There has been a lot of talk for as long as I can remember about women in the workplace, the low number of female leaders, unequal compensation for women, and harassment. How is this still an issue after so many years? It’s crazy. But part of it is because we let it happen. At least I did.
I knew that I was supposed to try to “get to the top”, but instead of climbing the ladder, I decided to stop on some middle rung and just hang on so I didn’t fall back down. I resisted any upward mobility, and turned down promotions and more responsibility. I let my career stagnate. I accepted lower pay for less responsibility because I believed less responsibility would help me to have what I felt was a better work/life balance. Something I like to call a life/work balance.
I thought I had to stay middle management in order to maintain balance. I put spending time with my family first (just as most employers suspect women will do) and let my career take a backseat, or middle ladder rung, to have that time and balance. And I just hung on while men (and a few women) climbed right over me. I didn’t mind, in some cases I even gave them a leg up, because I made the choice to stop so that I could spend more time with my family.
Oh, how I misled myself. It wasn’t my choice. Hanging out in the middle didn’t give me a better life/work balance. I don’t work any less than my male counterparts with bigger titles and paychecks. I have tons of responsibility. I travel a lot. And worse of all, I didn’t gain any time at home. The only thing I have given up is the title and pay of men doing the same work.
I’ve thought a lot about why I took the middle rung and also how I got there. How I let “the man” keep me down. It hasn’t always been big things. Sometimes it was small things. Like the language I chose to use. I write, and think, “I think” too often. “I think it would be better if…” Fuck that, what I should be stating confidently is that “it would be better if…”. That’s what men do. I often ask instead of tell. Men more often tell. Every time I say “I think” or asked instead of told, I put another nail in the coffin that contains the careers of women.
Sometimes the little thing has been that I have cared too much. I care about people’s feelings and do unprofessional things to avoid anyone getting hurt. I care about other people achieving their goals and feeling fulfilled. I put these things ahead of my own career. I doubt men do that.
But sometimes it has been big things, like the few role models I have had of women in their careers. First problem is that there are few, the second is that more often than not, they are bitches. Real bitches, not just women portraying male attributes and called bitches, but actually not-nice-people who treat others disrespectfully. They think being unkind and uncaring is what it takes to get ahead, and I guess they have been proven right. But that is not who I want to be. So I don’t.
It is up to me to fix this for myself. First of all, I have to want it and be willing to work for it. And I do. I want to be a leader who happens to be women, not a leader who is a woman.
If all else fails, bring a penis to your next meeting. They are available in many stores and online.