When I was 19 years old I was on my way to meet with the president of the company I worked for when I received a voicemail from my immediate boss. He was telling me that I would probably be fired for not showing up to work on time that day, but just in case he didn’t decide to fire me, I should hurry and come in so that I could sweep the floor because my male coworker/counterpart didn’t want to do it. Oh and he hoped I was wearing a skirt. Three hours later, my boss was the one fired. I wasn’t on time for work that day because I was meeting with the company president to discuss my sexual harassment claim against him.
One might think that this incident would have made me hyper-sensitive to the case of empowering women while shaming men for treating us like we are worthless in the work place. But it didn’t. This incident was isolated. I have yet to work with or for another male who treated me this way, and I certainly don’t think one experience with a chauvinist means that every other male in a position of power acts or thinks the same.
In fact, I think when women get tunnel-vision on only empowering other women, we are alienating ourselves and hurting our cause.
The stats are eye-opening:
- Women hold 14% of executive officer positions
- Women hold 16% of board seats
- For every dollar a man makes, women make 77 cents
There’s no doubt that there is gender bias in the business world — I’m not arguing that. But when we focus on statistics like the ones above, are we not making it an “Us vs. Them” scenario? This includes idolizing titles of “first woman to do such-and-such.” This shouldn’t seem like a rarity. This should be a commonality. If we’re teaching our children that girls can hang with the boys, why are we making new women positions seem “different” instead of normal? Before you riot and claim that I am not proud of women who tackle problems and take on positions that no other woman has, I most certainly am. But women should already hold those positions and tackle those problems. And we should act as such.
Shouldn’t we instead be focusing on equality not by raising and spreading awareness in our own small group of fellow women in business, but by including men in our crusade in a way that says, “We’re all the same here.”
To start, we need to outwardly accredit all successful business men and women based on accomplishments, potential, goals, work completed and work begun. If John gets a raise because he helped acquire a big account, congratulate him. He is not the enemy simply because he is a man, just as you are not incompetent because you are a woman. If 14% of executive officer positions are held by females, that means that 86% of these positions are held by males. Let’s include those 86% in our movement to make everyone equal — to make percentages like this obsolete.
Inwardly, we need to stop discrediting women whose goals are not the same as ours. If you take the time, it’s easy to find bloggers shaming women for choosing career over family, or family and a career, or for being a stay-at-home Mom. We’re never going to become equal in the workplace — or life — if we spend the energy reproaching women whose dreams aren’t the same as ours. We should empower fellow women to be successful, which means excelling at what they choose to do.
Some of us may never be mothers. Some of us may never be career women. But what we aren’t shouldn’t make a difference as long as we are good at what we are.
To women in business, let’s continue to work hard to be outstanding at what we do. Our education, our experience, our leadership skills, our work, our dedication should speak for itself.
These accomplishments and abilities do not have a gender. That doesn’t change just because they belong to a person who does.