6 Things Working Women Should Never Write in Email
By now, you've likely heard about the essay Jennifer Lawrence wrote for the Lenny newsletter discussing the gender pay gap earlier this week. If not, here's a quick synopsis: JLaw explained that after the Sony hack — which leaked emails showing she took home a lot less money than her American Hustle male costars Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper — she was mad. Not at Sony necessarily, but at herself.
"I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early," Lawrence wrote. She goes on to add that she didn’t barter aggressively because she didn’t want to be perceived as abrasive, but concludes by writing: "I'm over trying to find the 'adorable' way to state my opinion and still be likable!" Amen, sister.
On the heels of this, Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post geniusly took things one step further — identifying a language called "Woman in a Meeting," and then translating famous sentences in history into how a woman in a meeting would have said them (An example: "Give me liberty, or give me death." Woman in a Meeting: "Dave, if I could, I could just — I just really feel like if we had liberty it would be terrific, and the alternative would just be awful, you know? That's just how it strikes me. I don't know.")
As a women's studies minor and English literature major who's now a working mom, and who's read Tina Fey's "Bossy Pants," Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In," and Anne Marie Slaughter's "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," this kind of speak is something I think about a lot. I've definitely recast an email a time or two because I'm cognizant of the Woman in a Meeting linguistic crutches and I don't want to succumb to them. Sometimes I succeed — and sometimes I fail, giving in to the societal pull to sound less direct than I'd like out of a fear of seeming pushy, bossy, or, worst of all, shrill. I can guarantee these are things most men don’t spend time pondering. Don't misread me, I'm not saying their way is always the right way. What I am saying is I've compiled a list of six words and phrases I'm actively trying to ban from my Outlook sent folder. Working women: Please take note.
1. "I'm sorry ...”
I'm not sorry anymore! We have to stop apologizing for asking people to do things, particularly when it's something that's part of their job.
2. "Just ..."
We need to stop using this word as a way to weaken a request or our opinion.
3. "This might be a stupid question but ..."
Like they said in school, there are no stupid questions. Well, sometimes there are — but ask, don't caveat.
4. "If you want my two cents ..."
A man usually gives his three cents, and he certainly doesn't offset his thoughts with this phrase.
5. "I may be wrong but ..."
Don’t lessen the impact of what you say before you say it.
6. "Does this make sense?"
I do this one a lot, and I can't stand it. Trust that what you wrote makes sense. Don't openly question in email whether or not your thinking is sensical.
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• Asking Women to “Think Like a Man" Is the Worst Way to Celebrate National Women's Day
• 7 Things We Learned From Lean In's Study on Women in the Workplace
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