Image: This Rad Love
I read an article last week that I cannot get out of my mind. And between the anxiety I’m feeling with the healthcare vote today & the leftover anger I am feeling from this article – well I decided to blog about it. Let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert on this topic, but as a woman in IT, at a major, global corporation, I could not get over how many of these points rang true to me personally, and what I’ve witnessed being at the Manager level at my company (much less the C-Suite level). So this post will be about MY experience, what I see and experience personally and my plea to you all to read & share this article – especially with men you know in this space.
I spent a chunk of my Friday just copying and pasting sentence, after sentence of this article to my female co-worker. We talk often about what it’s like to be a woman on our Account, but even we were a bit flabbergasted at how insanely similar SO MUCH of these womens’ experiences were to ours. Like we could have written these quotes ourselves, or we could probably even find old messenger conversations between the two of us, that said the exact same things these women shared.
The article makes so many amazing points, but for me the ones that held truest were:
- Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion & are more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight
- Men are threatened by assertive women
- Women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive
- Women tend to get discouraged and drop out along the way (or decide they don’t actually want the top spot at a company) & are even disproportionately penalized for their stumbles
And after a few Lesley Knope rage gifs exchanged, the article (and my conversation with my female coworker) went on.
Women push for changes, which cause men to react badly. Women that attempt to negotiate for promotions were 30% more likely to be labeled intimidating, bossy, or aggressive.
And the final blow definitely came here:
Ms. Kullman found that men were being promoted within two years, women in three. “It wasn’t as overt as, “She’s too aggressive.’ ” she said, “It came down more to, “We’re not sure she’s ready for that job.”
This one was especially hard for me to read as I had JUST sat in performance sessions the week before and witnessed this with my own eyes & ears. I did not keep quiet during these sessions and felt strongly at challenging my fellow managers for actually defining WHY the man was ready but the woman was not. And one response yielded something to the affect of, she comes to me with frustrations and complaints of what is wrong, but no solutions. To which I asked, has anyone ever given her this feedback? To come with some suggested solutions too?
Well, the NYTimes had me covered, “But she and other women describe a culture in which men sometimes feel hesitant to give women honest but hard feedback, which can be necessary for them to ascend, because they fear women may react emotionally.” How are we to climb the corporate ladder (if that is what we want), when we aren’t given the proper feedback to change or grow to get there?
If you think, like a lot of my male coworkers, that this article is silly or not what you experience (or as a man, not how you treat your female coworkers), then I would invite you to understand that just because it’s not affecting you, does not mean it isn’t affecting so many others. Because it is. I posted this article on Facebook and the only two comments I got, were from former male-coworkers of mine, making a joke about me womansplaining this article to them (yes really).
This is not a joke. And no, their comments were not funny. This is a reality, and like most (all?) issues facing women, it’s infinitely harder if you are a non-white woman.
So where do we go from here? These articles are great in informing & highlighting these issues, statistics, & experiences, but we need to do more than write & share these articles (but really, please read & share this article). We need to have conversations, we need to find ways to stay in the game and influence where we can. Personally, I will not keep quiet – I will continue to point out these occurrences when I see them and I will continue to challenge my male coworkers when I can, even when it’s almost always met with “oh there she goes again” eye-rolls. We also can create the change by starting our own companies – forging our own paths that aren’t already so stuck in the patriarchy and bringing as many people up with us as we can. We can win small battles in Corporate America – but the culture here as been this way for a very long time and I don’t know how fast we can change it.
I want faster change and for that I think forging our own paths is important – it’s one of the main reasons I love running this business & I am hopeful that lots of women are doing the same (plenty I know, are). My dad shared this awesome USA Today article with me, “Women business owners will save America” and this makes me hopeful. I also read a collection of short interviews with some seriously fierce & inspiring black comediennes yesterday, and a lot of them had the same message: be true to yourself, and if you don’t like the path that men/someone else is dictating for you – make your own. We do what we can to fight this ongoing battle and we continue to raise others up that need even more help than I do and give voice to those that don’t feel like they can speak up like I do. It’s the only way we will truly win.