Big Girls Do Cry
Written by Nikki White, Recruitment Coordinator at Big Sister Association
On May 3, I attended the Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum, a day of presentations by women leaders from a variety of career paths and generations. It was an inspirational event where women came together to share best practices and advice as leaders. There was one moment, however, that was unsettling for me. One speaker was introduced by her former supervisor who said that she would often come into his office and cry. He instructed this senior executive not to cry at work anymore. When she got to the stage, she praised his advice and said that after that she never cried at work again. Hearing this got me thinking—have women really become fully accepted in the workplace? Or are we still living in the world of Peggy and Megan in Mad Men—a world where men dictate to us how we, as women, are supposed to express our feelings?
It is hard to navigate our role as women in a work environment that seems to constantly give us contradicting viewpoints. We are expected to be nurturers at home but at the same time we are seen as weak or incompetent if we embody the same feminine qualities at work. Victoria Brescoll, a researcher at Yale, found in her 2007 study of male and female roles in the workplace that men are more likely to be respected when they express anger, but women who express anger in the workplace are seen as overly emotional. The benefit of integrating women in the workplace over the last 40 years is that we bring diversity to the work: diversity in our opinions, how we strategize, and how we approach problems or tasks. So why let others dictate or squash the diversity we bring—emotion-filled or not? We should not be demonstrating to future women leaders that the only way to be a part of the workforce (which is now split almost equally between men and women) is to accept the 1960s ideas of women’s role in the workplace.
What I would say to any woman who feels like she can’t cry in the workplace is that it is your choice how you want to show your emotions. If you feel that crying makes you appear too weak, I’d say crying is a reaction to an emotional experience, just like laughing. Embrace your wholeness so that others can too. Be proud that you feel and you care—it is a strength, not an impediment.
Do you think it is ever appropriate to cry at work?
Do you believe there is a double standard when it comes to men and women expressing emotion at work?