How Chiropractic Wins When We Have More Women Speakers and Leaders Part 3

PART THREE: The solutions (myths) we currently live with

I don’t want to lose sight of the big idea How Chiropractic Wins while we have this fierce and powerful (and hard) conversation. There is good news ahead. Lots of it.

We are having this conversation because we are all joined by the big idea that our collective big idea (chiropractic) will spread further, more sustainably and more effectively if we work together to add more women’s voices to the chiropractic collective.

I know you are wishing I would just jump to the solution part of this series. I get it. I REALLY want to jump to the solution part myself.

But, we are not the first group to try to solve this. So it is imperative that we look at what has worked so far and what has not worked. Otherwise we jump into the same cycle of supposed solutions and just build the same myths.

MYTH ONE: THESE ARE NOT “WOMEN” PROBLEMS. EVERYONE FACES THIS STUFF

Everyone struggles with self doubt and finding success. Everyone is pushing uphill. This is not because you are woman. Life is just hard.

THE TRUTH: Saying women don’t experience a different world is a form of gaslighting. When we dismiss the (measurable!) experience of women we are saying “this is all in your head. It’s not real.” But it is real. No matter how many times we deny it.

I’ll admit. For the first thirtysomething years of my life I did not really believe in sexism. It wasn’t that I thought feminists were lying, but I had never really experienced sexism. I was confident and optimistic. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to if I worked hard enough and just was generally awesome.
Sadly, in the last decade I have had to confront that that simply is not true. Which was hard. And weird. Because the men around me, are my friends. They are good men. I like them a lot. But the truth is the truth and now I notice. Sexism is all around me. Sexism has happened to me.

I was talking to a female colleague recently and we both remarked on the same experience — of not noticing sexism until later in our careers.

I think I have finally noticed because of where I am in my life. When the stakes were low and I was young there I had no assumption that I would be offered to head big projects or leadership roles. Obviously. I had to prove myself and do the work.

But now, after 22 years of doing the work, head down, at some point I have looked up and I see how my male counterparts, who have done the same work, over the same timeframe, have somehow ended up way ahead of me.

My male comrades are ahead in pay scale. They are ahead in title. They are ahead in conventional influence. They are ahead in quality of life. They are ahead. And there is just no way that ALL those guys were just THAT MUCH better at being awesome that I am.

We live in a man’s world. Sexism is real Virginia. I can no longer deny it. Which sucks frankly because I don’t have time for all this work to talk about it and do something about it. But if I don’t say anything, then I am part of the problem.

MYTH #2: THERE JUST ARE NOT VERY MANY WOMEN WHO ARE QUALIFIED

It is said that women don’t make time (because of babies and laundry and stuff) to do the same stuff men do in order to be experienced enough or qualified enough to have a vital role.

THE TRUTH: There are lots of women who are qualified. BUT bringing qualified women into opportunity looks different than it does with men. How are we defining qualified? There are lots of ways to qualify what is needed to excel. What if we redefined how to qualify?

If we go with unconventionally qualified women we worry that we would be taking a risk on an “unproven” performer. Whenever you give someone an opportunity to lead, you are always taking a risk. What if your traditionally “qualified” person is experienced, but they turn out to be ego driven, a poor listener, a poor collaborator and a poor manager? We always take a risk. Let’s risk something different.

We need to change our tactics in “qualifying” our leaders if we care about creating opportunity for women to lead and be heard.

MYTH #3: WOMEN NEED TO EARN A SPOT BY SHOWING UP AND BEING EFFECTIVE AND RELEVANT.

We say that women just need to show up to earn a spot. The theory is that is we work hard and long enough, with enough ruthless competence that the doors will open. It’s the “lean in” theory again.

Additionally, I have been told more than once by gatekeepers that the women do not have big enough audiences or enough influence to be given a spot on a big stage or around an important conference table. The idea is that if a woman grows a big enough audience, THEN the gatekeepers will invite them to participate in big conversations and projects.

THE TRUTH: Women are highly effective leaders. Like men, some are and some are not, but as a gender we are no less effective as leaders. In fact, studies show that women excel over their male counterparts at many critical leadership traits. And they excel while doing the “life balance” dance.

The fact is that many women lead differently and in quieter ways. A woman may not build a big flashy buzzy businesses but that does not mean she will not provide powerful influence or add value for your audience or your team.

For example: Conferences regularly book men who are not great speakers and do not have a big business to promote. They get booked not because their content is flashy but because it is valuable. We also book people because of affiliation to someone in their network. Who you know matters. Women seem to be less likely to “know the right person.”

Women don’t break into the big networks as easily because they are less aggressive in promoting themselves and they don’t belong to the male dominated networks.

MYTH #4: THERE IS PLENTY OF ROOM FOR WOMEN AT THE TOP

We need lots of great leaders, and we are not resisting women, so great women have plenty of opportunities to excel.

THE TRUTH: You might want to sit down for this one because it is truly awful. Once a woman gets slotted into a top position, the likelihood of another woman being selected in a similar position plummets. Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business did a study in 2015 which showed that once a woman gets hired into the top five positions in a company the chances of ANOTHER woman being hired into those slots drops by 51%. Ugh.

I know. Utterly depressing. This happens in chiropractic too. Once a few women have been booked for a conference, how hard will we work to find more? That box has been checked. Move on.

Okay. That’s it. No more depressing review of what is wrong and what hasn’t worked. Let’s shift gears to what is RIGHT right now.

The FANTASTIC news is that this series has created a ton of productive conversations and has already begun to open hearts and open doors. We are part of a profession whose men and women do care and are willing to do the hard work to make things better.

Next, in part four, we will focus on solutions, opportunities and what we can do next.

If you missed the other posts, here are the links:

Part One: How Things Are Now

Part Two: Why won’t women just step up?

Part Four: Simple Steps to Make Change Possible

Hi! I’m Mary — a chiropractor, a writer, a marketer, and a teacher.

I am the founder of The Art of Story Project, an online business which coaches speakers and content creators to use story to become more powerful influencers.

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