Career Track Live

Mary Ellen Slayter, Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio
Washington Post Staff Writer and guests
Monday, February 4, 2008; 2:00 PM

The Washington area is a magnet for smart and ambitious workers. Post columnist Mary Ellen Slayter writes a regular column for these professionals who are either establishing their careers or are looking to advance. She also offers advice online.

Mary Ellen Slayter is author of Career Track, a biweekly column in The Washington Post's Jobs section. She focuses her chat on issues affecting working professionals.

Today, she was joined by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio, authors of "The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear" (Broadway Books). Learn more about Friedman and Yorio on their Web site

Read Mary Ellen's latest Career Track column.

Find more career-related news and advice in our Jobs section.

The transcript follows below.


Mary Ellen Slayter: Welcome! My guests today are Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio.
Looking at the questions so far, it seems many of you are really put off by their use of the word "girls." As I acknowledge in the column, I wasn't wild about it either. BUT I really liked this book, and I think there's a lot of practical advice for women of all ages. I found reading it very energizing.

_______________________ Pushing Women Past the Fear of 'No', (Post, Feb. 3)

Mary Ellen Slayter: My review of the book .


Mary Ellen Slayter: Kim, what inspired you two to write this book?

Kimberly Yorio: All of our books, have come from the challenges we face, first starting the biz, then growing it and managing and now kicking our girls guide busineess into gear. We never found business books that we would relate to. Frankly they were all too boring so we set out to interview women around the country and share their stories.


Rockville, Md.: During Carolyn Hax's chat last week someone wrote in stating that, in a work setting, women shouldn't cry or bake. Should I really not bring baked goods into work? I am in a professional office setting, but I absolutely love to bake (I would make it my full time job if it provided the cash), and my co-workers love when I bring food in. Does it make me seem like "more of a girl" and less like a professional businesswoman if I bring in baked goods?

Mary Ellen Slayter: Some people certainly think that, given that comment in Hax's chat. However, I think the solution to this bias is for the guys to bring in MORE baked goods, not for women to bring in LESS.

If it's true, I guess my career is doomed. I brought in a homemade King Cake today. Happy Lundi Gras.


I Am Not A "Girl": This may be the greatest book ever written, but since I recoil every time I see grown women referred to as "girls" I am not going to read it. I think many other women will haved a similar reaction. How can we take you seriously if you are going to refer to us as "girls"?

Caitlin Friedman: Hi and thank you for the question. A couple other women have raised this issue with us so here is the scoop on why we used the word "girl". We call our friends girls, our sisters girls and our aunts girls. There isn't any baggage associated with the word, it's just what we call each other. For us, we think it is important that women/girls lay claim to whatever names they want to use for themselves. We also think 'girl' conveys the tone of our books which is upbeat, energetic with a distinctly female point of view.


D.C.: What is it really like commuting to Downtown D.C. from Baltimore (on the MARC train)? The housing options are tempting.

Mary Ellen Slayter: Lots of people do it. It's not cheap, though. Have you run the numbers to include the (non-tax-deductible) cost of commuting that distance. You may find that the rent or mortgage close to D.C. becomes more attractive.


Baltimore, Md.: I work for a small start-up business with lots of promise but little resources. I brought on a friend to be an intern.

He works hard but has a terrible attitude that is dragging me down. I feel like I can't afford to lose someone who works for free, but I also feel like I can't afford to catch his negative attitude.

I have tried talking to him about it two to three times, and it has helped a little, but it's still pretty bad. I don't trust him, but he works hard. We are no longer friends because of this. What should I do?

Mary Ellen Slayter: You get what you pay for. In this case, it sounds like you're getting even less. How much of your energy is dealing with this friend/intern consuming? How much time that you could be spending on things that actually benefit the startup you work for? Cut him loose.


Germantown, Md.: Hi, Mary Ellen. I enjoy your articles.

I have a question about negotiating for a higher salary.

I've been at my current job for almost a year and will be

up for my annual review shortly. I really like working with

my boss and the owners of the company. I didn't expect

it signing on, but I've been given a tremendous amount of

power in the company and have gotten to do "senior

manager" duties, yet I am really a mid level employee. I

also get a lot of positive feedback from inside and outside

of our company on the quality of my work.

On the other side of things, I work increased hours at a

relatively high stress level and I have terrible benefits

(think: no sick or vacation days for one year, no 401(k), few

federal holidays, etc.)

I am going to ask for at least a 10 percentraise at my annual

review. This would put me at the low-end of the "junior

manager" scale in my industry. Still below what I probably

should be making, but I don't feel that they would give

me more.

My friends all tell me to pull out my resume if I don't get

the salary that I want. What do you think?

Kimberly Yorio: from Kim: if you are being paid below your market value, and below your companies scale, then you should absolutely negotiate for more money. Do your homework, come in armed with facts and figures. Site your accomplishments, show your research of others in your field doing your level of work. Be very specific and yet be flexible. Maybe you can't get a huge raise all at once, but they can give you a bonus, or can offer some now and some later. And if you don't get the desired result, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE start looking for a new employer. Your good work is too valuable not to be compensated.


Alexandria, Va.: For what it's worth, I have never minded being called a girl. Like any word, when it's used condescending it's not welcome, but I imagine I will appreciate being a girl when I am much older.

My question is: How can I go from a person with seven years of experience to a manager of others in the same field. Other than telling prospective employers that I think I could do it and here's why, what's the real link between becoming a manager?

Kimberly Yorio: you ask a great question -- it's a two part process, 1) You have to ask..maybe they don't know you want more responsibilities and to manage and 2) you have to make the case for why you are ready for management responsibilities, you have demonstrated leadership skills in the following ways (and be specific when listing them) and then make an appointment with your manager to discuss your career development program. If you are a good employee, and it sounds like you are, then your organization will want to chart a path for long term growth. Unfortunately, organizations aren't always paying attention to their employees, you need to advocate for yourself. Good luck.


RE: Rockville, Md.: Women and baking...

I've read several women and business books (although not the one from today's authors) that all say that. Baking for the office is the kiss of death for a woman. We might not like it but it reinforces the nurturing and maternal stereotype as opposed to showing our superiors that we're risk-takers, confrontational when we need to be, and innovative workers.

Let's face it ... in the workplace, we're just women. We're not bakers or mothers or caterers. We're here to do a job, not be short order cooks.

Mary Ellen Slayter: Fine. You can't have any of my cake, then.


Tampa, Fla.: I'm in a sticky situation at work and needs your help ...

My department is three people -- my boss, a co-worker and me. Many of the tasks that are assigned to me are dependent on my coworker's ability to do his job. However, he has proved many times to be unreliable and sloppy in his work. I believe my boss to be aware of this but on many occassions she has said she doesn't care about the who did/didn't do what and when. It's my responsibility to do whatever I need to do to see that the tasks are completed in a timely and complete manner.

This is all understandable. However, it's clear to me that my coworker views us as just that: coworkers, equals, etc. I can tell him what to do all I want but I have no consequences to enforce when he fails to complete his work. My reminders fall on deaf ears while my boss wants me to figure it out on my own.

I admit, being female, I'm not entirely used to confrontation. I've never really supervised anyone in any official capacity. I just don't understand how I'm supposed to get someone to do his job when I have no authority over him. He can ignore me all he wants. In the end, it's my responsibility. So either I do his work for him or I take the blame.

Caitlin Friedman: Your co-worker is taking advantage of you and your hard work. What a frustrating and terrible situation to be in. We would recommend a few things. Start keeping track of your accomplishments and contributions as seperate from your co-workers. Start selling your success to your boss in a way that is comfortable for you. Kim's style is to set up a meeting with our clients to walk them through her accomplishments live and in person. My style is to send weekly emails, full of bullet points listing out what i've done. It is v important in this situation to start seperating yourself from your co-worker and his bad work.


Mary Ellen Slayter: You two have had a lot of fun, it sounds like, on the workshops you've hosted to support the book. What's surprised you the most at these meetings?

Kimberly Yorio: Two things have really surprised us: The first is how absolutely amazing women are out there. They come to these workshops willing to share expertise, experience, and looking for a new way to look at their current job experience. They really want to get ahead but run into stumbling blocks. Which brings us to the second thing that is so surprising: WE ALL FACE THE SAME STUMBLING BLOCKS: lack of confidence that makes us shy about asking for what we want and deserve, worry that everyone else in the room is smarter, not selling our accomplishments, thinking if we're good girls and do good work then our bosses will notice. unfortunately it's not the case. You have got to be selling yourself up, down and across the organization.


Washington, D.C.: Mary Ellen: I work for a nonprofit, so I love my job, but don't get paid very much. In order to make ends meet, I'm considering getting a part-time job. The problem is that my job often has me working late, so an evening job will not be an option. A job where I could work Sat. and Sun. would be ideal, but I know from working retail in college that that option won't pay as much as I need to make. I am a smart, hard working young professional with a masters degree and don't want to be stuck making $7/hour catering. What job would you suggest that would pay what I need to make, and fit into my less than flexible schedule?

Mary Ellen Slayter: What are your interests? Or perhaps, expenses that you could benefit from getting a discount on? Early in my career, I also had to work a second job to keep up with my student loan payments. I worked at a coffee shop on the weekends. The tips were nice, and as a bonus, I got free coffee all week long. That saved me another $30 a week.


Bethesda, Md.: Mary Ellen, As today's first question indicates, being "more of a girl" has a negative connotation to virtually everyone except your two guests. Please, please ask them to respond to what you indicate are several negative comments.

Mary Ellen Slayter: But I don't think *everyone* has a negative connotation. Context matters a lot, I think. I don't mind if Kim and Caitlin call me a girl. I mind if a male supervisor does.

Kimberly Yorio: That is a great point MaryEllen. Words are really powerful and you have to be careful when and how you choose to use the word girl. We considers the girls to be women of power who are having fun with their careers and loves. The word "women" for us feels overly serious and earnest, a la "I am woman, hear me roar." Whereas the word "girls" is truly in the spirit of our mission wiht the books. We want to inspire women to support each other in all aspects of the professional world--and you can see just from this answer, that we use the word woman and girl interchangeably. If anyone is uncomfortable with being called a girl, then we are happy to call them woman or lady. Our only pet peeve is the word, "gal." I hate being called a "gal."

Kimberly Yorio: I meant lives, not "loves." Oops, typing too fast.


Alexandria, Va.: After having a rejection while applying for a very interesting job in the field that I really love, I am wondering if the possible employer was afraid about me when I requested a higher payment. When I received a call with the negative answer about my possibilities of being hired, I did not find words to explain that I want to keep open to new offers and maybe with the capacity of negotiation about salary. How can I write a note of thanks just to keep the possibility of being contacted again for that company or from any else from the same bussiness?

Caitlin Friedman: If you think you didn't get the job because of your salary request then you want to take a close look at what others are making in your field and at your level to make sure you are on track. Going in high on a salary negotiation is expected, but going too high doesn't go over too well. So be smart and do your research before you throw a number out there. We would recommend sending a hand written thank you note to the people that interviewed you reiterating how interested you are in coming to work for that company should something come up. Keep the contact live by checking in frequently.


Baltimore, Md.: While the word "girls" may not come with any baggage for you (you really refer to your aunts as "girls?"), it does for most other women that I know, including myself.

I'm glad to hear that others are expressing this same view. I was very put off by the name and am unsure whether I will read your book because of it.

Kimberly Yorio: Again it's a question of context. Our aunts are our girls. They champion our successes, contribute to our books, send us encouraging emails while we are on the road, check in on our families while we are away. It's really the spirit of the "New Girls Network" that we are trying to create. Individually, they are all extremely interesting and dynamic women -- in our group, they are just one of the girls.

Mary Ellen Slayter: If you skip the book because of the word girl in the title, you'll be missing out. It's a great overall guide to career planning.


Arlington, Va.: Help. I feel caught in a salary trap. At job interviews when asked my desired salary it's always viewed as though I am asking for too much even though I've done my research and know it's not. I then ask what qualities are missing from my work history that would prevent me from obtaining said salary and they can't give me one. So I get hired at my desired salary and then the annual review rolls around and I get two percent max raise because "that's all they can afford" or "you were hired at such a high salary there's no room for growth." I feel like I have to job hop to get decent raises and I have no idea what's going on. Any thoughts?

Kimberly Yorio: Unfortunately in corporate America today, you do have to job hop to get big bumps in salary. And that's not always a bad thing, however if you really like your current employer and the people with whom you work and are inspired and challenged by the work, then you need to be a bit flexible about the payouts. Maybe the industry just won't pay anymore, maybe there is a way to get on a bonus plan, so you can be literally compensated for going above and beyond. Maybe you can negotiate for more vacation days, or a bigger contribution to your 401K. Remember that a compensation package is much more than an annual salary figure. If you really want to stay, then be creative with your entire "compensation proposal."


Anonymous: How do you reject a job offer? I'm doing some searching online and it appears that a letter is recommended, but wouldn't it be quicker to call? Call then mail the letter? I'm not really sure what to say on the phone. Thanks for any help.

Caitlin Friedman: If you are offered the job by phone (which you should be) then you should decline that way. Follow it up with a thank you note to the person that made the offer because even if that position wasn't right, you don't know what might open up. Any contact that thought highly enough of you to offer you a job is someone you want to stay in touch with.


Anywhere, USA: Hello. I hope you can take my question.

This past week I was laid off from my company (restructuring). This is not the first time or second (or third) time this has happened since graduating college. I am in my really early 30's and it seems that I can be an easy choice for layoff no matter how much I contribute to the company. I am single, with no dependents, etc. ... and I don't know if that is the reason when time comes to decide on who to let go to cut cost, I end up being the token person. I don't know if it is because they feel like I could find a job easier than other co-workers (which should never be an assumption), but I want to STOP this cycle. I want to be able to leave a company on my own terms (which I was planning to do with this company, but didn't get a chance to find something worthwhile to leave it for). I have very good experience in a field that seems to be the first to get cut when a company has to cut jobs (I am in international development/sales). What do you suggest I do to keep this from happening ever again?

Caitlin Friedman: Here is my first few questions for you: Do you love your career path? Are you inspired by what you do? Have you really enjoyed any of these jobs? If the answers are YES then let's talk about how to make it difficult to fire you. First of all, you want to start building up your profile as soon as you land your next job by joining organizations, taking on high-profile assignments, offering to attend events on behalf of the company, jumping in during meetings and sharing your ideas. Then you want to start building a relationship with your boss ASAP by selling your successes through emails or weekly meetings, working with them on your career planning, demonstrating your investment in the company and in your team. If you show your boss that you are invested in what you are doing then it will be hard to let you go. Don't be passive about your career it makes it too easy to appear expendable. Even if you are not.


D.C.: I've got a lesser of two evils question: Between grad school and having a baby, I've got a three year window on my resume with no full-time work just a few internships (prestigious organization, but little work). After three years of working for the feds, I'm trying to secure a corporate gig.

My resume delineates two years of work in my field, a top-tier grad school for two years, no work for a year and a half, then nearly four years of work with a nice set of responsibilities and promotions to show.

When interviewing for new mid-level manager gig, should I mention the reason for the break (and reveal that I'm a mother)? Or should I run the risk of appearing flaky with regard to working for longer than three years? I'm in my mid-30s, if that's relevant.

Kimberly Yorio: It sounds like you have a fantastic resume and should have no reason to be embarassed about your time out. No reasonable employer i.e. one you want to work for anyway, will discriminate against you for having a child. You continued to increase your skills through the internships while away, and earned a graduate degree. I think you are extraordinary to have accomplished so much. Please don't forget it.


Maryland: I an 40-something worker and I don't want to manage people. I've managed people, I manage people now, and I don't like it. I've been looking for a new, non-management job but have been unable to convince people that yes, I want to take the step back -- that I feel more effective as part of a team under a strong leader than being a leader myself, but no one seems to really trust I'm telling the truth. Suggestion?

Caitlin Friedman: We are with you ... managing is really hard. The bad news is that success in most professions is defined by how much you delegate. We have coached several women on passing on a promotion if the reality of the job didn't fit their skills or interests. It's great that you know this about yourself but i hear you on how it is perceived in a job interview but i think being honest is the best way to go. Not that you aren't good at it or are a better follower but that when you manage you feel that you are getting far away from the work you enjoy and excell at. But know that if you don't want to manage then unless you work for yourself you are limiting your income. Unfair but true.


Anytown: I work in a small office (three other people, plus my boss). My boss seems to think it's appropriate to delegate all things "office" to me -- signing for all the mail, ordering office supplies, moving furniture around etc. This would be OK (we are a small office, again), except for that he NEVER asks anyone else to do this -- and it is painfully obvious to my other co-workers, too. I'm not sure what to do about it. There's no HR system, but I don't want to complain to him and have it backlash against me. FWIW, I'm young and female ... but so is another one of my co-workers.

Kimberly Yorio: Is it a seniority issue? Are you the newest one in the room, perhaps? I would bring it up if all of the tasks are taking you away from your real work. I would guess your boss has no idea that you are bearing the burden of all of the "office" work. You are most likely a friendly face who has never said no. Set a meeting wiht him and let him know that you are finding it hard to get your work done because you are overloaded with admin and bring him a plan for how you can spread the tasks out amongst the team, so everyone shares in the duties. Good luck.


RE: Women and baking: Personally, if a woman at my office brings in baked goods for everyone to share, the first thing that crosses my mind is NOT the gender issue and any associated implications. Rather, I think either "Ooooh, free food!" or "That was very kind of her to bring that in." Nothing else.

Kimberly Yorio: I find this whole issue of baking to be a bit ridiculous. What is wrong with being a nurturing person? It's an excellent quality. And what's wrong with sharing something that you put time and energy into with your fellow co-workers. You should take credit for your positive attitude and willingness to share. Why is it negative for a women (or man) to be generous and kind in the workplace? I don't get it. In no way does sharing a bit of yourself undermine your leadership qualities or professionalism. It's actually an excellent quality.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I agree. It's a particularly valuable quality in a leader. Maybe it's our definition of leadership that needs to evolve.


Commuting from Baltimore: It seems to me that if you buy a monthly pass on the MARC train, it is FAR cheaper than monthly Metro fees, especially when you consider that parking at most MARC facilities are free. I wish I lived farther out so that I could take advantage of this!

Mary Ellen Slayter: But once you get to Union Station, then what? If you work downtown, you're still going to be buying that Metro pass to make it the rest of the way to your office ... it could make sense for you; you just have to run the numbers.


Baltimore, Md.: I suffer from that all-too-common female problem of not presenting myself in an assertive, capable way. I am capable, intelligent and good at my job, but sometimes I find myself shrinking back into a mentality of shy passivity. What are some practical, day-to-day exercises I can use to keep on track?

Caitlin Friedman: This is so common, but you need to really look at what is at the root of you not speaking up for yourself. Are you afraid that people won't like you? That you will be fired? That you will be told no? You can't let the fears that you are bringing into the office dictate how successful you become. So here are a few things to tell yourself: If you are not advocating for yourself and your career then no one is. If you take control of your career you can create your dream work scenario. You don't have to approach business as a man would. Challenge yourself. Embrace your difference and your personal style and bring them to the professional table. If you are feeling insecure then take a little time each day to reflect on how far you have come, what you have learned and what you contribute. Keep notes of your accomplishements.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Mary Ellen. I asked a few weeks ago about my employer requiring 30 days notice when quitting and it had stopped new employers from making me an offer. The catch: I don't want to negotiate for a shorter resignation period until I get the offer. I can't get the offer without lying that I may be required to give 30 days notice. Any thoughts?

Caitlin Friedman: Question: did you sign a contract that says you have to give 30 days notice or was it understood?


Chevy Chase, Md.: I haven't been looking for jobs in years; now that I am (and to some degree, I am switching fields), I've been noticing that I don't even get the form letter rejection note. Is that something new -- with e-mail making it so easy, it would seem to be easy to quickly let someone know they aren't in the running (you can't just tell by time -- I'm now in the third interview stage for one job that has gone on for six weeks ...).

Is this the new HR norm? And if so, should I start calling them up soon after sending in a resume?

Caitlin Friedman: We agree that manners and professionalism have been slipping lately thanks to email. I love email and use it all day, everyday but when it comes to thank you notes--hand written is best! When it comes to applying for a job, always best to create a rapport with the gatekeeper so they can keep you in the loop. Yes, start calling them when you send in the resume, ask for the process, how long its going to take.

Mary Ellen Slayter: OK, I sympathize with hiring managers on this one. The ability to apply for jobs online, just by firing off an e-mail, means that hring managers are swamped with applications. If they were to respond to every ... single ... applicant who didn't make the cut, they'd never have time to do anything else. Now, I do believe that once a person has been interviewed, they deserve to hear from a real, live person (no form letter) that they didn't get the job.


Calif.: I'm ambivalent in regards to the use of word "girl" and agree that it's more about the context of how it's used and by whom. I would have defended you and suggested that semantics are a side issue and that the perception and treatment of women in the workplace is what we should focus on.

You lost me, however, when you said you object to "gal." That suggests that this IS about semantics after all. Must we run thru the whole list -- toots, babe, hon, doll -- what is or isn't acceptable?

Really, who cares. If you work with/for someone who doesn't view you as an equal, the term he/she uses doesn't mean squat. I think you undermine your message when you squawk at "gal" but rush to defend "girl."

Kimberly Yorio: I was just kidding about the "gal." I know that wit is hard to read in these chats. It still makes me laugh that when my grandmother introduces me to people she says, "this is my granddaughter, Kimberly. She's a "Gal Friday." :)

Kimberly Yorio: And thank you for getting to the heart of the issue. You are exactly right. Please jump in and defend, you make the point much more eloquently that we are.


Male supervisor calling me a girl: Right, I agree, but when you call yourself a girl and me a girl, you give him permission too and then wonder why male supervisor thinks it's okay. Model anti-sexist behavior in the workplace if that's what you expect to receive. really, this is just silly, and you two ought to talk to some older women who fought to be called "women" before you decide to publicly use a demeaning term like "girl."

Kimberly Yorio: We couldn't agree more, that the generation before us moved mountains on gender equality. We'd like to think that they would applaud our efforts to continue their work by writing books that speak to the challenges that women specifically face in the workplace. We actually give them all of the credit for letting us bring the "girl" word back into the arena. Thank you ladies, seriously, we know we can do what we do because of you.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Mary Ellen. I've been in my first job out of college for nearly three years. My position in not glamorous, however, I've always seen it as a stepping stone. A position opened up which would be a promotion for me. My boss and I had discussed the possibility of me moving into this position.

However, it was recently made clear to me that the powers that be have no interest in promoting me to this position (this would be the next logical step for me.)

Now I am faced with an imminent job hunt. So my question is: how do I not only remain motivated enough to come in here daily and stay positive, but also not let my bruised ego get in the way of finding a new -- and hopefully better -- position?

Mary Ellen Slayter: Ask those same "powers" what you would need to do to qualify for that job. Then do what they say.


RE: Girls: One of the writers said: "There isn't any baggage associated with the word, it's just what we call each other."

There most certainly is baggage associated with the word (see all the comments). You can choose to reject it, but you can't just proclaim that no one else is bothered by this word.

Kimberly Yorio: Okay, ladies. I love that there is such a passionate discussion of the negative connotation to the word, "girls." It demonstrates how big of a gender gap exists in the workplace and is exactly the reason we are writing these books. We are speaking to women and encouraging them to rally around one another--to support each other and to use their common gender as a point of rallying -- just as the boys have been doing for years. As women, we play a number of roles in our lives, wives, mothers, managers, educators, employees, employers, and we believe that our girly-ness, if you will, is really the magic. If we can find a way to inject that spirit of the feminine into the workplace, instead of trying to hide it or justify it -- then maybe things will get a bit better. We also really respect you all taking a stand on this issue. If you believe the word girl is used to demean you, then you should speak up (no problem there). We don't. We think it celebrates us.


Rockville, Md.: My younger sister had an interview on Friday and was asked what her salary expectations were. She panicked and gave a number probably a bit below even her low number, which the interviewer immediately accepted. Does she have any recourse to ask for more? The interviewer never gave specific benefits information, so I was thinking she could ask HR for the benefits, and then ask for more money by stating benefits are worse?

Caitlin Friedman: If she has accepted the job during that interview then she is in a tough spot to negotiate. But your suggestion is worth a try. They might come up a little if they really want her.


Atlanta, Ga.: Not really a question, just a comment. I used to think everyone saw me as a professional equal until two years ago when on my way to an important a "gentleman" on his way to the same meeting asked me to get him some coffee. My "girl" days were over. For the record I'm 35 and lug is in his mid-40s - young enough to know better. Also, as an engineer, very male dominated field, I agree whole heartedly with the no baking rule. I'll cook for my friends. I may be surrounded by sexist jerks, but I wasn't hired to baked.

Mary Ellen Slayter: See, I think that might be part of the difference. I am NOT surrounded by sexist jerks. I'm surrounded by people (mostly women) who are happy to have a homemade treat every once in a while.


Anonymous: I am a 48-year-old, who will complete (finally) my undergraduate degree in communication studies from UMUC. I earn more than $80,000 a year, but have aspirations to move up before I retire from the federal government (I have less than seven years before I'm eligible). I really like my job because I telework twice each week and it's just a great place to work. I am finding it is harder to climb the ladder as a 48-year old who hasn't quite completed her degree (I will finish by the end of this year). Do you buy into the glass ceiling that keeps older women from advancing? I am applying for jobs but I am not getting any bites and where I work, most of the federal positions go to the retiring military. What should I do? I have nearly 28 years of federal service.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I think your degree will help. But moving up may cost you that telework arrangement. Will it be worth it to you?


Going for a big raise: I'm in a similar boat as another question asker: I had a great review (glowing, really) and I know I'm underpaid for my industry by about 10%. I've found some great comparisons to bring into my salary meeting, but I was wondering about data from some of the popular salary calculators online. The one I found is skewed very high, so high I wonder if the information is good or if I'm just severely underpaid.

Caitlin Friedman: I think if you bring to the table a salary based on what you have researched online and by talking to people (headhunters) that seems fair. You don't want to rely on one source especially since the economy, where you are located all come into play. You may find that you are not making enough at your job. If that's the case then we would recommend that you treat your next salary review as a new job interview and sell yourself hard. Take your boss through everything that you have done over the past year and everything you want to do the upcoming year. If you demonstrate that you are a proactive member of the company and team then it wouldn't be such a shock when you pull out the new number.


D.C.: How do you tell the difference between the time to search for a new opportunity, or the time for an attitude adjustment? I try to be a team player, but lately I've taken every neat project that I haven't been staffed on, or every meeting I don't get invited to, as a personal attack on me. Is this the beginning of burnout? Any strategies for reinforcing my interest in these activities with the decision-makers, without sounding like a broken record? Thanks.

Caitlin Friedman: Ask yourself if things have really changed or you have changed. If you think it is external and you are being slighted then you need to take a long hard look at what you are contributing to the team and what you are putting out there. If everyone is driving you crazy and you are uninspired by your work then it might be the early stages of burn out.


Unclear roles at work: After being on the job for a year, I am still unclear as to what some of my roles are. My boss does not like to have things like procedures or job descriptions written down. I've suggested that we document how certain regular aspects of our jobs are done so that others can fill in during absences. I've also suggested that we have written clarification on who is supposed to do what, so there is no uncertainty, hard feelings, or dropped tasks. It would also be helpful in training new staff, since we'd have a checklist of things to go over with them, and a document they can refer back to if they forget. I've already had to train one person without such a document, and it was pretty difficult. It drives me nuts that I'm expected to remember everything about someone else's job off the top of my head, especially since we have many exceptions to the rules on how things get done around here.

When I've brought this up the boss makes a face and says it's a waste of time. But I think it's a waste of time to work without any guidelines. When I started this job I had to figure out on my own what exactly I was supposed to be doing every day, since she wouldn't spend any time with me and didn't provide any training, and there wasn't anything left from the previous employee. Sometimes she'll see me doing something, and she'll make comments like "why are doing that, so-and-so should be doing that." If I gave away all the responsibilities that she thinks I should give away to someone else, I wouldn't have much to do all day.

She also doesn't like it if I spend too much time getting prepared. For example, I made a list of things that are changing in a contract we are renewing, so that we would have one sheet of paper to quickly look at while we have negotiations. The info was easily accessible and didn't take but more than 1/2 hour to put together. I thought she'd be glad I created this time saver, but she said I had wasted time. Is a 1/2 hour preparing for a contract review a waste of time? What she wants me to do is to look up the info for her every time she has a different question about certain points in the contract. But I don't want to do that. I want to spend the time now so I don't have to look up stuff 50 times to remind her.

It's very confusing to work like this, but otherwise I like the boss very much. She's overall a really pleasant person to be around, and she tells me she likes my work. What should I do?

Kimberly Yorio: This is tough one. To me it sounds like you are doing everything right. Being proactive, creating a system so work doesn't have to be repeated, looking for guidelines so there is quality. This is exactly what you should be doing. I worry that your boss can only understand things if they are done exactly as she would do them. if that's the case, I think you might be pushing a big rock uphill. You may want to start looking for another job, because at the very least frustration will be the order of the day.


Washington, D.C.: Is it unethical to leave off education on your resume? I just completed my master's degree, but I"m having a ton of trouble getting a job. I'm 23 years old, have seven internships under mybelt (done as an undergrad and grad) and 14 months of full-time work experience. In the three interviews I've had the interviewers commented how young I was to have my experience. I'm getting worried that my master's is working against me. Should I leave it off? I'm running out of ideas. Help.

Mary Ellen Slayter: It's not unethical, but I doubt it would help. I'm more concerned that none of those internships have translated into a jobs. Are you still in touch with those employers? If so, I'd ask them for some honest advice on what you need to do to get hired somewhere.


Baltimore, Md.: If you want me to read this book, please change the title and rewrite the text so as not to refer to adult females as "girls." Thanks.

Kimberly Yorio: I would bet like MaryEllen, if you gave the book a chance, you'd be won over. The women who are included are incredible and their challenges and successes are inspirational. I'm not even asking you to buy it -- I am sure your local library has a copy.


Newark, Del.: Women, please rethink your use of the term "girl" when referring to professional women, or any women, for that matter. I teach Women's Studies at the University of Delaware and can't tell you how damaging such slights, even unintentional ones, are to women's self-esteem. Clearly you think this is no big deal, but I can assure you that it is. Thanks for your reconsideration.

Kimberly Yorio: We interviewed Stephanie Shields, who is a professor of gender studies at Pennsylvania State University. We discussed in depth the use of the word, "girls." Her take was that the words aren't the problem, it's the intent of the word. Our intent is to celebrate our common girliness and boost women's self-esteem so they can be confident and successful. And the women who actually read the book seem to get that.


Now, girls . . . .: You are not girls, you are women! How can you expect your book to have a positive impact if you think in girlish, rather than womanly terms?

Women thinking of themselves as girls are a large part of the current problem. Please, please, please, please grow up.

Caitlin Friedman: Thanks for your comment. My first internship was with NOW and since then I have dedicated myself to helping women/girls embrace their differences and personal style and bring it to the professional table. At the core our books are about helping women deal with challenges, fears, stereotypes in the workplace. We use the word 'girl' because it conveys the tone of our books, high energy, positive, fun and feminine. I would argue that many more women/girls pick up the book because of our friendly and accessible tone than don't.


RE: Women and baking: I don't think I'd have such a problem with it if I saw men do it more. Or at all really.

I view birthday cards the same way. Never in my entire life have I ever seen a man go out and take the initiative to buy an employee's birthday card.

When that day comes I might reconsider though. I make an excellent chocolate mousse.

Mary Ellen Slayter: I see your point.


Cupcake Queen; Edmonton, Canada: I am a customer service manager for a small health food store, and have gained the nickname "Cupcake Queen" for all my baking. While not all women are nurturing caretakers, I know that -I- am. Why should I deny my nature because I'm afraid some people will judge me? Given the scope of my job, being seen as a friendly mothering type makes it much easier to do my duties well -- and it makes me happier, which seems to create a good mood in the office. Perhaps it is the maturity and good-nature of my coworkers that allows me to do this, but I see myself as an individual first with individual strengths and needs -- no sense pigeonholing myself as a "woman worker" who needs to act a certain way. Thanks for the great chats.

Kimberly Yorio: You are exactly right.


Third wave feminist baloney: Look, you're really not addressing people's legitimate gripes that your "reclamation" of the word girl makes life harder for them -- and me too. You miss the point that if you want to call your aunties or your friends girls, fine. But in the professional setting, it's demeaning, and i'd never touch a book written with me, a 30-something professional WOMAN, as its audience, that tries to get my attention by using the word girl. You're not my people because you apparently don't comprehend the difference in context between family/friends and workplace. I'll go read a book by someone who takes women seriously. go make your baked goods with your girlfriends and leave the real professional women to pursue their careers.

Kimberly Yorio: Are you serious? We absolutely understand the difference and have created two extremely successful businesses, employing women and men, by being ourselves in the workplace. Our use of the word doesn;t make life harder for you. Perhaps, you are making life harder for you by looking at everything as a battle. We are actually trying to make things easier for people by admitting that things are different because we are girls. We cry because our bodies our different: our tear glands are structure differently and we have more prolactin. We also give birth, which creates its own sets of challenges as we all know. So let's not sit around and proclaim that our Girl's Guides are the problem. Maybe the problem is that we're all worrying way too much about words, and not the real challenges that we deal with as women, girls, gals, ladies and whatever else we can call ourselves.


Mary Ellen Slayter: Thank you for joining us, Caitlin and Kim.

Kimberly Yorio: Thanks for the passionate comments today, women. We really enjoyed the dialogue. Feel free to continue the discussion at


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