In the course of my life and work, I’ve interacted with many successful women and heard about their experiences in male-dominated workplaces.
My own mother was recently awarded the Eileen Collins Professional Achievement Award from Corning Community College (both women’s alma mater). I’m so freaking proud of her! Being surrounded by successful professional women throughout my life has proven to be one of my biggest advantages. Here’s a picture of her with the other Reflections award winners. (PS – I’m not affiliated with CCC in any way, and this blog is not reflecting anyone’s opinion other than my own)!
Months ago, as I worked helping women communicate effectively with men, I set out to interview some of the successful women I mentioned to learn more about the difficulties they face in male-dominated workplaces.
Honestly, this is a hot topic right now, and I expected to hear some horror stories about men in the workplace. Part of me thought I’d hear about women being harassed and devalued, that their ideas weren’t being listened to, that they weren’t being respected or paid fairly. And to be fair, I did hear some of that.
However, there was one main takeaway from these conversations that surprised me, and it didn’t have anything to do with men.
Many of the women I spoke with didn’t seem to have much trouble at all with their male co-workers, even their male bosses. They said they’d developed a deeper understanding of men throughout their careers, and they’ve built some great skills for communicating with them.
What I heard instead time and time again, was that powerful females in male-dominated workplaces are much more challenged by their ever oppressive, male-favoring, even “b*tchy” female supervisors. (No shortage of stories about catty, controlling, unpleasant female coworkers either).
Have you ever encountered these women in the workplace? Or fallen victim to a “b*tchy” supervisor?
Maybe she’s prevented your hiring or career acceleration. Maybe she’s led the troops in treating you like an administrative assistant (when you’re already over-qualified for the non-administrative position you were hired for). She’s giving your male co-workers amazing feedback and opportunities while giving you the cold shoulder.
Maybe you feel criticized, rejected, judged, undervalued, or powerless, and it’s getting on your last nerve. Couple that with other women complaining about your clothes, casting judgmental looks, and/or spreading unpleasant rumors, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a really uncomfortable work environment worst-case-scenario.
As I heard these stories, I remembered that I’ve experienced the same challenges with women throughout my life. I’ve been criticized, back-stabbed, sexualized, manipulated, and rejected by many of my fellow women. It’s made it difficult to trust new female friends, which has honestly been a barrier at times to running a successful business.
After all of my research and conversations on the subject, I KNOW I’m not alone here.
What is this all about, anyway? Shouldn’t we, as women, be supporting each other? Many of us are working to heal this divide, more so every day.
I’m sure the answers are complicated (to say the least). What follows in this blog is a humble but educated guess about some contributing factors, along with suggestions for overcoming hostile work arrangements that can easily block our success.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
As women started entering the workforce, especially in the 60’s and 70’s, the value of having them there was highly in question. I suspect that many women tried to act similarly to men, so they could fall in line and compete with them. Maybe women during that time didn’t feel it was safe or effective to be overly feminine (unless, of course, they were in a role supporting a man).
Maybe many women, while following their hopes and dreams of successful careers, valued the display of more masculine traits (like competition, logic, and discipline) while concealing their feminine traits (like empathy, nurturing, and patience).
Haven’t we all done this?
It’s possible that women in our society have become more competitive and judgmental with each other (and more judgmental of ourselves) as a result of all this feminine de-valuing. Unfortunately, competition doesn’t fuel feminine relationships quite the same way it can fuel masculine ones. It leads to really, really deep sisterhood scars. (I’ve acquired several myself, as I’ve mentioned).
To be very clear here, both men and women are equally capable of displaying the full spectrum of masculine and feminine traits, though we tend to be naturally inclined to one side or the other (through nature and nurture, probably a combination of the two). Both sets of traits are equally valuable and important, despite their differences, and despite the value structure, our patriarchal society has laid out for us.
So, anyway, back to your boss. The one who’s generally grumpy and cold, who favors all the men (or holds their balls in a vice grip).
She probably wasn’t born this mean, though she could easily have some horror stories in her background. Many of us do. She learned somewhere along the line that this version of herself was necessary for her survival and for her success.
And, let’s be honest – as women, there isn’t a single one of us that’s never been subject to these “catty” types of women. We’ve been hurt by each other and we’ve been hurt by the world around us. We understand the feeling of being in competition with each other. We can relate to these women, whether we like it or not.
Here’s the good news: it’s completely possible to transform your relationship with your “b*tchy” boss so that it doesn’t dampen your work environment and your opportunities for career growth. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Understand her point of view.
Leave your judgments at the door. Preconceived notions are the enemy of good communication. When we think we already KNOW what the other person is thinking or what their situation is, we don’t take the time to understand what’s ACTUALLY going on. And – get this – when we think we know how a situation/conversation is going to turn out, we actually act in a way that brings that outcome on. It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. Stay calm.
Easier said than done, right? Work conflicts can set off our body’s emergency alarm (fight, flight, or freeze), because they’re a threat to our livelihood and our income, even though the fear we experience in these scenarios usually feels more extreme than the truth. Regardless, we need to stay calm, cool and collected to observe a situation clearly. Only then can we respond logically and effectively. Practice makes perfect. (Music is always calming for me, and this song seems perfect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmy113gMds0)
3. Be yourself.
Don’t change who you are to make ANYONE else comfortable. Don’t change the way you dress to be less feminine. (DO follow dress codes and respect others). Don’t apologize for making decisions that align with your priorities. (DO be willing to speak up and explain your point of view). Embrace your feminine qualities unapologetically. The resentment that comes from living in a box will always build up and boil over in the end, whether your boss sticks around or not. You will be most valuable to everyone around you when you’re being 100% yourself. And, you know what? As women, when we fully value ourselves in our feminine glory, men value us too. True story.
4. Support her.
Be nice, even when she’s not. Take her priorities into consideration, and give her exactly what she needs when she asks for it. Listen to her with a truly open mind. Ask her clarifying questions. Give her the support you’d like to be getting from her.
A similar approach worked for one of the women I interviewed. During our conversation, she told me the story of a past boss who fit this “b*tchy” description. She described how she’d taken similar steps as those I’ve outlined here, and get this – by the time her boss moved on to a new role, they were on MUCH friendlier terms. For this woman, offering compassionate support privately to her boss (who was handling a personal challenge at the time) totally transformed their relationship.
Remember – as women, we ALL know what it’s like to climb the ranks in a male-dominated workplace, and it was even harder for the generations before us. In our bones, we know what it’s like to be a woman in a culture that oppresses and devalues femininity.
It really doesn’t need to be that way, but change starts with us.
We need to value ourselves and each other NOW, because of our beautiful femininity, not in spite of it.
It warms my heart to see both women AND men promoting an equality that accounts for all of our complimentary differences, rather than insisting on our similarity. There’s plenty of success, wealth, and happiness to be had for all of us, and we’re stronger together.
Men and women are equal but different. In our differences, we can find our strengths, and in our weaknesses, we can find each other. It’s time to start valuing everyone, at all points on the spectrum, so we can all feel the benefit of a truly inclusive society.
If you need some extra help getting through a particularly hairy work scenario, let’s talk.
Until next time… love yourself, and love each other! Lots of love and success to all.
Dear Donald Trump’s America,
Co-dependence, independence, and inter-dependence. These are three concepts I’ve been playing with a lot lately.
Co-dependence is two forces trying to make each other whole. Independence is being whole by your damn self. And interdependence, the ultimate goal of the three, is lovingly linking arms and efforts with each other for the benefit of the greater whole. Interdependence requires independent individuals, who see and honor the value in community and connection.
We have a TON of co-dependence in our society, lots of independence too… but that interdependence thing, it gets lost and confused with co-dependence quite often, or forgotten entirely.
This was a big part of why I chose to leave the healthcare industry. To me, it was difficult operating within systems that only added to the oppression of struggling individuals, even under the guise of helping them. Our systems that don’t hold hope for EVERYONE to live an amazing, healthy life. They insist that we need to make due with the situation or diagnosis we’re dealt, and adjust our expectations accordingly. When we’re involved with a governmental system, it takes up all of our time, give us few meaningful answers, and makes it increasingly difficult to chase our goals – because we’re too busy chasing health, freedom, and financial stability.
The systemic approach our country has been taking, with increasing governmental/financial assistance to aid people who haven’t achieved their independence yet, HAS NOT BEEN WORKING. It’s making things worse. I understand that change takes time and money. However, I strongly believe that more time and money won’t do shit without some serious perspective changes within our systems and society as a whole. Otherwise our money will not be used in effective ways… it’ll be poured down the systemic drain.
How does society change? Society shifts naturally when it’s individuals change. Systems change naturally to reflect their society. This is why WE have more power than we give ourselves credit for, when it comes to meaningful, lasting change in our world.
Interdependence, working together as whole individuals, needs to be our ultimate goal. We can’t successfully do that until we help ALL of our moving parts stand and walk proudly, healthily, and happily on their own two feet. That means EVERYONE – people of color, women, LGBTQ… AND the rural poor, our angry confused & abused men, and other fed-up individuals who voted for Trump.
Helping people find happiness and health takes way less money than we’re already spending on it. It’s a question of cultural values, it’s a question of valuing ourselves and each other, not a question of governmental assistance or leadership.
Metaphorically, it’s patiently teaching people how to fish, rather than giving up and fishing for them to save time.
I’ve never felt so removed from my democratic/city-folk/liberal friends as I have throughout this election. Some of my fellow helpers, turned into hate-slinging shamers who AREN’T LISTENING to the other side before they immediately dismiss their opinions as hateful. (I see a LOT of this shifting now though, and I’m grateful for that).
Plus, they’re not listening because they themselves are pissed. Sometimes what they’re hearing and experiencing IS genuinely hateful. Often they’ve personally been oppressed as women, people of color, LGBTQ, or whatever other lovely and unique groups they belong to. They want to be treated equally and fairly by their fellow Americans. They want respect for being exactly who they are. They’re sick of fitting in a box, they don’t want to do it anymore. And they shouldn’t have to. They DON’T have to.
So… desperate times call for desperate measures, right? In come the protests. But what about using the power of extreme love, peace, and understanding? Like MLK or Ghandi or Mother Teresa talked about?
That’s not quite as easy, and it seems like we’re having a harder time accessing the power of love than we ever have before.
On the other side of the coin… I have friends that do NOT understand the severity of systemic racism in our culture, who don’t understand the severity of the rape culture we’re living in. Maybe they don’t understand it because they haven’t experienced it, or they’ve suppressed it, or no-one taught them the importance of changing these things in a way that resonated with them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t make them stupid, it makes them HUMAN. At most, it makes them ignorant – in the sense that they simply don’t know yet. They’re not lying about feeling oppressed, feeling the need for governmental change to address that oppression. They deserve our respect too.
They’re the ones who can help us protect against our own homeland, racist terrorists and extremists. If only we can become friends instead of enemies.
But how will they ever understand the true disadvantages of systemic racism and sexism if we don’t teach them about it effectively? How will we ever teach anyone ANYTHING effectively if we don’t calm the fuck down and stop hating people who don’t understand yet?
How will we ever learn about each others’ struggles if we don’t listen?
How can we come together for genuine interdependence when we’re busy dismissing each other to prove our point?
Only when we give ourselves full respect, AND we respect all others – even when our opinions differ – will we inspire our white/angry/privileged men and their associates to be lovingly interdependent with us. (I bet it wouldn’t even take them that long).
So… If you still think Hillary Clinton was our nation’s only option for a hopeful future, please look harder.
Opportunities are all around you – to help, to learn, to grow, to love, to succeed. To stand in if you see something wrong happening. To thrive above all else, and help others thrive.
We need to start holding ourselves as individuals to higher standards, so we can hold the people around us to higher standards. Only then will we be capable of building the independence we need to achieve the interdependence we’re craving.
Let’s focus on helping the oppressed stand up, rise, find health and happiness, walk proudly, and shout from mountaintops. Let’s focus on loving each other back to health. Loving our nation back to health.
Let’s come together and move our great nation FORWARD, rather than holding tightly to our judgments of others and shaming people who think differently than we do.
Let’s stop judging and shaming ourselves and our country for the parts we’d rather not recognize, so we can actually start to DO something about it.
The way we’ll grow together is by loving ourselves, loving each other, and listening to each other. By trying hard to understand our opposition, so we can collaborate to find good solutions. By trying to understand the distasteful realities that we’re facing as a society, and by accepting that we ALL play a part in it.
We all need to take responsibility.
And one last thing… Donald Trump, if this ever reaches you… Thanks for reading. I was your opposition. I didn’t vote for you, and honestly I didn’t want you to be my president. However – if you’re serious about wanting our support to “Make America Great Again”, I have lots of ideas. I’m passionate about mental health, and I think bringing emotional consistency, feminine values, and communication skills to the masses would make a world of difference in our country’s biggest issues. (Gun violence, mental health, healthcare, substance abuse epidemics, racism, sexism, poverty, hate/anger/bullying, just to name a few…)
Regardless, I’ll keep working to make our world a place of acceptance and interdependence rather than a place of fear, hate, and systemic oppression.
Thank you for reading this, for hearing me out on this one. Sending lots of love and success to everyone, especially if you’re still hurting today. I’m here and happy to help if you need me.
PS… could all the brilliant political minds who are busy getting marijuana legalized pop your head up and spread the love around a bit? Much appreciated.
Would anyone like to spend some time with me today?
I’m talking all about COMMUNICATION this month, so you can use your words powerfully to Jumpstart Your Results in health, love, and prosperity.
If you’re interested in some strategies to get your points across AND have them actually heard, you won’t want to miss my call at 3:00PM EST today Jumpstart Your Results: Mindsets for Masterful Communication & Maximum Impact. Today’s call is all about clearing some headspace, so you can create strong relationships and consistent cash-flow through your communication skills. (There will be opportunity for Q&A, and you’re welcome to send questions via webcast or email)!
Want in? Just let me know where to send your email invitation! Reach me here: email@example.com.
Hope to “see” you later!
November is all about communication here in my camp, so anyone hanging around here will have lots of opportunities to jumpstart their results in their dealings with others!
Whether you’re looking to advance at work, create consistency and FUN in your relationships, or get more connection and support in your life – hang around here this month and I’ve got you covered. (You can always shoot me an email with questions too: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tuesday’s Tip Video has a practice that’ll make you a better, more effective communicator INSTANTLY once you put it to use. Check it out, let me know what you think!
For anyone interested in learning more: I’ll be hosting a call tomorrow@3pm, free of charge, called Mindsets for Masterful Communication. If you want in, just let me know by emailing me or commenting on this video and I’ll get you the call details! There will be a recording if you miss it. If you’re looking to maximize your positive impact and build the confidence to get your message across so your people can hear it, you do not want to miss this!
Enjoy the rest of your week, hope to talk more tomorrow. ❤