When reality television star and fashion blogger Lauren Conrad was asked what her "favorite position" was on a live radio program a while back, the women listening held their breath. Although we take great pride in the work that we do, most of us could relate to being undermined and belittled publicly at work. When Conrad cleverly retorted "CEO," it was hard not to aggressively high-five our laptop and mobile devices. The words "hell" and "yeah" could be heard all across the nation.
You don't need to be famous (or work for former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney) to put up with sexually charged work environments. Whether it's the Iowa dental assistant who was fired because her boss found her too "attractive" and felt like she was a "threat to his marriage" (which the Iowa Supreme Court agreed was totally legal) or a Citibank employee who was fired for being "too distracting" for her male colleagues, there's no shortage of cases of women being treated differently because they are women.
Indeed, the phenomenon isn't an exception anymore; as these examples show, it's becoming too often the rule. According to a recent poll, 1 in 3 women has experienced some form of sex discrimination at work. The more elevated women are in the corporate hierarchy, the more likely they are to report feeling belittled. Being high on the totem pole makes women 45% more likely to perceive discriminatory treatment.
So, what can we do about it? In an effort to break the cycle somewhat, Mic spoke to women across the career spectrum. While the job descriptions vary, these women are united in their desire to send a powerful message to all those who would belittle them. American workers deserve better, America's female workers most of all. It's about time all employees are judged on their ability to kick butt, not their gender.
The following are some of their best responses to that now-infamous question. But what about you? What's your favorite position? Use the hashtag #MyFavoritePositionIs and post your own thoughts and photos online.
Bea Arthur, founder and CEO of Pretty Padded Room, an online therapy website for women
"The best part of my job is that I truly believe my team is building a better world — the kind of world I want to live in. With Facebook and Instagram, we only seem to want to present the best versions of ourselves, but what makes the world go round is the other side of that coin: the sin, the shame, the story, the true story.
"People have a tendency to run away from problems, but that has literally never solved anything. So as therapists, we lean into them, we help our clients figure them out, then leave them behind. And as a result, we are creating better friends, better parents, better employees, better lovers! That's what therapy does, frees you from your problems so you can be a better person. Most people are scared of the term 'therapy,' but I fucking love it."
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America
Civil engineer at STV Inc.
"I work at a planning, architecture, engineering and construction management firm. I'm also a STEM activist, and feminist writer. The best part of my job is being able to work with engineers and tradespeople to see a project come from a design on paper to a usable structure."
Writer and editor, currently Voices Editor at Fusion
"With the help of a talented and growing team, trying to figure out how best to tell stories in an interactive, compelling digital way. The best part of my job right now is that me and my colleagues are given the freedom to experiment, which is a necessary but all too rare part of creating something new and meaningful. Another perk: I get to work with ambitious and creative folks, 95% of whom I've never worked with before. This, plus my work as a columnist for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, means that I'm plenty busy but not so overwhelmed that I'm creatively paralyzed, which is how it should be."
Program director, BridgeUp at the American Museum of Natural History
"I'm building a new program focused on introducing and encouraging girls in computer science. It's an incredible role, working with a best-in-class institution to change the ratio of girls in computer science and ensure more women have the opportunity to create and not just consume technology."
Host and producer at HuffPost Live, the livestream of the Huffington Post
"Since we launched nearly two years ago (it's gone by so quickly!), I've been fortunate enough to interview some truly inspiring people. Edie Windsor was unforgettable; to hear from a pioneer of the LGBT movement, and someone integral in striking down DOMA was a thrill and an honor. She also gave me some amazing advice: 'Don't postpone joy.' Truly wise words to live by!
"Aside from covering world news and current affairs, I host a weekly panel, #WMN w/@CaroMT, focusing on issues about women and news created by women. My fabulous producers Emily and Melora work with me to track down savvy, smart female guests to dissect everything from SCOTUS decisions to celebrating women blazing a trail. Someone once asked me if it's worth focusing on women as they're 'not a minority.' I told them: 'Have you taken a look at the news recently? Heck yes, we are!'"
Evolutionary biologist at the American Museum of Natural History
"I use data from fossil and living species to help build the Tree of Life for arthropods (crustaceans, insects, spiders and more). As a young girl, I visited the museum and saw fossils, bizarre remnants of animals that lived and died hundreds of millions of years ago, and knew I HAD to study them, no plan B need apply! Young girls who are fascinated by bugs, or viruses, engines, whatever, should pursue it — we are just as talented and important in science."
Production manager in International Digital Operations at NOOK Media/BN.com
"My favorite part about this job is that I get to be at the forefront of the latest developments in digital newsstand publishing. Also, I get to work with publishers from 32 countries and in 21 languages! There are very few women of color in this industry, so I am very happy to be part of it."
What I love most about my work is the ability it gives me to engage people in challenging the everyday assumptions that impede equality."
Manager, social media & community at MSNBC
Board member, Turning Point for Women and Families
"As the youngest Board Member at a domestic violence nonprofit organization for Muslim women and children in NYC, I get the chance to give back to the city I was born in while advocating on behalf of women of color and immigrant families. As a member of the Board, I act in a position of trust for the community and am responsible for the effective governance of the organization. It's a great feeling to be able to give back to your community."
Political analyst and freelance writer living in New York
"The favorite part of my job is that I'm doing what comes naturally. Politics is personal for me, and there is no way I would sit by silently and watch politics happen without raising my voice and changing the conversation about issues that I care about. I love debating on cable news because of my legal background, and becoming a pundit is the perfect fit. It's fun!"
Director of operations at Women Moving Millions
"I feel inspired every day. How many people can say that about their jobs? I get to work with visionary philanthropists, innovative nonprofit leaders, and a talented and scrappy team who all share the same vocation — the advancement of women and girls for the betterment of the world."
Media relations specialist at Planned Parenthood Federation of America & Planned Parenthood Action Fund
"I'm a longtime feminist and sexual and reproductive health activist. I have a master's degree in gender and a bachelor's degree in sociology and women's studies from Boston College, which is actually where my love for all things feminist began. I also love to write and used to be a contributor to Mic's Identities and Culture pages.
"My favorite part of my job is knowing that the work I do helps get accurate information about women's health care into the hands of the media, to help frame a narrative that is actually reflective of what the majority of women in this country believe — that women, not politicians, know what is best for them and their bodies."
Director of ACCESS Health International's Morocco office, a nonprofit organization decicated to increasing access to high-quality health care
"I started ACCESS in Morocco in January 2013, and I have done everything from fundraise, research, design projects, network, present and try to be a catalyst for change. Although it was a lonely beginning (I moved to Morocco with nothing but some seed funding and some big ideas), I love the freedom, the satisfaction and the intellectual challenges that come with the job. Connecting people tackling essential health care problems with potential solutions is inspiring."
Senior women's editor at the Huffington Post
"I previously worked across HuffPost's Women's, Parents and Healthy Living sections. I graduated of McGill University in Montreal, a total feminist and a brunch enthusiast.
Advertisement coordinator in the fashion industry
"My role is an excellent fit for me because it allows me to be directly involved in the the production and the dissemination of advertisement. It also allows me to work with a wide variety of actors in the industry, like agencies, clients and suppliers. The multidisciplinary nature of my job keeps me on my toes in a good way! Every single day, my ability to be efficient, diplomatic and organized are put through the test and I absolutely love it."
Producer, Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC
I love working on MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki because one day I am researching the changing political coalitions that denied home care workers minimum wage protections for 75 years, and the next I am heading to a rural town in the middle of Arkansas to cover their annual raccoon dinner. Producing for Krystal Ball on msnbc.com, I get to dig deep on the major economic issues of our day and efforts to revitalize the struggling middle class. I don't think I've ever had a job where I've gotten to learn so much — from coworkers, interviews and all the late-night reading."
"I'm a Bangladeshi-born, Washington D.C.-based journalist. After spending a decade as a feminist policy-analyst on Capitol Hill, I went full-time with my writing in 2013. What I love the most about being a freelance journalist is having 100% control over my schedule. Being in charge of my own hours allows me to experience the big mom-moments while still having a career."
"I write and place a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender and reproductive rights. I've been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, CNN, Every Mother Counts, Kveller, the New York Times, RH Reality Check and more. I also write a regular feminist parenting column, Mommie Dearest, for The Frisky. I'm the editor of The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality, and am currently working on my second book, which looks at the way we talk about/plan for/experience birth in this country. I love that freelancing allows me to follow my passions and discover new ones."
"When I'm not writing freelance, I'm a contract employee for the Yale School of Public Health, as part of team Expect With Me. In my spare (ha!) time, you can find me getting dirty in my little urban garden, hosting dance parties in my kitchen, tweeting up a storm (follow me at @TheMamafesto), and on a constant search for the perfect cup of chai."
Founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a consultancy focusing on providing visibility and marketing for organizations creating positive social change
"My favorite part of my job is brainstorming about and creating meaningful campaigns to inspire the best in all of us."
Freelance photographer and photojournalist
"I love what I do because I am able to support causes I believe in by sharing powerful images and expose injustice to help engage those who can make change in the world."
Academic, orator and revolutionary
"I am also the co-Founder and director of Organizational Development of Trans Women of Color Collective of Greater New York. Our work focuses on everlasting the narratives and leadership of trans women of color. My favorite part of my job is inspiring others to live unapologetically in their truths."