Sometimes, we have to keep reminding ourselves that all of the emotional and political challenges in the workplace are worth the stress and effort they entail. It can be a lonely, frustrating experience.
You want to know what has become a bigger challenge than getting that seat at the table these days? It’s feeling like we deserve it. It’s holding our own, taking charge, and feeling secure enough to be ourselves. Some of America’s most powerful women executives admit they walked into their offices at the top with a tremendous amount of self-doubt in tow.
That challenge is faced by every woman who dares to stand out, whether she is the boat rocker who upsets the status quo, the woman with the impressive title who undermines herself by questioning whether she’s got what it takes, or the woman who stands by herself in a room full of men. It’s felt by the woman in management who stands in front of men and women who say they like male bosses better.
When we look for the same validation and personhood that we sought as 13-year-old girls struggling at school, we lose our ground and become our own enemies. We’ve got to appreciate ourselves because we stand out. We have fought for and won our chance to sink or swim based on our own merits, but we sometimes find ourselves drowning because of personality clashes and office politics.
We blame ourselves when it feels like the squad doesn’t want us. We may say or do the same things our male mentors did, but we keep hearing that we are doing it all wrong, coming on too strong, trying to fix things that aren’t broken, taking on the wrong issues, pushing an agenda—whatever. Some of us hear a chorus of criticism and gossip, or sense others are waiting for and cheering our downfall.
But things are getting better. Aren’t they? Most of us assume that the world is getting better—and easier—for women, but sadly, there are some places where it’s actually getting tougher. The Government Accounting Office reported in 2002 that 73 percent of all female managers in our country are paid less than their male counterparts. If that doesn’t startle you, this might: The numbers were getting worse, not better. Ex-
amples? In finance, insurance, and real estate, women managers were paid 68 cents for every dollar men were paid. Five years earlier, they were being paid 76 cents to the dollar.
Many women have won their chance to hold mid-level jobs. They can be vice presidents of companies. But only a few will climb any higher. It’s still a man’s world, even if we don’t like to admit it. We comprise nearly 47 percent of the work world, but are just 12 percent of the corporate officers, reported Catalyst, the nation’s premier research organization for women and workplace issues. Do men see the inequities? Heck no. Only 13 percent of men said women have to work harder for the same rewards.