I choose to be the change
I saw this ad again and it inspired me to write. I agree that women do have to work harder just to achieve career parity (don’t get me started on why the women in the ad is wearing a sundress) and I have personally experienced that struggle. My experience has been amplified because for the past five years I have been working in a very male dominated field — technology. But before I get into that, let me tell you a story.
A friend of mine, lets call him Charlie, and I went to the same university. I majored in business and marketing. He majored in political science. We both went on to the same grad school and received our MBAs. Right after graduation, he relaunched his career as a self-proclaimed marketing executive and has been holding the titles and the pay ever since. I, on the other hand, never got that memo. I have been painfully going through each rung on the marketing career ladder — manager, senior manager, director, senior director…I feel like such a chump.
So how did Charlie do it? I have a few theories:
- He was able to tell a good enough story about his transferable skills to get in the door.
- He did not feel like he had to do the actual job that he was a candidate for.
- He went for what he wanted and didn’t let the system dictate how he got there.
- He did not follow the career pathing rules, but wasn’t punished for it either.
If unconscious bias did not exist, then I would advise everyone to follow Charlie’s lead to get to one’s career bliss. But it does. And I believe Charlie’s methods only works because there is inherent unconscious bias. A women would never be considered for a job unless they already held the title or actually did the work previously (believe me, I have countless examples of this). I cannot tell you know many times I see liberties taken for men but not for women. And it is both men and other women who are granting these liberties and carrying unconscious bias.
Back to the male dominated work environments I spoke about. In a previous tech marketing job of mine I was up for a promotion to take on the VP role since it recently became vacant. At the same time a gentleman in sales (10 years younger than me) was also up for inheriting the title of VP Sales, as that role also became vacant. Sure enough, he got that promotion. I, on the other hand, was made a Senior Director. I was told the previous VP was not acting in that capacity. What? Are you kidding me?
I have been in situations where all the inner-circle men were invited to the CEOs yacht for a celebration and I was excluded. I have also been told I was given leniency for leaving the office to pick up my kids at daycare, as if it was a concession I was granted for being a working mom. And the men who give me looks for doing so have a wife who stays home. But if you ask them if they would ever want their daughter treated the way I have been treated, they would unanimously exclaim how they would want all the access and opportunities to be granted to them. Classic example of unconscious bias.
So what do I choose to do? I choose to be the change. I choose to work with, and for, companies that are diverse and inclusive. As a hiring manager, I hire based on ability, willingness, hunger. I coach, mentor, and share all my pearls. There is no hazing, no inside baseball. If I have it to share, I share it. And if someone can have a better experience because of it, then I have done my job. I am not a millennial, but this is one shared economy I subscribe to.
And no matter where my career takes me, so long as unconscious bias exists, you can find me leaning into these battles. I am a fighter, a justice warrior and will not go down lightly.