Let’s Change Corporate Culture So Women Can Flourish
This is part two of a blog-series about supporting women and working moms in the workforce. If you are just tuning in, start with the first post in this series, Corporate Culture Needs to Change for Women to Thrive. This post will be here for you when you come back after reading part one!
It’s evident in the data that’s being collected across western cultures (read this), and the conversations I am having in my own boss-mama network that women WANT to work and maintain their careers so that they can continue to grow and flourish. The unfortunate reality is that many women, including myself, don’t feel like they can have it all AND stay sane. One of two things happens when women try to have a career, a family, and still maintain a personal life:
You’re LATE For Everything, and it’s all HALF DONE
Picture this: You have a 3-year-old (who goes to preschool), a 6-year-old (in elementary school), your spouse works full time, you work full time, and each of your kiddos has 2-3 after-school activities each week. Your job requires that you be there from around 8 am - around 4:30 pm (if you don’t take lunch). You’re always running late for everything. The after school activities, the early morning meetings at work. You haven’t worked out in over a month, and when you did go to yoga last, you left early to make it back to the office and the next meeting...This is a daily scene that is all too familiar to working moms.
How in the world can one person (or even two) make all of this happen in a day, and also grocery shop, clean the house, attend birthday parties ...the list goes on and on. The short answer--you can’t! So what happens?
For most women, after practically losing their shit trying to do it all, they start to OUTSOURCE.
Keeping your sanity: If you’ve ever tried to manage a household and a career, and marriage, etc. you know that it’s an exercise in futility. Somewhere the ball gets dropped. So, most dual-income families survive by:
Hiring a housecleaner to make sure your living space doesn’t go to the dogs
Hiring a sitter for after school (or signing up for an after-school program)
Missing school events or sending a grandparent--in spite of your kiddo’s ongoing disappointment
Ordering groceries online, and never stepping foot in a physical store
Spending all weekend cleaning and doing laundry so that the family can survive each week
Neglecting or letting go of friendships. There’s no time for that!
All of this may sound familiar, but it also seems mind-numbing to anyone who hasn’t experienced this side of being a career woman. The worst part is that in spite of the impossible position working women are put in, we’re still encouraged to try and have it all.
Unless corporate culture changes, women will continue to feel torn between wanting to have a career and a life!
Here’s the thing: I’m a big believer in figuring out a solution instead of lamenting over the problem. I was raised in a do-it-yourself family. If we wanted something, we created it. The greatest gift my parents gave me, along with many other life lessons, was the ability to take risks in the hopes of having a better life and a better world. My Dad has been seeking opportunities to change the world since I was a little girl. My Mom believes in manifesting the destiny you want. And I am their daughter through and through.
I want to foster a community and a tribe of women who WANT and DEMAND change in the workplace so that we can have a well-balanced and rewarding life. So here’s what we need to do to create change. I want your feedback too! After reading this post, let me know on social or in the comments how you think we women can positively affect cultural change in the workplace.
Know your worth and ask for what you deserve.
I am the most guilty professional when it comes to knowing my worth and asking for what I need and deserve. There’ve been times I’ve given clients billing discounts in spite of knowing that I wouldn’t make a profit on the sale--all because I let myself be bullied into decreasing cost. I’ve been paid less than my male counterparts because I took the first salary offer instead of asking for more. Are these choices the fault of a male-dominant workforce? In many ways, yes, but it’s also our responsibility as women to know the industry averages and ask for what we’re worth! If you still aren’t given what you deserve and have asked for, then it’s time to take a different action, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Support women colleagues.
It seems counter-intuitive that women would NOT support female colleagues in the workplace, but I’ve personally witnessed woman-to-woman professional sabotage too many times to think that women supporting women is happening routinely. Plus, the evidence backs up the premise that women pit themselves against each other instead of collectively supporting and raising each other up. THIS. IS. A. HUGE. ISSUE. And this behavior needs to stop!
We cannot break through the glass ceiling, or achieve growth in our careers, ladies, until we are genuinely supportive of our female counterparts. So PLEASE, for the love of God, get over the petty high school bullshit and support your colleagues who also happen to be women!
Side Note: I’m not saying that you should blindly support women without merit. I’m saying, don’t let politics and personal attitudes get in the way of seeing someone’s value and supporting their growth.
Combat policies and cultural norms that are sexist.
Most of the men in my life do not think of themselves as sexist and do not want to foster sexism in the workplace. But as is the case with many cultural norms and tendencies, sometimes it’s hard to see how specific standards are cultivating a negative work environment, or how the work-policies of a company are not supportive of women professionals. For example, maybe every year, the company puts on a company football game where there are cheerleaders. And as a female employee, you feel obligated to participate. Most employees may see this as harmless, but maybe you think that it’s wrong to require women to cheer and men to play. With some adjustment; like, for example, letting men also ‘cheer’ and giving women have the option to ‘play,’ the dynamic can change for the positive. Right?!
Take accountability for your part.
You can’t have it both ways. If you want to even the playing field, you need to play the game that’s being played. Nothing gets under my skin more than a woman who calls themselves a feminist, and also wants special treatment--only afforded to women. If you want fair and equal treatment in the workplace, be a good example first. If not for yourself, do it for all the women who will develop in your shadow.
Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt.
This goes for both men and women colleagues. Not everything is charged with sexist behavior. Sometimes people are just being people, or trying to be funny, or trying to fit it. If something is off with a work situation or relationship, believe me, it will be evident over time. Try not to call wolf or assume the worst before gaining all the information.
Act with empathy and kindness.
You can take action, stand up for your rights, and ask for what you want while still acting with compassion. After all, we’re all stuck on this planet together. Let’s make it a better place for future generations by treating each other the way we want to be treated. Being a feminist or woman who believes in their worth, doesn’t mean that you should feel okay with or good about being an asshole. An asshole is just an asshole, and no lasting change will come from bad behavior.
Say what you want to say. Be who you want to be. Stand up for yourself and others. But do it with kindness and empathy. That is all. Thank you for listening. I’ll leave you with this:
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” - Sheryl Sandberg