Women: Hear Me Roar
Human Resources provides one of the handful of opportunities for a man to work in a corporate profession dominated by women. As such, I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and for) a multitude of women over my 20 years in the HR arena. By and large the experience has given me an extremely satisfying and fortuitous professional history. I think it’s fair to consider that maybe I was well suited for this career dynamic – raised by a single Mom who is one of five sisters and I have a wife who is one of four sisters – every damn one a redhead, by the way. Yessir, I think I’ve got some credentials that allow me to share some insight on women (as much as a man could possibly have) in general, and my first-hand experience in Human Resources has given me quite a vantage point on the treatment of women in the workplace.
Spoiler alert – it still ain’t great.
This feedback may be a little harsh. So before reading this, I’d like to remind all you male readers to please refrain from getting emotional.
Or take this personal.
Or make a “big deal” out of this.
Yes, gents, we’re still doing it. 100 years after the suffragette movement and six months removed from the #MeToo movement, and still a lot of men just can’t (or won’t?) recognize the very different ways we continue to communicate with and about our female colleagues. Maybe you’re familiar with some of the verbal slights listed above; you might think it’s clever or well disguised, i.e. – “defensive” is an example of a characteristic meant to diminish the opinion of the person across the table. It’s not exclusive to women, but “defensive” indicates an irrational, emotional response, and you know how women are (author quickly performs a duck & cover position.)
I’m still learning, too. Some of the conversation fillers men use (myself included) regarding the role of our women colleagues seem colloquial but are actually diminishing. Have you ever introduced one of your female peers as the person “who keeps us in line?” Or called a subordinate or administrative employee “the real boss”? Does she “babysit us” at meetings? How about “clean up” our mistakes? Or, my personal crutch, “she takes care of the details.” You know, while the smart guy comes up with the important stuff, somebody has to do the work, amirite?
We’re ridiculously far from the mark is the point. I truly don’t believe that these remarks are made with malice, mostly ignorance, but that particular excuse doesn’t hold much water. Women are still paid less for the same work (my wife reminds our sons of this all the time, btw), marginalized and categorized into roles (official and other) that are more gender related than skill dependent. This isn’t one of those “well, I guess it’s not safe to say anything” men suck posts. Men don’t suck, but we’re pretty good at being oblivious. Try to be conscious and in the moment; don’t over-accommodate and be patronizing, the world already has its quota on weenies. Be a person; a respectful, thoughtful person who tries to treat others as he himself would like to be treated.
Not talked over. Not as your admin (unless I’m your actual admin.) And not crazy, dammit, or there’s going to be trouble.
So, back to the first paragraph – I’ve been fortunate to have worked long enough to accumulate that “short list” of people you have on that mental list – you know the one, the “if I ever get the chance to hire this person for my team” list. Would it surprise you that my list is comprised exclusively by women?
This is my tribute to all of them (my wife included, she’s a bad-ass) for their role in my modicum of professional success. If I can do the same for each of you, my work is done. To succeed in a culture that continues to under-value your skills and efforts is an unbelievable accomplishment.
Signed, a work-in-progress.
John Whitaker is Vice President of Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners. He is also a columnist for the HR Exchange Network. To read more of his work, click here.