I rarely speak of my former job. It’s mostly out of loyalty for those that gave me a chance and believed in me. I rewarded that belief with my very best effort and my intelligence and ambition. I did well there. It was a male-dominated place and I ended up being a woman in charge. I made it that far because I worked hard and understood I’d need to work harder, learn more, and run circles around the boys. It wasn’t fair, but I did it all.
I worked my way to manager and still faced hoards of sexism. To be fair, it was blind sexism. They didn’t realize they were sexist; they just had preconceived ideas of what women did at the company.
The vast majority of women there were receptionists (which is where I started), admin assistants, accountants. Essentially, the women were those that kept everything going while the men were in meetings and golfing and “building relationships.”
I became a manager due to a man who had integrity and knew I did too. He became a Vice President while I remained a sales coordinator. This man decided to place me with the company as the manager of finance because he knew I had integrity and would not bow to pressures to sacrifice what is right for what makes money.
It was never spoken of, however; why I ended up where I did. Rumors were rampant there for any female with any power. We never spoke of why I landed in my position. But, it was mutual respect.
So, here’s what happened:
The vast majority of men realized I was there for good reason. The majority of women looked up to me and saw me as encouragement that they could make it in the company. They’d talk to me; pull me aside at meetings and ask me how to make it. They’d email me and ask for my help when they’d apply for promotions. I championed them all in an effort to make leadership equality a reality at my male-dominated workplace.
So, what happened? Why did I leave?
I left because the entire time I was fighting a silent battle. Well, it wasn’t always silent. I fought discrimination with HR. I fought and won. But, they wouldn’t fire the discriminators. They’d just tell me I was right and send them to “communication classes”. Which made them hate me that much more.
I got a raise, bonuses, and everything I asked for that had been handed to the men without asking. But, it only made those that wanted me out more sneaky.
See? I will not sacrifice integrity for a paycheck. I’d prefer to look myself in the mirror and like what I see, but in a world that runs on money, I am not wanted regardless of how smart I am.
I told a female co-worker once about the hoops I had to jump through to get where I was when I was a manager. Her eyes flooded and she said:
“And if it could happen to you, imagine what the rest of us are going through.”
At the end of the day, it’s very difficult to “lean in” when you aren’t invited to the table.