In December 2018, singer Miley Cyrus appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “updated” the 1953 classic song “Santa Baby.”
Her new lyrics were met with laughs and calls for empowerment. In truth, they express everything that women want from their workplace — at Christmas and all year.
The song is a great reminder for “Santa” (aka the “employer” here) to recognize what women experience too often in the workplace — and to make gender equity a priority at work.
In the original song, a woman asks Santa for gifts, such as a yacht, convertible and jewelry, and she promises to be “just as good” next year if Santa checks her off his Christmas list — meaning, a quid pro quo of gifts for sex.
In the updated classic, Cyrus sings about gender stereotypes, equal pay and sexual harassment. She starts the song by telling Santa she doesn’t need jewelry or fancy presents from him because she can buy her “own d**n stuff.”
Yep — women work, too. These new lyrics defy the stereotype of women needing to be taken care of by men. This bias creeps into the workplace too often, causing men to be “chivalrous.” Although this might seem polite, it, in effect, demeans women, causing their authority and opinions to lose value. Women are equals. If they would be paid fairly for their work, they could surely take care of themselves if they choose.
And this leads to Cyrus’ second point: “Listen, Santa, to what I say; a girl’s best friend is equal pay.”
Pay equity. We’ve been talking about this for decades — and yet, women still report that they are not compensated the same as men. Equal pay should be a priority for employers, but if it isn’t, it needs to be for 2023. Women performing the same or similar job with the same or similar skills, education, experience and performance should earn the same pay as their male counterparts.
Cyrus also asks Santa to “Stop interrupting me when I talk.” This is a common complaint from women in the workplace. Men speak over them and ignore their ideas.
Frequently, I hear that a man will not only interrupt the woman but also then finish her sentence with “his” idea, which, in reality, he learned from the woman.
Women also observe that they will share a suggestion, and it is ignored. A man will share the same thing, and it is lauded as brilliant.
Even women in leadership and senior executive positions experience being dismissed, undermined and devalued based solely on their gender.
Cyrus then sings about sexual harassment, advising Santa to not send her pictures of his private parts, adding, “Santa baby, I’d love to know my a** won’t get grabbed — at work — by some ignorant jerk. Tell the dirtbag to put away the chimney tonight.”
These lyrics, while sung in fun, have real meaning because they reference exactly what too many women experience on the job. Women are sexualized and objectified in all aspects of society, and this infiltrates the workplace.
I’ve heard every excuse imaginable:
- “You don’t understand my relationship with Sally.”
- “I’m just joking around.”
- “Everyone is just trying to have fun.”
- “No one is offended.”
- “Lighten up.”
- “We are humans.”
- “I didn’t mean to harass her.”
- “You are taking all the fun out of the workplace.”
Stop making excuses and stop tolerating sexual harassment in your workplace, effective immediately.
This will require strong messaging and removing all sexual behavior from the workplace (even if it is believed to be consensual) to avoid any misunderstanding.
Employers, your female employees are singing this to you this holiday season.
This Christmas and all year long, deliver gender equity at work.