Working Mom’s View of Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month, a celebration encouraging the study and honoring the role of women in American history. The 2018 theme by the National Women’s History Project this year is NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED: Honoring Women Who Fight all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
In honor of this month, I’d like to share some lesser-known champions, but heroes nonetheless, from my own life. They have been part of my history as a twenty-five year working professional mom, because they shared their stories and taught me what was unacceptable. The situations are real and the names are changed in order to protect the innocent.
Having worked in large corporations I have seen and lived through a thing or two in every setting in which I have worked, from the manufacturing floor to corporate headquarters.
I truly believe the majority of men with which I worked and had an encounters with did not intentionally set out to speak in a derogatory way. (In any group, there are a few bad eggs in the bunch.) Sometimes it just takes seeing it from a different perspective to say, hey, I would not want my daughter to feel like that.
Sally had worked her way to be a Vice President at a large corporation. One of her male peers, who thought he was being nice, told her she needed to lose weight if she wanted to go any farther in the organization.
A colleague used Ginny as a fall person when the colleague made a mistake. When her boss found out what actually happened, he told Ginny that she will always be second if she doesn’t learn to yell and get back at her colleague– she needed to fight like a guy. Ginny handled it her own way; however, her boss knocked her down on her performance review for not handling the person “like a leader should.”
Joyce was the first person in a senior leader meeting to point out that there was a miscalculation in the sales data. The night before she had run the numbers twice and had even told a male colleague so that he could change the number. He did not change the data. Joyce’s boss told her, in front of the meeting attendees, to run the numbers again and this time use a calculator, to which her colleagues snickered. After the meeting, in a one-on-one setting, her boss came up to her and said he knew she was right, but she needed to learn how to present her information in a nicer way.
Tamara’s project made it to the top two finalists for a client. She had done her homework and thoroughly prepared the presentation for the client meeting the next day. She was really proud of the work she had done, incorporating months of research and data analysis. The day of the meeting, Tamara’s boss told her that he wanted Jeff to present the information because he had a good relationship with the client. He then said -- after she looked upset -- you are a good team player, right?
In the midst of negotiating a multi-million dollar deal, Nancy worked hard to hold the vendor’s feet to the fire. She was especially diligent in this situation; the vendor was on a first-name basis with a person that was senior to her in the organization. At an impasse, the senior leader called Nancy to his office to say that he heard that she was being difficult and demanding and needed to close the deal. Nancy was shocked, saying she was being a good steward of the company money and the vendor was holding back on X, Y and Z. The leader said, he knew the owner Bob, he is a good guy, just get it done.
On her performance review Abby was told that she is seen as difficult to work with and not collaborative. When she asked for more details the leader could not give her specific examples, but said that is what others said about her. Probing more, the manger said on this one project the entire team went out for drinks to celebrate but she did not and that was perceived as non-team playing. (As it turns out, she was the only female on the team. She has been invited as the team of men walked out the door, and she already had plans.) When she asked her manager how to improve, he said, next time the guys ask you, go out for drink with them.
Sylvia's boss called her at home four weeks after her baby was born to confirm she was returning to work. She said yes. The day she returned to work, six week after her baby was born, her colleagues planned to throw a little surprise at the office at 9 a.m., and invited her boss. At 8:45 her boss called her up to his office and kept her there for an hour. She missed her party.
These are just a few of the ways that subtle forms of gender discrimination happen in the work place. I appreciated these women sharing their stories so that I was a little better prepared when it happened to me. All forms of discrimination demean, rather than lift up people. Part of moving forward is recognizing the past so that you don’t feel alone and you are better prepared to share your voice or take action.
In these scenarios, some women spoke up in the moment, some women dismissed the incidence and some used the stories as a platform to educate others. There is no judgment here on how any were handled, just appreciation for sharing stories that gave me the courage to fight or take flight, and ultimately pay it forward for the next generation.
Kori Reed and her husband Mike Becker wrote ZagZig Parenting: (Mis)Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and a Stay-At-Home Dad. Mike was the primary, at-home parent for two decades, to their four children who are now teens and young adults.