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It’s frustrating that as women we are still fighting for a seat at the table. As the Director of HR in manufacturing, I’m in an industry dominated by men. I have to put up with their crap relentlessly trying to prove that I have just as much a right to be here as they do.
But you know what really infuriates me? When another woman does something that (while sometimes unknowingly) makes my life more difficult, that demeans my way of living, or reinforces old stigmas. Shouldn’t we as women be sticking together? Why the lack of feminism? The lack of female support?
So I’ve compiled a list of ways women may unknowingly undermine other women in the workplace in hopes that in hopes that they may become more aware of the impact of their actions.
You bash my support system
I wrote a post about how my husband is a stay at home dad. My husband staying home with our girls lets me focus on work without being overwhelmed by guilt and concern. So when I hear a woman insinuate that men shouldn’t stay home, or that my husband is less than because he stays at home, I frankly want to punch her in the face. I’m thankful to have someone who loves and supports me and my career. As a fellow woman, that should make you happy as well. After all, we’re all trying to break this glass ceiling together. Be happy that I have someone who supports me enough to let me do that.
You impose your parenting standards on me and the rest of society
I remember when I had my firstborn, I felt SO guilty ALL the time. Even when I was a stay at home mom I felt guilty. Guilty that I couldn’t breastfeed. Guilty that my daughter occasionally ate processed foods. Guilty that she wasn’t potty trained by 2 or reading by 18 months. I’m done feeling guilty. Instead, I feel pissed. I feel pissed when I see these moms, however innocent they may mean their remarks, try to guilt other moms into doing whatever it is they do. I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts I’ve seen of moms explain “that’s why I would NEVER send my kids to public school” or question how mothers could possibly send their kids to preschool in order to go back to work.
There are babies out there being admitted to the hospital because they aren’t getting enough milk, when their mothers have been bombarded by others telling them not to offer their baby formula. Just stop everyone, ok. What works best for you, may not work best for everyone. Kids are different. Parents are different. Not everyone is qualified to home school and not all children thrive in that type of environment. My daughter eats frozen dinners for lunch sometimes. But ya know what, at least she eats. Don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing and focus on yourself.
You underestimate women like a man
I’ve been told by many men that a women can’t do certain things. A woman can’t do that job because it’s too physically demanding. She wouldn’t be able to “hang with the guys”. It’s infuriating. But what really gets me, is when another woman does the same thing. When a woman makes a remark that a job is “too hard” for other women or that it’s “mans work” what she’s really doing is taking an opportunity away from women. We’re never going to get anywhere by holding one another back or underestimating one another’s strengths.
You judge women with a different set of standards than men
If we’re ever going to truly be equal, we have to stop holding women to these ridiculous expectations that men are naturally exempt from. For example, if I tell a manager that I’m done listening to his excuses that I expect his paperwork on my desk and completed by the end of the day; I would bet money somebody would call me a B*$%&. That’s fine. Whatever. But when one of my co-workers say something similar he’s seen as displaying leadership qualities and being assertive.
For some reason there are just as many women who have these types of double standards as a man does. Another example, all the men where I work wear jeans and t-shirts. It’s manufacturing, it’s not required that any of us dress up, not even office managers. But my assistant had asked if it’d be OK to wear jeans and a t-shirt with her son’s baseball team on it, and she got countless remarks, asking why she was dressed down. Stop holding women to higher expectations than men. Stop asking them to smile 24/7. Stop asking them to look perfect all the time. Just stop.
If you haven’t already read Sheryl Sandberg’s amazing book, Lean In, I strongly suggest you stop what you’re doing and do so. Whether you’re a man or a woman, in her book, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg explains how women unintentionally hold themselves back. She goes on to discuss how everyone can contribute to ensuring women have a seat at the table and Lean in.