Posted by: monicaholtz | October 27, 2016

Female Dominated Workplace

A few hours ago I came home from my job at Victoria’s Secret and thought that this would be a great topic for my blog post. As I said, I work at Victoria’s Secret and I’ve been working there since the end of May. I’ve had the privileged of working at two different stores, one near where I live in Northern Virginia over the summer, and the one at Patrick Henry Mall, and at both locations my experience has been pretty similar. Out of the two stores I’ve worked at, I have only had one male coworker, who happens to be gay, out of 30-40 total coworkers. All of my managers have been women and all of our district and regional managers are women as well.

Victoria’s Secret, however, was founded by a man in 1977. How was it that a man in 1977 was successful enough of a businessman to create arguably the world’s most successful and well known lingerie store? He most likely had help from women along the way (I don’t know for sure though), but he still came up with the idea himself, and others thought it was a good idea. Why though? He had little to no expert power, and the only previous experience he had was a business degree from Stanford. Do you think the idea of Victoria’s Secret would’ve been more or less well received or successful if the business was pursued by a woman?

Back to my coworkers and managers, I would argue that all of my managers and many of my coworkers are very ambitious people. My managers constantly set lofty goals for all of the employees and work so hard to make sure we accomplish those goals. My coworkers are also always focused on moving up in the company. Whenever a managerial or supervisor position opens up, several people are stepping up to apply. Perhaps they feel so ambitious in their jobs because there are no men to compete with, and no men setting the goals or doing the hiring. That goes back to the idea that we talked about in class that women are more successful in workplaces where there are others who look like them. Does this prevent men from being just as successful as women in the company?

In a typical work day for Victoria’s Secret, there are definitely more feminine qualities of leadership used than masculine. It’s very important for the people selling the bras to customers to be encouraging and cooperative not only to the customer but with her fellow coworkers as well to make sure the customer gets the best items for her and has a positive experience. It’s important for a seller to be upbeat and listen to the customers needs. Do you think these job requirements make it difficult for a man, or even a woman who doesn’t have these feminine qualities, to succeed in Victoria’s Secret, and do you think it even discourages them from applying?

It’s interesting to see a work environment that has so few males, but it still operates well, and has been thriving for almost 40 years. Do you think Victoria’s Secret would operate better if it had more male employees? We’ve talked about how organizations would benefit from being exposed to a woman’s perspective, but do you think the same applies for a company that is so female-dominated and female-focused being exposed to a man’s perspective?

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Responses

  1. Personally, when I am shopping for something as intimate as bras and underwear, I am not looking for the advise of a male. Since men do not typically wear the items that are for sale at Victoria’s Secret, I don’t believe that their perspective would be helpful in this situation. Although it was started by a male, I don’t believe the initial idea of VS was the comfort of underwear and bras. I don’t know his motives or morals but I could guess that it was nice to have a male perspective in the design of the lingerie only because it would be helpful to understand what men are interested in seeing on a woman’s body but otherwise, I don’t believe it is necessary to consult them. I would feel uncomfortable in an environment with males, while I am shopping for underwear and bras.

  2. I really like that you are asking questions regarding men in a female oriented company. I think its a great way to think and observe this type of organizational structure. Honestly, I never thought of the questions, is it harder for men to move up in a women dominated company? But I can understand why more men aren’t into working for this company, nor do I feel that it would necessarily be beneficial for them to work as a sales representative when working hands on with women. Since they do not wear the products, really the only advice they can give is what they may think looks good on women….but that can be really awkward.

    In regards to leadership, I’m going to be really gender biased here, but its because I think that if you want to get women to buy things from a women’s lingerie store, you need their opinions, so I think that most leadership needs to be from women. And women helping women, even at these lower levels is super beneficial for other women to be so ambitious because they are seeing women all around them being ambitious. But I also think that this cannot be a completely women dominated company. There has to be some male leadership, because men do by lingerie for their significant others. But they need to be equal, and one should not dominate the other. But its examples like this if VS had a male CEO….I’m really not sure that would make sense for a man to decide what women like in regards to their bras and underwear….

  3. Some careers as well as specific companies appeal to women exclusively, which is fine. Society shames both men and women for wanting certain work environments that are outside of the norm. For example, some people find it uncomfortable when a woman is a urologist or a man is a gynecologist. Yes, they are doctors but a man’s medical interest in treating women’s’ vaginas may be interpreted as perverseness, same with the female urologist, by the general public. If a woman had founded Victoria’s Secret it would have been perceived as a feminist or woman empowerment company, just generally seen as more political, than if a man started a clothing store. I have never seen a male employee in a VS and honestly would not be a big fan of a man giving me advice on what underwear to buy. I do not want a male stranger knowing that intimate type of information whereas it seems like friendly, feminine advice from a female employee. I would agree that women are more aggressive and take on more leadership qualities in an all-female setting rather than assuming that a man would step up to lead the group.

  4. I do not think that Victoria’s Secret would operate better with male employees. I feel that it is a nice change in our society to have a female dominated industry. In addition to that, I feel that the clientele would be a little uncomfortable if a male was taking their measurements for bra size; I know I would. Additionally, I would not want a male employee checking my out at the register while I was purchasing such intimate items.

    I also work in a predominately female position, but the difference is the men who apply and work are idolized. I work as a camp counselor for children with physical and intellectual disabilities. It just so happens that a lot of our campers are male and therefore, especially the older ones, relate better to the male counselors rather than the female counselors. In addition, the managers like the male counselors because they are perceived to be more competent in areas such such as transferring campers and tiring campers out.

  5. Honestly, I would feel a bit uncomfortable shopping for bras and underwear in front of men. Because this is a female-centered environment I think that men would feel out of place. I think it is more comforting to get advise about under garments from women than men. There are some companies that appeal more to women than men because of what the job/skill entails. This particular company is more intimate and personal that women exclusively share with one another.

  6. This is a great topic!
    To be honest, I do not think the store would’ve been the success it is now if a woman had came up with the idea. Mostly due to cultural context and the fact it was a store for lingerie. But since it is a store for women, I feel like that is why more women work there. They have the knowledge, like since middle school they know about bras and maybe that is why there is more women. But if this theme is expanded on, that’s why makeup workers are female, hairdressers tend to be female, and typically any other clothing store tends to be female. I’m not sure the mostly female workers is a trend just in this store but in stores that are for women. It is easier to sell something if you relate to the person. I would be more likely to believe another females opinion if the foundation or bra I’m trying works or not. This is due to the fact they just know, women typically wear makeup, so they can tell if the foundation shade is too dark or not. Same goes for bras.

  7. There are some things that are and I would argue SHOULD be gender specific, this is one of them. Victoria’s Secret is a company that caters to women’s bodies and the needs that especially arise from having a woman’s body. It’s okay to say that this is not really a man’s place because men don’t truly understand women’s bodies-because they don’t have them. Sometimes I feel like with our generation especially this has become a taboo thing to say. But I’ll never understand why. There are some things that are FOR women and some things that are FOR men. Bras and panties and lingerie, are for women’s bodies. And when I’m shopping for those things, I would never ask a man for help because a man without boobs and a vagina doesn’t know what I want or what will be most comfortable for my boobs and my vagina. And comfort is another thing, as someone has already said, those things are intimate. And I don’t really want a man’s perspective on my boobs and my vagina and what will be most flattering or fitting for them, it would be awkward and I wouldn’t want to shop somewhere that a man is giving me advice about the intimacies of the female anatomy.

  8. I really like a lot of the points you have made–especially questioning whether the business would have been as successful if a woman had started it, as well as talking about the impact of having mostly women in your job.

    I personally think that had a woman started it, Victoria’s Secret might not have been as successful. It’s completely fine if someone disagrees with me, but I think that maybe the focus of Victoria’s Secret had it been established by a woman may have been more utilitarian rather than “sexy.” I feel like a woman would have established a company based on fundamental needs (for example, selling bras that control side-boob or nursing bras or something), while I think the focus of Victoria’s Secret (as it is) is very much focused on the sexiness of the things they sell, rather than the functionality. Maybe this would have still been popular–women may have flocked to a company that sells functional bras–but I think it would certainly have a smaller, more precise focus group of customers. Victoria’s Secret now is probably the most known lingerie company, and it’s because it is seen as the place to get “sexy” bras. Women don’t shop at Victoria’s Secret for a functional, well priced bra–they shop there for the lacy things that are expensive and luxurious. Perhaps a woman starting the business would have gone this route, but somehow I still doubt it.

    As for a workplace full of women:I have led in the context of all women before, but I also worked at a Tropical Smoothie this summer that was largely male dominated. I noticed a very significant difference in the leadership within the groups. My manager at Tropical Smoothie was a man, as were most of my coworkers and the store owner, so the interactions between the men and women were very interesting. The women often worked their butts off–whenever there was a lull in business, we would scrub the sink, wash the counters, and prep food. In many cases, the men would sit in the corner on their phones while we did these little tasks to keep busy. However, when it came down to actually making food and smoothies, sometimes the men would treat the women like they were children, even if the women worked there longer. In the all-female environments in which I’ve seen leadership, this was not the case at all. All of the members of those organizations were expected to contribute, and I rarely saw women treat each other like children or be patronizing to others. In the all-female environment, I felt very encouraged to apply to higher leadership positions and grow in my role, whereas at my job, I was strangely really not interested in promotions. I liked my manager and the store owner, but I didn’t feel motivated to be more than just a normal worker. I have to wonder if this is because of the difference in the number of women in the organization, or if some other part of the context did this–either way, it’s an interesting difference.

  9. I agree with all of the other commenters in regard to the question of whether or not I think that it would be helpful to have more male sales associates—I don’t want to talk about my boobs with strangers in general, and I especially don’t want to if they don’t have boobs themselves. I also agree that due to the context, that it probably would have been less successful had a woman tried to start VS.

    The part of your post that talked about your colleagues ambition was interesting to me. Are these women more ambitious because there are less men to compete with? I personally do not agree with the idea that the average woman is less ambitious than the average man. I honestly have encountered more ambitious females in my life than ambitious males. I would guess that the reason many of the women at your work are ambitious is simply because they are naturally ambitious. I do think though, that having a mostly all-female environment would encourage naturally less ambitious women to be more ambitious.


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