WOMEN IN TRANSITION – Gender: It DOES Matter!
by Amanda Eva C., M.Ed.
Did you ever feel like you brought the same amount of skills to the table that a man has, yet were often overlooked? Put to the side? Ignored?
Do you feel like you are going crazy…and people often tell you “Oh, it’s all in your head”.
Well, I’m here to tell you 2 things.
- You are NOT going crazy.
- It is NOT in your head.
The fact of the matter is that gender does matter and it does affect how us women navigate the business world – a world most often dominated by men. I would go a step further and say that along with gender, race and class also have an impact on your/our success.
My point for discussing gender is not to make you feel defeated or down on yourself – it is to help you become more conscious and aware on the social construct that gender and its roles impose on us women. If you are a man reading this, then you also play your role in maintaining these social constructs in place.
It is only natural that I use my experiences as an example on how gender can really hinder our success as a woman. I will follow my story with some key things I’ve had to do in order to work around these limitations and societal norms.
I am an educated Woman of Color. I was raised in an environment with a very strong mother as a role model. My mom is an educated woman herself, having earned one of the most prestigious degrees as a Medical Doctor and following with her own medical practice. I witnessed how much she struggled balancing her home life and career and how society as a whole had completely different expectations of her than what she wanted out of her own life. For me, it has been no different.
I have had [recent] experiences where my work is often overlooked, undermined, and frequently credited to a man. No matter how much involved I had become in any particular project, my name was hidden or unmentioned for the most part. Despite the amount of education I brought to the table, my role as a woman was that of being silent and “doing what I’m told”.
When I don’t follow the norm I usually get punished, targeted, “blackballed”, reprimanded, and then there is the retaliation. It’s not a walk in the park I tell ya.
Gender roles have a way of making us feel guilty — for speaking up, speaking too much, knowing too much, or doing too much. We feel guilty for taking the initiative, or for taking control in situations we know will have a positive outcome. It’s not supposed to be our place to be outspoken or even a figure others listen to…we are only “just women” after all.
The problem with gender roles and stereotypes is that they are hard to break – just as any other bad habit, especially one that gets passed on from generation to generation, it takes a lot of unlearning and effort to put into practice. For a man, it takes raising consciousness of your role and how you act AND react to and around women who you work with, interact with or work for.
The point of my WOMEN IN TRANSITION series is to help you develop a mentality to feel empowered, to develop your skills and ideas, and to fulfill whatever venture or goals you want to achieve in life. It IS possible.
I made a list of some helpful things to any woman who is embarking on any journey or who is struggling with her voice to be heard:
- Empower yourself by becoming knowledgeable of your rights – being discriminated against because of your gender (race, religious background, ethnicity, disability, etc) in the United States is illegal. While mediation is an option, sometimes legal action is necessary in order to create change in organizational structures that have been in place for ages. Furthermore, diversity training might be in order!
- When we see another woman in a position of power, running her own business, pursuing her education, don’t hate, but instead admire and take notes. We are often very unsupportive of one another. This is a reflection of how the systematic use of gender roles influence our own judgment and interactions with other women.
- Self-awareness – learning your triggers, learning when to walk away and when to speak up is going to work to your benefit. Learn everything you possibly can about yourself. Become aware. Be in the moment. Meditate. Listen to your own thoughts. Awareness is crucial. Not every battle is worth fighting.
- Don’t be intimated to ask for things you know you have a right to ask for. This can be something as big as that business loan to set you up on your new business, or something as abstract and simple as respect. You, just like every other human being, has a right to ask…and demand certain things.
- Know that you can’t fix everything. We as women have the urge to “fix” things, people, relationships. We want to fix what’s not right. But we can’t fix everything. We can’t fix other people’s shortcomings, stereotyped, gendered and racist minds. We can teach, or be vocal, but we can’t fix them. That’s for them to do. You need to be okay with that.
- Focus on your goals, whether it is building your brand and your business or being promoted at your job. You will get discouraged; you might even become a target, but know that there is a greater purpose for you in this world. Stay on track and go back to point 3.
- Stand up for yourself. You are not a doormat. You are not a doormat. You are not a doormat. Stop allowing others to victimize you – speak up. Don’t let your strong voice turn into a whisper because you are afraid. Remember that every single time you stand up for yourself you are helping another woman, another girl, and another teenager become courageous enough to do the same. You are paving the way and you probably don’t even realize it!
- Be selfish! Take some time out of your day to take care of YOU. We as women are so worried about everything and everyone else that we forget ourselves. Yes that means taking time to go work out, meditate, take a walk, a spa day. One of my favorite things to do is read educational and inspirational material because it brings me right back to point 1 about becoming empowered. Whatever it is you choose to do, just make sure it is about you and your mental, emotional and physical well-being.
Do you have anything you would add to this list? How has gender affect you in the workplace? How about starting your own business? Share your thoughts!