And then, reader, there’s this.
Allow me to reference a piece titled “The Office Mom,” which ran on Forbes‘ web site Tuesday with the slug:
Women are ditching the stereotype of the imperious, tyrannical boss in favor of the nurturing “office mom.” Is that a good thing?
According to writer Laura Sinberg, it is a good thing indeed. Sinberg writes that, as women now hold 49.9% of jobs, it’s high time to rework our image of the working girl. (Which is to say, to ditch the big haired, shoulderpadded image concocted by the Melanie Griffith’s costume designers for her role in the film Working Girl. Ditto for Meryl Streep’s soulless ice queen in The Devil Wears Prada.)
In a way, it’s as though she read my mind. (Or my post from Tuesday.) Consider:
“For such a long time, people thought emotions had no place in the business world; you’re either emotional or rational,” says Kristin Byron of Syracuse University. “That dichotomy doesn’t exist.”
Byron’s research has found that female managers who were better able to read emotions were rated by employees as more supportive and informational, and by supervisors as more effective.
…The rewards range from feeling wanted, trusted and liked to something more tangible: The office mom “makes people willing to go the extra mile, be more loyal to you,” says Carol Smith, senior vice president and chief brand officer of Elle Group. It can also pay off in terms of promotions, perks and pay.
But does this then relegate lower-level working girls to the job description Office Daughter?
“My boss gives me personal advice all the time,” notes 27 year-old Karen Granit, who works in sales for Godiva Chocolatier. “Because of that, I work harder for her not just because she’s my boss, but because I feel closer to her, more connected to her.”
And would we then feel compelled to add goodie-baker to our list of responsibilities?
Women, for example, more often than men, tend to value being accepted and will engage in behaviors like bringing goodies into the office. Smith notes that when it comes to cupcakes at weekly sales meetings, “It isn’t the guy who does the buying, you can be sure of that.”
And maybe that’s true. I myself have been known to enjoy a cupcake or two. (Hell, back when I worked at the Independent and noticed attendance dwindling at the weekly editorial meetings, I instituted a sage policy: treats. Someone different–men included–responsible for the sugar fix each week. Problem solved.) And I’ve been quick to point out that women and men are different, insisting that to recognize this shouldn’t be problematic.
But parts of Sinberg’s piece inspire the devil’s advocate in me. I wonder about boundaries between bosses who dispense personal advice and their underlings on the receiving end. I wonder about the pressure to prepare yet another batch of cupcakes. Might that of the perfect Office Mom become yet another iconic self, yet another thing at which we must be perfect, another ideal to which we must aspire? I wonder about this blurring of the lines, of making the office a home away from home–and what it means for work/life balance. And then there’s the issue of stereotypes: what, exactly, was the problem with the assertive working woman? That she wasn’t being true to who she was–or that it was simply too much of a stretch to ask the working public to deal with a woman who wasn’t “womanly”? Are we more down with the Office Mom because we expect women to kiss our boo-boos, to give us a cookie when we’ve been good?
On the other hand, though, according to Sinberg at least, the Office Mom isn’t taken less seriously because she isn’t hard-edged and cranky, she’s getting ahead because she isn’t. And if the Office Mom is someone who’s simply secure enough in who she is and her position that she can thumb her nose at everyone who wanted women to check their female-ness at the door and be who she is, then maybe this is all a healthy move forward.
Pass the cupcakes, please.