I was born in 1982 — about 20 years after the women’s rights movement began. Growing up in what many have called a post-feminist culture, I did not really experience institutional gender bias. “Girl power” was celebrated, and I felt that all doors were open to me.
When I was in college, the female students excelled academically, sometimes running laps around their male counterparts. Women easily ascended to school leadership positions and prestigious internships. In my graduating class (more than half of which was female) there was a feeling of camaraderie, a sense that we were helping each other succeed.
Then I left the egalitarianism of the classroom for the cubicle, and everything changed. The realization that the knowledge and skills acquired in school don’t always translate at the office is something that all college graduates, men and women, must face. But for women, I have found, the adjustment tends to be much harder. It was certainly hard for me — I lasted only nine months in my first job out of college.
Inspired by my own rocky entrance into the work world, I decided to interview other young women and discovered that many of them, like me, were facing a steep workplace learning curve. What was it, I wondered, that was making our first career steps so wobbly when we had been so accomplished and self-assured in school?