The Female Competition
Have you ever looked around as you were sitting in a meeting and cringed because every single person in that meeting had their hair parted the same way, similar clothes on, their right leg crossed over their left in the same fashion, and they even graduated from the same school? Oh, and, should I mention they were also the same race and gender? I have. As a female, I would sit and wonder whether or not it was even possible for a woman to make it to the top because I didn't fit this mold. This experience shaped me to be a person that resented career-driven women and learned to enjoy working with these groups of men. Why? I felt like every woman was my competition and that I needed to have a good relationship with the men if I ever wanted to join their exclusive boy's club. Life has taught me how wrong my approach was over the past few years.
I am the first to admit that I have struggled to work with women in the past. Even though I have worked in male dominated industries throughout my entire career and have always been grateful to finally see another female, I developed this peculiar inner conflict where I saw every female as my competition. When I take a step back to understand why I felt this way, I came to realize that, in my mind, the lack of females at the top meant that maybe only one, if any, were allowed to progress into this unknown world of upper management. If one of my esteemed female colleagues took that next step, it meant that I was never going to be given the opportunity.
As time progressed and companies were searching to meet a specific quota of women in leadership roles, I found myself even more frustrated with the system and other females. I did not and do not ever want to be promoted just because I am a female. I only want to be promoted because I am the best person suited for the job. By this logic, both my male and female colleagues are my competition. Every time I was passed up for a promotion and a male received the job I would think to myself, "It's no surprise he received the promotion, he is a white male who is buddy-buddy with the boss." or, if a female received the promotion, I would compare all of my strengths to hers to justify to myself why I was more deserving.
It took years for me to realize that we, as employees, are not privy to all of the information that a company holds. It took me even longer to come to terms with the fact that most individuals are horrible at communicating, especially when it matters most. After almost 15 years in the workforce, I still struggle to speak up and ask for information when I feel slighted or a situation has been dealt with unjustly (insert standard mom comment here: Life is unfair.). I get it. But I have come to realize that I have happier employees and a better working atmosphere when I take the time to have difficult discussions with my employees and, where feasible, explain the reasons for my actions.
Whether you were left off of an important meeting invitation, passed up for a promotion, not considered for a certain task - whatever the situation may be, I encourage you to professionally ask for clarification (from the right people!) before you allow yourself and your heart to be hardened towards an organization. You may get the response that your boss does not need to explain him/herself to you and, in specific situations they may not be able to divulge information. I've learned that you need to acknowledge that your boss is the ultimate decision maker/influencer and trust that he/she is making the right decision for the company.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of the company, every department, and employee should be to build a successful company. You won't like every decision or colleague that crosses your path, but you should work to understand why certain decisions were made (so you can get on board!) as well as support your colleagues, even if it means you have to wait a little longer for that promotion. I can tell you from experience, tearing others down does not speak to your character. If you are truly invested in the company, then you should do whatever is in your power to help the company and your colleagues succeed because whether they are male or female, they are not your competition, they are your colleagues. Your work family. If we are going to break down these gender biases and barriers, then both men and women need to work together, not against one another.