Sharing with you all a few of my experiences in the corporate world as a female leader. There is always much more happening at the background of that achiever, strong and determined lady in your office. Much more than what is hardly spoken of. Few of this much more is what I am writing here today.
“She got promoted – you know how she grabbed it, don’t you?”
“Cover your ears girl, we are going to use abusive words” (in the meeting room)
“She just knows taking out personal grudges”
“She is jealous of other girls”
“She doesn’t know how to smile” and yet,
“She smiles so much at him; she is really a flirt”
Familiar with any of such phrases used in your presence, or maybe by you, or for you in your work arena? Irrespective of gender, I am sure that the majority would agree.
Having worked for more than a decade in the corporate, I was blessed to be able to get the opportunity to taste success and to be respected as an individual. We all know that the corporate world is well known for its hardships and politics. The ladder to success has never been easy for any individual. Be it a man or woman, everyone has their own share of struggles to reach the next level.
And we know that not everybody likes their direct manager. But being a female leader, I realized that there are some pre-designed judgments exclusively for women leaders with a strong personality. I guess that some just follow those without having any real intention of hurting women.
What we see on the work front is a focused individual who maintains the team and gets the job done irrespective of circumstances. But, amidst these crazy timelines, work pressure, and high delivery expectations, there is also a bunch of sharp arrows of harsh words and comments that a female leader carries at her injured back which is hardly shared with anyone. Which, I am sharing with you all today. These are just a few of my experiences. If you recall any such memories, please do share in the comments.
When I started my professional journey, it was all smooth and happy. Never faced any hurtful comments being a junior. Everybody was a friend.
It was when I got the first promotion that I noticed a change in the air. Hurtful comments started to float as rumours. Girlfriends started to avoid being around. People who didn’t even know me stated that this promotion was the result of my old acquaintance with the manager. (Which, of course, was not true – I was also an introvert back then).
But I am blessed to always have a focussed mind which kept me from being affected by such external factors.
Once, I remember pointing out a blunder level malpractice being followed by some colleagues who happened to be females. And I was in turn, labelled as a jealous female who didn’t like beautiful women around. I mean, really? What logic :D. I wonder if the reactions would be the same had I been a male! This instead became my source of inspiration to continue the path of righteousness despite the odds.
Highlighting the areas of improvement with struggling performers labelled me as a person who likes to take out personal grudges on others.
Following the policies and being honest to the profile did invite its own share of negative criticism. I just believed strongly that my work shall speak for me, and it did. Was always blessed to work under positive and friendly management.
I still remember I had a new male team member in my team who reported to me directly. Guess what! He annoyingly kept throwing all the irritating cheesy flattering lines on me. And no, don’t be fooled – he wasn’t really fond of me. He behaved that way just because he thought that’s the only way one should be around a female leader. How I dealt with him is another story.
And how can I forget the team meetings! Conference room surrounded by a majority of male members who mostly asked me to shut my ears because they wanted to be true gentlemen who didn’t want to let a lady hear them using abusive words. But were never gentlemen enough to avoid saying those words altogether and rather make me feel as *not* a part of the team entirely.
I have also had an immediate superior stating that unlike many others, our manager appreciated me just “because I was a female”. (Not because my work was praiseworthy).
There was a time when a young boy got promoted to be a part of my team. But guess what, he started crying. Why? Because he didn’t want to work under a female boss. Glad that I changed his mindset by the time we parted ways. But I still wonder what is the source of this mentality?
Also, not to forget the ladies whom I have worked with. The tag of being a “witch” was given by a female friend who reported to me. Why? Not because I was strict. To be honest, I have strongly believed in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. But I was still given that tag because I demanded the progress reports. There was also a group who tagged me to be a follower of “black magic”. This was only because I am inclined towards spirituality.
When I had busy days with endless meetings and couldn’t spend time in chit chats, I was labelled as rude and proud. And yet, when I joked around light-heartedly, I was called a flirt.
On praising a well-deserving intelligent man in my team, I was tagged as a woman with special inclination towards men. And on rewarding the women, I was tagged as someone who just wants to appreciate the same sex.
I have seen many of these people working under male managers who have been intolerant, and more demanding than I. I have also seen them being unhappy with the male bosses but never making such remarks about them. And I wonder, why?
I wonder if these strong opinions also existed when I was a junior? Would it have been the same if I were a male leader?
We do live in an era where every individual is treated as equal. Everyone is respected irrespective of the background and gender. But is it possible that some of us are still underestimating or demeaning women without even actually realizing it?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
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