Beauty, Power and Panty Lines

We ran a series on Women of HR where contributors discussed whether or not there are lines, i.e., societal expectations, in the workplace that are different for women vs. men. 

I was thinking about the amazing posts in the series as I, mascara in hand, got ready for the day. Gender differences. Societal expectations. Been there. Done that.

I worked in a male (military) culture, was almost not hired for a position because I was living with a man who was not yet my husband and experienced the joys of being on the receiving end of harassment more than once. 

I see these instances as matter of gender related lines, yet, I don’t see the same when looking at my overall success and failure. A friend posted on Twitter a few weeks ago, “I’ve never experienced or been aware of gender inequity. . . is it male/female OR something else? If I fail, it’s ME, not because I’m a woman.”

Welcome to my world.

Naivete? No. And I am sure about that. I am also sure that there are ‘lines’ in the workplace a man clearly does not have to endure.

What ‘lines’ am I talking about?

I am talking about bathroom lines, panty lines, hem lines, laugh lines, and (biological) time lines. How about lip liner, eyebrow lines (aka unibrows), hair lines, and tan lines? Let’s not forget smile lines, crow’s feet, and cheek lines.

Think about this:

  • The Worldwatch Institue reports that the amount of money spent annually on cosmetics in the United States is $8 billion. This is $1 billion less than the amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide water and sanitation for all people in developing nations.
  • Nancy Lynn Kanter, Beauty is Inside writes on her website that our culture bombards us with ways to make our external selves sparkly, svelte, and sexy. Unrealistic standards of beauty not only hurts our self worth, but diminishes our social and political power.

Wow. A man can set his alarm clock to t-10 minutes to departure, jump in the shower and hit the door running right on time. Not me. I don’t get very far or anywhere very fast as I bemoan the morning rituals that delay my departure (stomps feet and sifts through her Lancome, Clinique and Jane Iredale Minerals stuffs).

“The … problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” — Gloria Steinem

Unlearn the morning ritual? Fly in the face of cultural messages? Prepare for the inevitable questions, “Are you feeling well?” “Did you change your hair?”  “Is that a gray hair I see?”

No, not this girl. 

Lines exist. So what? 

I am much more than the color of my eye shadow and my power is not in my hemline.

Photo credit iStockPhoto

About the Author

Lisa Rosendahl

Lisa is an astute Human Resources leader with more than 18 years of professional human resources experience with expertise in leading people, inspiring commitment and managing change. A former Army officer, Lisa is also a wife, mother, speaker and writer and authors a personal blog at


Lisa Rosendahl

Jennifer, there are so many lines – and I was just scratching the obvious surface!

Amy, I don’t think gender lines will ever cease to exist, I am thinking that successes in diversity and inclusion take us that much closer to them being a non-issue. In the meantime – girl power!

Krista, you bring out an excellent question – what do these lines mean for us as professional women? Do I see a companion post in your future 🙂

Krista Francis

Thanks for highlighting all the lines, Lisa! It is hard to makes sense of them and what they mean to us as professional women in the workforce.

Amy McGinnis

Great post, Lisa! If all of us had this same confidence, then perhaps these some of these gender lines will cease to exist? I think we need to work hard at teaching and encouraging the next generation of female HR pros to believe in the themselves in the same way!

Thanks for the post!

Jennifer V. Miller


Until reading this blog post, I never really realized how many “lines” women endure. In the end, I come to the same place as you– yep, the lines exist. And no, I won’t let that stop me.

Nicely done!


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