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BY Georgene Huang

Fairygodboss Discussion Boards: Because Work is Personal

Fairygodboss discussion boards

Photo credit: Creative Commons

TAGS:Fairygodboss, Career advice

Today we’re excited to launch a new community feature on our site: Fairygodboss discussion boards.

We already have a place where you leave some pretty moving “Confessions”, but you told us you wanted a place to actually interact; to share and hear from other women on workplace and personal topics.

Fairygodboss’ discussion boards are exactly that: a small group of women have already participated in a beta version, and they’ve left some great examples of questions, comments, and answers on a range of topics from how to negotiate a raise and what to wear to a tech start-up interview, to how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace and actually practice equal parenting.

Sometimes we have never even thought about the stuff that shows up on these boards. For example, one woman writes, “Does anyone take a digital break over the weekend or found a way to tell your manager that you won't really be available on the weekends to answer emails quickly? I want to have the conversation but not sure how to start it without looking bad…”

While much of our lives are rightly divided between the personal and professional (eg.Facebook for the personal and LinkedIn for the professional), sometimes drawing a bright line doesn’t seem very realistic. According to one survey, 40% of employees have had a romantic relationship with a colleague. And a recent poll of Fairygodboss users suggests that we have close friendships at work. A majority of you told us that you would confide in a colleague at work if something uncomfortable happened to you there.

In general, we think this is a good thing (well, maybe not the office romance part unless you’re Michelle and Barack Obama). Being able to bring our whole selves at work means that we spend less energy compartmentalizing and hiding things about ourselves that we fear may be socially unacceptable. For example, I used to work in the private equity industry where I observed that it was pretty rare for women (or men) to talk openly about their children beyond cursory mentions. I didn’t have children at the time (I didn’t even have a boyfriend then). But I clearly read the social cues about what was “OK” and what was not. Based on what I saw, I certainly wasn’t about to volunteer details about my personal life, marital status, nor plans to have children in the future.

I’ve talked to many women about the intersection of work and their personal lives and discovered that things are way messier than two neat “professional” versus “personal” boxes when it comes to the issues women face at work. We want and deserve to be taken seriously in the office, to be promoted and to become leaders. However, we don’t want to hide the fact that we have personal lives and aren’t always “tough executive types” with our friends and children. It can be very stressful and emotionally draining to constantly monitor ourselves and change personas.

Life and work can both be complicated sometimes. For example, even if you work at a very inclusive, diverse company, you may still feel nervous about telling your managers when you become pregnant. There’s just no telling whether you’ll be judged (even if benignly) about whether and how your priorities may change. Even anticipating those judgments can shape the way we see ourselves and our choices.

All of this is to say that we want to channel the amazing insights that so many of you in this community have shared with us off-line, in your emails, and conversations with us. We believe in the power of our community to support women, help you realize you’re not alone, and provide super practical tips. Join our women’s discussion board and please let us know if you have any ideas or feedback!

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