.”

When it comes to the workplace, though, there are many factors that could go in to deeming what is appropriate for women’s fashion choices. The supervisor, geographic location and type of work all play into dress code, Robert H. Smith School of Business Director of Undergraduate Student Programming Ashlee Kerkhoff said.

“While women’s professional attire requirements are shifting with fashion trends, it ultimately depends on company culture,” Kerkhoff said.

Women’s clothing in the workplace really depends on the workplace environment, Kerkhoff added.

“[Clothing choice] also depends on your field,” Kerkhoff said. “Computer science, engineering, communications, government – they all have different requirements and expectations.”

“There are far fewer nylons,” Kerkhoff said, but in her opinion, “there is more flexibility when it comes to color and pattern.”

But women aren’t completely equal – yet.

“Of course there are still double standards in the workplace relating to attire,” Kerkhoff said.

Many media outlets have reported on the struggles women face in their overly-air-conditioned offices. Some say it is to accommodate the men of the office who dress in suits every day. Big-name companies and government agencies have also experienced backlash from mandating specific work attire for women and discriminating on gender-specific duties, such as breast feeding or maternity leave.

Beyond appearances and equal pay, women are more likely to receive critical performance reviews compared to their male colleagues, according to Fortune magazine.

Expectations play a big role in today’s society, and it’s important that women know what to expect. Women can use that to their advantage, calling out gender discrimination when they see it.


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