It’s been 44 years since the “Battle of Sexes” aired on live TV. But, given the conversations around women and work today, the tennis match — and the movie about it — feels surprisingly topical.
Back then, it was Billie Jean King facing off against Bobby Riggs, who said of the match, “I want to prove that women are lousy, they stink and they don’t belong on the same court as a man.” (He really said that.)
Those are not the words the engineer at Google used, but that guy did claim there aren’t more women engineers in tech because...biology. (Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and Annie Easley would like a word, by the way.)
As a result, one of the underlying messages we women receive for how to be successful at work is to act more like a man. Be more decisive. Take on more risk. Assert yourself.
Here’s the first problem I have with that advice — no matter how well-intentioned: It’s just not that simple.
It’s exhausting to act like a different person than you are day in and day out. (I can’t tell you how many women I hear from who say this can factor into why they leave a job or the workforce…which is bad for all of us.) It also puts us in a “double bind” because while we can get dinged for being too feminine, we also get backlash when we’re too masculine. Trademark catch-22.
The second problem? It’s just bad advice.
So much research tells us that diversity — all kinds of diversity, including gender diversity — drives superior business results. Not by a little, but by a lot. Hiring a bunch of diverse individuals and instructing them to act like the majority defeats the whole purpose.
Despite this, I believe there’s never been a better time than today to be a woman at work.
Why? Because back then, if your boss promoted Steve and Jim and John and Todd (seriously, even Todd???) ahead of you at work, you had just a few choices: you could stay, you could go to another company, or you could go home.
Today, if our company isn’t treating us well, we can find another job, armed with more information about culture and employee policies from sites like InHerSight.
Today, we can build non-traditional careers, using companies like Werk.
And today, we can start our own businesses as the cost of technology — and almost everything else about starting a business — comes down.
We now have the tools that our older sisters only dreamed of to close the money gaps that impact our professional lives: the gender pay gap, the gender work achievement gap, the gender investing gap, the unpaid labor gap, etc.
Perhaps we won’t close these gaps completely anytime soon, but the stars are aligning for us to make some pretty big strides.
This article originally appeared in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle.