The easiest way to piss off a woman is to ask her if her “time of the month” has come around the moment a change in her attitude is sensed. In my career, I have been asked this disrespectful question multiple times, and each time I promise it took everything in me to refrain from saying something that HR wouldn’t approve of.
Although women are making tremendous strides in the workplace (think Valeisha Butterfield, Nzinga Shaw, and Ericka Pittman) we are still dealing with sexist ideals and stereotypes. Unconsciously and consciously, the world has labeled women in the workplace a certain way. The moment we take a leap outside of those labels, we are criticized. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her infamous Ted Talk, “We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man.’”
Chimamanda is right. As girls, we are taught this, and this horrible lesson continues into our adulthood through school, family, friends, products, pop culture, and in the workplace. When it shows in the workplace, it has the potential to affect our work ethic, personal brand, and the way we are seen through the eyes of others.
Here are 8 struggles that only working women will understand.
1. The hair issue
As a woman, especially a Black woman, my hair means everything. As women, we sometimes question ourselves and are concerned about the impression that our hairstyle of choice may bring. Is it too big? Is it too sexy? Is the color and cut professional? Does it look neat?
I don’t know one guy that has these same thoughts and I envy that.
For the longest, I would ask myself those same questions. Once I learned how to truly love myself (including my hair), I became confident in my own skin and hairstyles. Now at work, you can easily catch me with my afro puff, extensions, or press/blowout. *cues India Arie’s ‘I am not my hair’*
2. Does this skirt make my butt look big?
Growing up I was super skinny with no curves whatsoever. Now that I have grown up and have been blessed with feminine curves and assets, I love wearing my heels, skirts, and dresses everywhere, including work.
On the same note, I still catch myself questioning my appearance, wondering if what I am wearing and how I look is appropriate. Is my new lipstick too much? Should I wear a red lip that is not so bold? Is my heel too high? Are my eyebrows on fleek? Do I look too fleeky like I tried too hard to look good? Does my butt look too big in this skirt? *tries on another skirt.* Does my butt look too big in this skirt? Dammit. *looks for skirt that makes my butt look smaller.*
I have learned that no matter what size I am, I need to embrace my body. Even when I’m bloated and my not-so-favorite bra bulge is visible, I still love every inch of me and I refuse to hide it at work. As long as the length of my clothing is appropriate and fits my company’s standards, I can wear as many dresses and high heels that I want. Wearing clothing that celebrates my femininity and curves is a must for me. Hey, when you look good you feel good, right?
3. Emotion = Drama
When a man becomes angry at work and expresses it through his body language, tone, or choice of words, he is being passionate. When a woman does it, she is hit with being a drama queen or wearing her feelings on her sleeve. Or even more disrespectful, people assume it must be her time of the month.
If you are accused of being too emotional, still continue on being yourself no matter what. Stand your ground, and stand up for what you believe in.
4. People are annoyingly surprised to see you in a position of power
I have an undeniably feminine name. My name is Brittani (Brittany, but with an ‘i’), but yet, people still mistaken me for a man when communicating with me through email. I can’t count on one hand how many times I’ve been called “Mr” via email just this year. Even more so, I have been mistaken as the secretary or assistant by customers, and once I explain how I am the person in charge, I receive surprised looks. The most annoying thing about this all is that these looks are not only from men, but also from women.
Even though it is annoying, I still put on my biggest smile and keep my head held high when I am approached by people that are surprised to see me in a position of power. For me, it is motivation to keep pushing hard, and to keep striving for more – for better.
5. Our skills and abilities are questioned
Women are sometimes perceived as being inferior and not strong enough to lead when compared to their male counterparts. This makes it hard for women to compete in leadership positions that are male dominated (think career fields like engineering, tech, construction, etc.).
Just a few months ago, I received a promotion overseeing all of the operations at my property. With this new responsibility of being the HBIC (head boss in charge) for literally everything, that also came with learning new skills. Because I knew people would question my ability to lead this type of operation, I made sure to do my homework ahead of time by completing online trainings, taking online courses, and shadowing influencers and experts. Also, I made it a note to work twice as hard and to stand firm in my position so that I would demonstrate that I not only mean business, but I am the plug that keeps the business running.
6. We have to work twice as hard, but still get paid less
Because often a woman’s work abilities are questioned, we receive more scrutiny from jobs. When workers receive extra scrutiny, this can lead to poorer performance reviews, lower wages and even job loss in some cases. Speaking of lower wages, we all know the gender pay gap still exists. Even when we achieve higher in our education, the pay gap rarely decreases.
Since there is a noticeably pay gap between men and women, I recommend for women to understand their worth and to not be intimidated to negotiate or ask for a raise.
Bonus tip: Ask for your raise before the new budget for the fiscal year is created so that your pay request can be added in the budget.
7. Our directness is confused with bitchiness
When men are direct and are to the point, they are viewed as strong leaders. When women are direct, they are accused of being bitchy. This can in return turn employees and employers off and can cloud their judgment about us.
Despite that, own your attitude, values, and working style. Also, identify your working language and the working languages of those around you. Never change who you are, but try to learn how to adapt to others while still being true to yourself.
8. When we are nice and caring, people assume we are weak
Too often, people associate having empathy and a caring attitude as weakness. When we come off as too caring and warm, people assume that we cannot handle stress and are not strong leaders.
If at work you are thought of as weak because you show empathy, don’t change who you are. Think about it. Your caring and empathetic attitude is probably what helped you get how far you have gone, and that is probably your superhero power that makes you stand out. Yes people will talk, but money talks louder. Don’t mind those that are not paying you or your bills.
What everyday struggles do you deal with as a woman and how do you cope with it/them? Share below and let us know.