Inspiration December 16, 2016
Big hair, shoulder pads and a personality to match – this not only describes Dolly Parton in “9 to 5” but also the ’80s woman overall. The ’80s businesswoman was a beast, a woman in a man’s world who knew the skills for success. She worked her way to the top with a can of Aquanet at her side. Think Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl” or Elizabeth Perkins in “Big.” Not only do they rock that gravity-defying hair, they changed the face of the modern business world.
Their impact hasn’t lessened as the years have past, either. In fact, women today still have plenty to learn from their ’80s predecessors – including these five skills that every modern woman should learn to rock.
To borrow the famous (and quite repetitive) lines of Rihanna, women have to “work work work” – and the ’80s alpha female was a pro at that. In the ’80s, the business world transformed as more woman entered the workforce in droves. How much growth are we talkin’? To sum it up:
Yet women in the 1980s still faced many of the same problems women in the workforce are today. As of 1984, only 29 percent of married women held full-time jobs. Studies performed in the 1980s also showed that married women took less advantage of their financial potential than single women.
What can the modern women learn from these signs of progress – and these pitfalls – in the 1980s? Basically, even though more women today are working (including in full-time positions), we still need to work, work, work at making even more progress. The ’80s female alpha didn’t stop pushing for equality when they saw the scales start to tip in their favor, and neither should we.
It’s also important to remember that, while the ’80s alpha female may seem like a stereotype and joke as seen in sketches like in Amy Schumers “80’s Ladies,” these women filled power roles. A 1993 issue of The Baltimore Sun states, “For the first time, the 1990 census shows, women outnumbered men in Maryland in ‘professional specialty’ occupations – a U.S. Census Bureau category that includes everything from doctors, lawyers and scientists to teachers, nurses and librarians.”
The modern woman has continued to break glass ceilings in similar manners. In fact, women now hold 51.5 percent of management, professional and related positions, according to workforce reports by Catalyst.com. However, only four percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies are held by women.
The ’80s women proved that women are just as capable, strong and efficient in powerful positions. The modern woman needs to use that proof as drive to raise that four percent even higher.
Have you ever walked into an important office presentation, only to suddenly feel underdressed as the audience eyes your arrival? While you may want to stop short of digging out your mom’s old shoulder pads, you should steal the idea of a “power suit” from her closet.
In the ’80s, women dressed for battle everyday at work. They wore jackets with big shoulders and pants, both of which “disguised disguised a woman’s figure and took the focus off her gender, creating a feeling of authority as the traditional sex roles continued to blur,” according to Vice.
READ MORE: How to Look the Part Professionally
To get the same powerful aura, follow in your predecessors’ high heels and find clothing that makes you feel like a badass. Maybe it’s a fitted suit or a swipe of red lipstick right before your morning meeting. What you wear is less important than how you feel when you wear it, so discover what a modern “power suit” looks like for you.
Most women know that getting to the top isn’t easy. As viewers of the ’80s classic “9 to 5” saw, women often face discrimination, sexual harassment, pay inequality and struggles with balancing work and a family. The ’80s alpha female, though, only sees one solution: action. And while women today probably shouldn’t kidnap their boss in order to improve their work’s gender equality – like Judy, Violet and Doralee in the movie – women shouldn’t passively accept their fates either.
Self-proclaimed “alpha female” actress Kalki Koechlin is one of them. For Koechlin, speaking up about issues that are important to her comes naturally and she doesn’t care about any possible backlash. Her advice for how more women can become alpha females? Koechlin says, “Women are always told what to do and I want to change that by not telling them what to do. Do what you want, girls.”
The ’80s woman, perhaps more so than any other, experienced great change in her life. Suddenly, women could work. They could gain footing in professional fields and they could rock a power suit and bright makeup while they were at it.
Since the ’80s, however, the meaning of “alpha female” is shifting. Women are still competitive, driven and willing to grapple with the boys for that high-paying promotion but, as The Guardian explains, they can also reveal a softer side. Think of figures like BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan or even First Lady Michelle Obama.
They’re tough, they’re successful, but they brag about their families just as much as their latest work project. And in the true spirit of an ’80s female alpha, that’s a change that the modern woman can embrace.
The truth is, while we may laugh at the crazy hair and huge shoulder pads of our ’80s counterparts, we still have a lot to learn from these women. The ’80s female alpha formed a foundation of determination, authority, self-empowerment and drive that still is still seen today. In fact, the modern woman can even use those building blocks use to create her own idea of an “alpha female” all in one. With maybe just a little touch of hairspray.
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