I sit here on my couch with a fresh manicure, a “do it yourself” facial mask waiting to dry, and a glass of freshly poured Ravenswood Zinfandel. What’s all the to-do for you ask? Well, in honor of International Woman’s Day, I thought it was appropriate to put this topic on the table because in truth, I am about it. And to do that frankly, I need a glass of wine in hand.
Mad Men = Mad Woman
It’s helpful for me to be in a relaxed state before talking about woman’s equality, because I know how I get. First, I get all tense in the shoulders. Then my voice gets loud (or in this case, my typing). Then my face gets hot…and so on. When I would watch the Mad Men series, I remember these things would happen because I was so disgusted at how things were in the office, not all that long ago. More importantly, I was up in arms about how much of that world still lingers in the workplace today. But let’s be honest, I’ve known for a while that there is something to this topic of women and equality.
Early Signs the World Is Not Fair
The earliest memory I have of being denied something simply because I was a woman was when I was in 5th grade. During gym class on a warm fall day, the class was going outside to play football. YES! I loved playing football with my older brother and his friends in the street. I still remember that when a car was coming, everyone would say “MOTION!!” to get out of the way. Where “motion” came from, I have no idea.
Anyway, the issue at hand was that the administrator determined that girls were not allowed to play football and had to play some alternative sport. WHAT?!!? Are you kidding me, I exclaimed? Well screw that shit. I didn’t know much about petitions or moving folks to action, but I knew that if I had enough signatures from my classmates, then I could legitimately try to get the rule changed. And so I proceeded to go get signatures, only they weren’t signatures they were X’s. After I had about 30 X’s. I said to myself; “Oh shit”, I don’t think this will mean anything because it could look like I just wrote all those in. Worry not, I am not a lobbyist – how could I be after that ordeal? The fall turned to winter, and I dropped the fight because I realized the X’s would be a problem. But I do remember even at that young age wondering why some of the boys refused to sign? They didn’t think it was a good idea for girls to play football either?! I was baffled, but it was then I realized that the information they were receiving (consciously or unconsciously) just wasn’t right.
So yes, the struggle is real.
Negotiate Like A MAN!
I’m sure you must have heard, read or experienced the fact that part of the reason why there is a pay gap between men and women is that women don’t negotiate. If my sphere of friends is any indication, I can tell you it is TRUE! Their are women, with advanced degrees who are scared to counter offer because they fear the offer will be rescinded. I recently spoke with a very bright young lady, 10 years younger than me concerned that negotiating would ruin her good will with the organization.
So the issue is real my friends! From my view of the world, women don’t negotiate nearly as much as they should, and I doubt that when they do, they aren’t nearly as aggressive as they could be.
My message to you: mentor the women in your life. Help them understand that negotiating is part of business. It’s not personal. And, it can even help garner respect, especially when the position requires negotiating on behalf of the company.
Now look, I’m not sitting here trying to say I am a master negotiator. I am certainly not. BUT, I will say with pride that I have countered every job offer I ever had…
Because the GAP is real!
Women on the Top
I have often wondered why it is that more women who are at the top, don’t reach down and reach across to help other women. Why don’t we band together more? Why don’t we lend a hand more? Why aren’t we all adamant that women who are successful in climbing ladders ought to reach down and help bring the rest up?
I didn’t conduct some extensive study on this, but the answer I come up with is FEAR. Women who make it far up the ladder, who have had to overcome every kind of double standard. They had to be nice, but not a pushover. They had to be stern, but couldn’t cross over that “bitch” line. They had to be firm in their convictions, but not a tyrant. It’s hard work, walking that tightrope.
My hypothesis is that they fear that they can’t make a single mistake – especially when it comes to lobbying for talent. Fear that you have to be perfect to show that the right decision was made to put faith in you. Heaven forbid you try and help the woman who just doesn’t measure up. What will be said then? I think this fear also comes from the fact that there is STILL often only a token woman at the top. I’m sure that having one woman in the executive rank is a lonely place. Heck, one woman in a conference room can be intimidating.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of women that do reach out, that are supporters of other women (and I have a long list of them to thank myself), but I think we have a long way to go to make this a bigger part of the culture.
Look at your own organization. How many women are in the C-suite? How many are on the Board of Directors? How many are on the Board of Advisors? How many of them are NOT in HR?
There is a running joke in my industry that the women out-number the men at the bottom of the pyramid. But once you get to a certain level the tables turn and there are far more men. There is something very wrong here.
The lack of representation at the top is real.
Back to the Powerful Woman Inside
Part of the journey I am on is to uncover and bring back from under the rug, the attributes and qualities that make me the powerful woman that I am. I’ve realized that over time in my personal and my professional life, society, individuals, institutions and everything in between has in some way made me shy away from some of the best qualities, which are attributed to being a woman. Maybe I have hid my compassion in the workplace for fear of appearing soft. Maybe I ignored my woman’s intuition in part because other people were telling me to look the other way. I am not even sure what the full extent of the damage is, but I know that the wild woman inside is slowly revealing itself to me. Maybe this blog post is even a small manifestation of that.
The struggle to overcome forces that want you to ignore or “adjust” those things that make you a woman, is real.
So What Next?
Lord knows I have not scratched the surface on this topic. Maybe there will even be a part two someday. But I think here is where I will let the conversation rest, but would love to hear your thoughts.
My hope is that whatever your gender is, you keep this conversation going. Be an advocate. Ask the questions. Look at your organizations’ leadership. Get involved. Until there is equality, full potential of any unit – be it family or institution – will not be reached.
In the meantime, I must go rinse off this facial mask. Because the struggle for radiant skin, is real. 😉
For more on International Women’s Day: