Women in the Workforce: Ally or adversary?
Why we need to connect with our inner feminine for the elevation of our careers and the overall benefit of the women’s movement today.
The year was 2001, I was 20-years-old, and I was working with a temp agency when I was assigned to a role at a logistics company in Vernon, CA. They needed someone to fill an administrative support role for their dispatch/billing department. The role would involve answering phones, filing, making copies, scheduling appointments, updating spreadsheets, and anything else that needed to be done around the office. When I arrived for my first day on the job, there were three people in the department: two males, and a young female. For the sake of this story and to protect her identity, we will call her - Jessica.
Jessica was about 25 years old at the time, just five years older than I was when I arrived. From the very beginning, Jessica made sure that I knew where I stood with her. She was the boss, the person who would tell me what to do and when to do it, and I was to give no protest. She would speak to me very condescendingly, she would interrupt me constantly, and scoffed at my questions when I asked for clarity on a task – even if it was just to ensure that I was doing it correctly.
On Friday’s, Jessica would order lunch for the team. She would approach the other two males in the department with lunch menus, asking what they wanted to eat, then call the restaurant to place a delivery – without asking me what I wanted for lunch. Lunch would arrive, they would all sit down to eat lunch together, while I was blatantly excluded and had to either go out and eat alone or sit at my desk with a bagged lunch from home. I worked at this temp assignment for six months under these conditions. The other two men saw how she treated me, and did nothing. All they did was, every now and then, call her out with a passive comment such as, “Aww c’mon Jessica, why do you have to be like that?” or “Wow, Jessica, you’re a piece of work.”
Over the course of these six months, the company hired a new department manager and he decided to make my assignment permanent. He called the agency and asked to have me hired on full-time. I thought that this would help alleviate my working relationship with Jessica, considering now she knows that I’m not going anywhere AND the new boss values my contribution. Well, that didn’t happen. Jessica continued to be passive/aggressive, dismissive, rude, and consistently felt the need to marginalize my existence. Being so young, and not having any sisters (I’m the only girl, with all brothers), I had no idea how to identify and call out cattiness. For so long, I just assumed that Jessica was having a bad day, bad month, bad year – and was taking it out on me. After sharing my experience with some friends, they finally told me what was really going on.
“Michelle, this girl is threatened by you and wants you OUT. She will do and say whatever she can get away with to get you to leave so that she can go back to being the only female in the department.”
This was a game-changer for me. You mean to tell me that all of these months of abuse came from jealousy? Why? For what? But she’s older than me? And had way more going for herself than I did at the time? I was confused, appalled, but then filled with purpose. I needed to go back into that office with a new attitude on life: I am going to be the BEST, do my BEST, and ensure my position as a reliable, responsible, ambitious, young professional – no matter what Jessica tries to throw my way.
A few short weeks after this revelation, Jessica was fired. I don’t even remember why they let her go. All I remember is that so much dirt was discovered once they got her off the property by way of the IT sweep of her desk computer, voicemail messages, and testimonies by employees in other departments. I felt embarrassed for her. But at the same time, she set the tone for the environment she worked in – and when you put out bad vibes, they always tend to come back.
I’ve seen this same scenario play out for so many of my mentees. They come to me with frustration about a certain female at work who’s ‘coming for’ them – and they don’t know how to make it stop without sounding like a crybaby. I get it. Wouldn’t you? Yet, after a few weeks of coaching them through this difficult situation – the problem eventually goes away. The woman who caused such angst, was eventually let go due to her own behavior. No one had to file a complaint. She turned it on herself.
Ladies…what these scenarios show us is that we MUST do the work to be healed, whole, and confident women within our own skin. When we carry jealousy, a sense of inadequacy, feeling threatened by another woman, throwing our weight around to intimidate, and spend our working hours focused on bringing another woman down – it doesn’t pose well for us.
When we pull eachother down, drag names through the mud, or behave in ways that are unprofessional and covered in ‘drama’ – we are perpetuating the very same stereotypes that men in the workforce complain about when hiring and promoting women:
Always involved in drama
Unable to uphold professionalism
Take some time to look at yourself in the mirror and see all the beauty of your ‘being’. Acknowledge your strengths, your brilliance, talents and abilities. Appreciate yourself for all that you are. Be secure in your womanhood. By spending daily time in mindfulness, and self-awareness, you can begin the healing process of giving that inner-feminine a secure place in her existence. A place that cannot and will not be shaken up by the presence of another feminine in the room. When a woman is secure in herself – she gives room and space for other women to be secure as well.
Emotional intelligence is the pillar of future leadership opportunities. But only YOU can do this work for yourself. Take the time, grow, learn, journal, meditate/pray, surround yourself with other enlightening and equally secure women who can help you on your journey to self-awareness and ultimately – self-love.
You will benefit. Your personal and professional life will benefit. You will create space for other women around you to thrive in your presence. You will attract the very same positive and reassuring energy that you put out.
You can change the stereotypes. You can help change the experience for other women who will join you in the workplace. You can create a team of proud, brilliant women to stand behind you. It starts with how you feel about yourself.
Let’s elevate eachother.
Let’s open doors of opportunity for one another.
Let’s start loving ourselves and helping others do the same.