An Open Letter to Managers of Women
Jason Shen
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A Letter from the Women Who Aren’t Meekly Taking on the Burden

Jason, this really should be titled “an open letter to men who manage women.”

(That’s not to say women can’t under-appreciate women. As a woman, I am as prone to internalized misogyny as the next person raised in a patriarchal society — but this article is clearly intended to speak to men who manage women.)

That being said, I’ll respond as if it were titled that way, since this seems to be your intention. Everything you’ve said is true, but it still leaves out plenty of women who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve:

  • The woman who didn’t sit in the corner and wait her turn for a raise, asked for it, and now you’re feeling like she “thinks too highly of herself” and “isn’t a team player” even though if pressed you can’t actually come up with performance-based reasons she doesn’t deserve the raise you gave her male colleague with less experience
  • The woman of color who participates in company social events, cuts loose, and has a good time — and now you’re getting complaints that this woman on your team is “too loud”
  • The woman of color who had that experience at her last job and now doesn’t participate in company social events, and you’re getting complaints that this woman on your team “isolates herself from the group”
  • The introverted woman whose performance slipped after you didn’t recognize her previous high-performance, but who doesn’t have the emotional energy to fight to make you see the underlying problem when you start dinging her for mistakes
  • The woman who demands credit for everything she does, because she knows she’ll need to provide objective proof of all her accomplishments at promotion time, while male colleagues get by on confidence and “he’s a good guy” accolades from other men — and now you think she’s “too selfish to promote”
  • The woman with children who left at 4:59 PM today — but got twice as much done in her 8 hours as the men whose stay-at-home wives picked up the load while they worked 10–12 hours for “optics” reasons
  • The older woman whose skills ARE up-to-date for today’s technologies and markets, but who gets left out of strategy meetings in favor of younger women who “match the target demographic” better
  • The woman with an invisible disability who needs a lot of sick leave to deal with it but who is a top performer when her health allows, who you’re considering terminating because she’s “not reliable” even as you give her male colleague 2 weeks off to backpack in the Alps

As a woman who manages men and women, I can understand how all of these people would be challenging to manage, especially for a man, especially if that man has always worked in male-dominated industries. Management isn’t easy. I personally know that I make wrong management decisions every day, and I think I’m starting to become a pretty decent manager at this point. I never expect to be a perfect one.

Educating men is a really good thing for men to do, but there’s another really good thing men can do: Build companies with more women, diverse women, women in leadership roles, queer women of color in leadership roles, women in the C-suite, women mentoring male managers, women making the decision to promote women…

We’re not going to see either your meek high-performer or any of the women on my list get a truly fair shake until we have a culture where it’s totally normal and expected for companies to look pretty much like America: Slightly more than half women, with diversity across race, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, family type, mental health status, and so on and so forth. Companies that look like the world around them will manage more fairly than companies that look like Man Island.