In the inaugural post on Women of HR, Shauna Moerke called for women (and men) to Be Subversive. As a self-proclaimed subversive, I loved it. I especially liked her definition of subversion:
Subversion isn’t about rebelling for rebellions sake, it’s about having the awareness to know the status quo sucks and doing something about it. It’s about holding firmly to your ideals and morals despite overwhelming pressure to give in. It’s about creativity, determination, empathy, and entrepreneurial spirit.
These are words to live by and the inspiration for my post.
W.C. Fields once said, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” It may be bad form to quote this misanthrope for a posting on the Women of HR but there are lessons to be learned from everybody. My wife and I were recently discussing this quote as it applies to women in the workplace. She shared an incident with me where she and one other woman were attending a lunch meeting with seven men. When lunch was over, the other woman proceeded to clean the conference room table of all the lunch garbage. Nobody else lifted a hand.
My first thoughts were that some people do not pick up after themselves (slobs) and that this individual had been brought up well and wasn’t going to leave a mess. My wife saw it very differently. After 25 years as a working woman, she saw the men in the room expecting that “someone else” (most likely the female administrative staff) would clean up the room. This woman, while a comparable organizational level as the men, took on the traditional “woman’s role” to cleanup. In doing so, she “answered to what she was called.”
Did this woman just like it neat or was she giving in to overwhelming stereotypical pressures? Was my wife’s generational view born of 25 years working with male chauvinists? At first, I honestly thought she was overreacting but I know my wife gets it. As a guy, I will never be able to understand the challenges, real and implied, that women face at work. It really baffles me that these challenges still exist.
Over my 24 year career, I have found the women who worked for me and that I worked for and with to be smart, hard working and focused on success. They knew what to answer to. I am working with some particularly impressive women now, namely a recent college grad and two interns. If they are representative of the women entering the marketplace, I am confident their generation knows what to answer to.
What do you answer to? Let us know in the comments.