I'm a little bossy, I've been told. So, taking on leadership roles--in both my personal and professional life--comes easily. While being in charge can be fun, it also comes with its own set of headaches. When I posed the question to my lady friends on Facebook, "What are some issues that you've come across as a #girlboss?" I realized I wasn't alone in my frustrations. In fact, it felt like my Facebook friends were reading my mind as their thoughts echoed many of my feelings. From sexism (coming from both men and women) to ageism and unrealistic expectations, I realized we are all in this together. So, what do I find most challenging about being a girlboss? The list goes on and on, but here are my top three:
1. The expectation that I be nurturing and emotional
I’m a pretty strong-willed and opinionated woman. While all don’t appreciate my blunt demeanor and sometimes abrasive candidness, my personality is not rare. In fact, the honest nature of my personality is quite common—among men. But, as soon as fate replaced one of my X chromosome with a Y and made it gender-appropriate for me to dress myself in skirts and heels, my personality became a lot more difficult to handle. Once my disposition is paired with my (young) age, I am nearly unbearable. But, must my communication be coated with niceties? Does every comment have to begin and end with a smiles?Why is it that we expect women to communicate differently than men?
Granted, my temperament has served me well. I would postulate that without my ability to be direct, I may not be in my current profession. As the Director of an undergraduate program and a young assistant professor in a graduate program--sometimes teaching students who are older than me--I have had no problem with my students comprehending our roles. I rarely have students toe the line of respect, but also have no problem correcting a student if he begins to demonstrate inappropriate behavior. But, behind my back or in GroupMe (a phone application that allows large numbers of people--in this case every student at the university--to communicate in a group message without the constant text message notifications) I know students comment about the fact that I "don't play." I may have even been called a word that rhymes with witch once or twice. But, I'm a hard worker and get the job done.
Unfortunately, this is a conversation I have almost daily. From being mistaken for a student to being told I look to young to be a professor to being asked my age at an inappropriate frequency, I hear you. Obviously, I'm fairly young to be a professor or your boss, and I do not need you asking me my age nor birthdate as a reminder. While I was initially offended by the underhanded remarks, I now consider them a complement. I'm young and (I say this as modestly as possible) fairly succcessful. Regardless of my age, I'm qualified; and that's all that matters.
While you may expect me to groan about the inappropriate passes men make toward me while on the job, I have been far more frustrated by the way in which women occasionally respond to me while on the job. The shade thrown and side eyes that dart my way are countless. And while I've been told I can throw enough shade to dim anyone's ego, I bite my tongue and force my eyes into a smize.
The reality is that succeeding as a woman in the workforce is hard enough, and there are enough obstacles working against us, as is. In a world where we are grossly undervalued (check out this list of Surprising Statistics About Women in the Workplace), we must learn to support one another. We are not one another's competition, and if we aren't willing to offer one another a helping hand, who do we expect to reach out?
Being a girlboss isn't easy, but it would be a heck of a lot easier if--at minimum--we eliminated the unrealistic expectations we have of one another and learned to treat everyone in the workplace equally, regardless of gender or age.