I wanted to write something witty for International Women’s Day since I’m on vacation and have the time, but really — it’s been a tough year for me in the professional arena.
I always used to say that my “career didn’t really begin until I made partner.” It was a milestone I was really looking forward to and something that I felt would shift my perspectives (and my ability to influence) greatly. In some ways it has, in some ways it has not. But more than anything, it’s opened my eyes to the fact I am in a small minority of women leaders.
It is hard for me to articulate what that feels like. I feel anger at times. I feel pressure. I feel the need to fit in, yet the need to be different. I can feel inadequate. I feel frustrated.
I was at a women’s breakfast hosted by a male partner about eight years ago. In that breakfast, we were all talking about the facade we put on at work. This fake shell we apply to every transaction to act a bit more like “one of the team.” I remember him saying, “that sounds really exhausting! I cannot imagine going to work as anything other than yourself. It’s unsustainable.”
And I think that sums up my last two years… And I’m getting tired.
No one asks you to put on the shell. In fact, I have bosses that would be very upset with me knowing that I was doing it. And I am upset with myself because I’m supposed to be blazing trails and any time you are not your true self, you do more harm than good. To be fair, I know I “pretend” a lot less than some of my peers. I’m pretty brave (some may say stubborn? 🙂 ) when it comes to just being me.
But I also work in a very ego-driven, testosterone-rich environment. That is my reality. And my “true self” has no guard for that.
I share data and intelligence. I assume you’ll pull me into the meeting when I’m the best for the job. I’m more interested in getting to the right outcome in a meeting than I am in demonstrating to my peers that I’m smarter than them. I enjoy being a member of the team more than being the hero. In other words, my true self will get eaten up and spat out in this world.
I’m doing okay and holding my own most of the time. But it’s been rocky and difficult and weird.
Happy International Women’s Day to those fellow warriors out there busted open doors and trying to evolve this world just a bit — I see you and you rock!