Thursday, August 27, 2015

10 ways women are obstructing their own progress

I've spent the past two days researching gender inequality in the workplace, and once again have set myself up for unavoidable disappointment. As has been the case, the evidence supports the benefits of promoting and supporting women but we still have a long way to go.

We can blame men, society, or corporations, but as the past has shown, it won't get us anywhere. We need to bravely look within ourselves and face how we're contributing to our own collective setback, which I identified below:

1. We care too much. About everything really. We're still focused on the details and getting things (assignments, relationships, interactions) just right.

2. We flip flop every chance we get. It's rare that I meet a woman who is certain about what she wants and how she's going to get it. My least favorite type of wish washy woman is the one who says she's going to do something and then backs down - with either an excuse or blatant avoidance.

3. We have a hard time watching other women succeed. Unlike our male counterparts, we are intimidated by strong women or we are skeptical of any woman who rises to the top. Whether we admit to it or not, we don't make the same excuses for women as we do for men, regardless of how those women accomplished their goals.

4. We're always waiting for permission to act. This one is a tough one to detect, because we have conditioned ourselves to believe it's collaboration, or fair, or just right to discuss every move and motive we have. This applies to our spouses, children, and even our bosses and coworkers. We simply have the innate need to discuss everything before we make a decision.

5. We take things personally. So we muster up the courage to ask for a raise, or to be placed on a new assignment - or better yet - we offer a suggestion and it's rejected. What does that mean to the average woman: "No, and don't you dare broach the topic again". What does rejection mean to men? "She doesn't get it. I'll find a way around it."

6. We like to play martyrs. So our kids need us for whatever reason, and we turn in the two-week notice and leave the workforce because we don't think our partners should play a more active role in their childrens' lives.

7. We don't make demands. Somehow we're still waiting for someone else to recognize and acknowledge our contributions.

8. We don't know how to relax and be ourselves. There's always that plastered smile to turn to when things get tough or we're trying to cope with whatever life throws at us. We've been playing pretend since we were little girls, when Barbie gave us the opportunity to act out life as we envisioned and not what it really was.

9. We can't say what's really on our minds. See Point 8 above. It's all Barbie's fault.

10. Uncertainty scares the hell out of us. We don't know how to accept change because we're all about schedules and organizing. We've had our noses into all those self-help books we waste our precious time on that tell us it's the only way to succeed at relationships, work, volunteering, our kids, the dogs. We're just wired that way.

Don't get me wrong. I know there are exceptions to these rules.  I am a strong advocate for gender equality and work hard at trying to help women progress. I'm also with that camp of pro-women thinking that doesn't believe we need to behave as men to succeed. We are natural leaders, born to nurture and raise a household, volunteer for a cause when its needed. We've managed schools as admins and faculty. It's just that our progress is a challenging one, and it's frustrating to see all the effort being placed into helping women succeed. Since all our shouting and pleading is only encouraging nominal results, it's time we look within ourselves and take matters into our own hands. And as those self-help books have taught us, the only thing we can control is ourselves. Let's make those critical changes and lead the way into a more equitable future.

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