You’re a woman. You want that promotion. You want to get into those competitive training courses. And you very likely deserve both and more. Your occupational proficiency would suggest it. Your soft skills would suggest it. Your leadership skills would suggest it. But you’re not getting it and I have a thought on why that is. And while this is but a thought, I have spent five years, 290 interviews and 146 coaching sessions putting it together. I’ve also looked at hiring and promotion trends to add dressing to my thought and the thought is this. We have a 70/30 problem as well as an adjustment problem. Let me explain.
There is an inherent bias that exists. That inherent bias puts you in a box. It determines others’ views of your role and of your potential. I call this, and the numbers would suggest, the 70 percent problem.
There is also an adjustment of your normal self that takes you away from who you are. This can be because the inherent bias or outright sexism is numbing. This can be because you adjust for the purpose of fitting in. You may be self-selecting out because the perception or treatment of others has you in self-doubt. I call the totality of these things the 30 percent problem.
And, as long as the 70 percent problem continues to affect the 30 percent problem, nothing will change. Those 70 percent bubbas are either too ignorant to understand what they’re doing (or not doing) or they’re just as happy to continue the trend of white Caucasian males ruling the roost.
Now, be patient with me whilst I expound a bit on the 30 percent problem. You know the inherent bias or outright sexism exists and you go down one of three roads.
- Road One is you be who you are, SWIM backwards and what happens, happens. You know who you are and you refuse to sell yourself short or be someone you’re not.
- Road Two is you tiptoe forward in your natural self, have a couple waves crash too hard and you stop tiptoeing at all. Instead you become resigned to lay in the cut and hope for the best.
- Road Three is you adjust. Those same tiptoes still occur and you become very mindful of which toe tips and which toe doesn’t. You say these words in these tones to these people and those words and those tones to those people — all based on who they are and how they see you. You’re surviving but not likely thriving.
To those with their steeped inherent bias, or outright sexism:
- Road One is paved with bitches. These bitches are not effective because they’re angry and they get too emotionally invested in problems that must be solved by people with resolve.
- Road Two is paved with wallflowers that, while nice and occupationally proficient, just don’t show enough business acumen, political savvy or straightforwardness to be promotable.
- Road Three, like the third bowl of porridge to Goldilocks, is paved in gold. These people know how to act, how to be present but not threatening and how to be productive but not aggressive.
I ask that you walk down Road One every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And yes, I know what you’re thinking. If you do that, if you be who you are and demonstrate confidence, you will be the bitch. Unless, of course, every one of you do it. There is a current normal and that is that most women take Roads Two and Three. So when someone decides to take Road One, they’re singled out by sheer numbers. They’re a problem to an otherwise productive system. If the bitch complains, people will see them as a lone reed, someone who just doesn’t get it. And, her male counterparts that label her and give her problems, are untouched because the other 19 women in their work unit aren’t going down Road One. But what if they did? What if the new normal was that all women walked down Road One? And, what if those same women, if treated poorly or marginalized or eradicated for going down Road One, complained? Might those same men face different odds? One kid walking into the principal’s office to complain about a bully or 19 kids complaining about the bully?
Think about it. I stand before you today having witnessed women who seek permission and seek approval because they are in an environment that, while improving, is nowhere near equal. Take these words and put them into practice: Do not adjust. As long as you adjust, men do not have to. Their environment stays as is. We need a disruption. We need a movement. The simple truth is, it requires nothing but for you to be who are, SWIM backwards and do it as a unified group. Let me close by bringing this out of the workplace and into relationships.
Caryn dumps Greg because Greg treats her bad. Bravo to Caryn.
Greg treat Mandy the same way but Mandy tolerates it. Boo to Mandy. Greg doesn’t have to change. Caryn must’ve just been high maintenance or a bitch.
But what if Mandy dumped Greg as well? And then Jennifer dumped him? All of a sudden, Greg’s world is all twisted. He doesn’t know what to do. “You mean I can’t treat women that way and still get what I want?”
In this situation, Greg realizes he has to change his stripes ‘lest he wants to become the cat man. Are there Gregs in your workplace? What if I’m Greg?
Look at me as if I’m the man that wants you to be demure and treats you accordingly. Then look at yourself adjusting to my expectations so that you can survive in my world. So long as you adjust, I will not only survive but I will thrive because it will always be my world. I won’t have to change. Make me change by not adjusting. Sooner or later it will be me that’s facing different odds while hundreds of you face me differently and with different standing than you have today.