Women Can't Do Anything Right!
This sentiment is a belief I grew up with and entered the workplace with fully controlling my life. Of course, as a brand new college graduate entering the workforce I had no idea of its power and influence over me. I could not pinpoint nor did I know to look for such a belief that truly was debilitating at times and, if allowed, could have limiting affects on ones career success. All of that did not even show up on my radar until I was well into my career and actually quite successful. Little did I know it actually acted as a driver because I wanted nothing more to prove it was wrong.
As the first to graduate high school and college in my immediate family, I was an independent, semi-confident, hard working young lady that saw no boundaries. I looked at life as a challenge and had no doubts that anything or anyone would ever get in my way. So how can such a person have such a belief deeply embedded in her personality? Sometimes your deepest fear is your biggest motivator, but there are people who could have lived a very different life. Those are the people who let such beliefs eat away at them and affect their job performance as well as their personal and professional relationships. I was a lucky one. Well not really, because I have constantly had to work against that belief with positive self-talk. My professional career success has helped me have balance in my life when the rest of my life was falling apart.
I did not realize this belief even existed until I was around 30 years old and I attended a multi-week self-help seminar (supposedly a management development program) with my boss and my boss's boss. Odd combination of classmates when your deepest-darkest fears are allowed to come out and play. And play is what that belief has done for the remaining years of my life. Although, now that I am aware I have more control and can limit its affect on my life. Admittedly, I have definitely lost control on multiple occasions but the time frames are shorter and the relationships I have are deeper. So luckily forgiveness has been my savior. Not just my own about myself but also those I have hurt or reacted negatively toward because of my internal defense mechanisms. You know the whining voice in your head that says " I am WOMAN and I can do this right, I dare you to think or say anything that deny's that truth." When it affects my relationships I can more quickly put a halt to it and apologize versus blame the other person like I use to do more often. If my friends are reading this you may bring to mind certain interactions and say to yourself "Oh, that's why she went crazy that time". LOL!?
You see, my belief stemmed from childhood as I continuously overheard comments related to my biological mother, step-mother, and my fathers now widow. The comments were not positive (almost never) and the words in this title were used quite often. Women drivers, co-workers in the office, and other family members of the same gender were also often ridiculed as well as both of the grandmother's I knew as a child.
The ridicule was not always in person. Often it was behind their back but certainly close enough and loud enough for young ears to hear and internalize. As you can imagine, more directly, "I" could never do anything right. I could not pick up the yard, make dinner, clean the house, care for my brothers, etc. "right"! (i.e. correctly). Not that I was a child or anything and should have been focused on school work and having friends (said sarcastically). You see, I started taking care of such things above that had previously been known as "woman's work" when I was just 12 years old. It continued through my 20th year when I moved out on a whim because I was so fed up with the lack of positive recognition for all that I was actually doing right. If I heard one more negative comment about me or any women, well who knows what I might have said or done.
Things like earning good grades, being a positive influence on my younger siblings, working outside the home to earn my own way through college, keeping the house, cooking dinner every night, answering the phone, etc. Growing up with so much negativity is bound to put a damper on ones personality and interactions at work as well as at home. We all know one heavily influences the other.
Long story short...my priority all during my teens was my family. If my predecessors could not do any of those chores right, I likely was set up for failure from the very start. How many of us, as managers, hire people into a position without the skills to successfully do the job? How many co-workers, managers, friends, family do you know that are bright, successful and most of the time fun to be around, who have a defense as long as a football field? Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever shown empathy to that person? Have you tried not to judge them? Will you forgive them?
Why do I share all this? Because, one should
-never judge a book by its cover
-always give a person the benefit of the doubt
-be understanding, be real, be authentic, be present, and above all be yourself
-realize perception is not always reality, and communication received is not always the intent
-get to know people as humans
-believe no one is ever perfect, not even yourself
In my humble opinion, the workplace needs to create an environment where employees can be real as long as they are respectful. They should develop managers who have potential even if they have flaws. Give an employee a chance to redeem themselves . Help them figure out what those flaws are and give them the tools to put them to work in a positive way that can help then make a difference for those around them.
No one is perfect, so as long as they are not in denial they can work it out. If you too are a victim of this horrible sentiment, please realize it can only be true if you let it. AND if it's coming out of someone else's mouth who is attempting to make you believe it, SHOUT OUT: #BULLSHIT -- walk away and never look back!
About the Author: Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @HRWarrior. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.