That’s how I would describe it. I had received some intel from my partner in crime at work that recent requests for raises had not been smacked down so readily. Awesome. I had put in years of work stepping in for budgeting and forecasting for the line of business. I had also been reading several articles suggesting not only that women receive $0.70 on the dollar because we aren’t tenacious and confident enough to ask for it, but even I was reading: women will wait to ask for a raise or promotion until they fill 100% of the position, where men will ask AND receive raises and promotions at around the 60% performance mark.
Also, several VPs and members of the management team at my line of business were pushing me to ask, as my tenure and contribution to the company were adequate in support of the request. So, I decided to put Corporate America to the test and demand of pay, title and respect the same that any man in my position would have demanded. After all, worse case scenario, wouldn’t it at least show my tenacity and fervor?
But that’s not what happened
Instead of matching my ambition with appreciation or meeting me with the respect that a tenured employee deserves, I was shrugged off as a passing thought, the last resort, a fool. And so I kept pushing, met with more pushback. “This wasn’t going to work.” I thought to myself.
I was embarrassed and angry. I almost let the situation overshadow everything that I had learned during my time at the company. A company that had not only increased Revenue 20% year over year during our PE-backed days but after initial acquisition turned EBITDA over 200%+. Of which resulted in another successful purchase of international household name, Michelin.
After immense anger, I had to take a step back and here are the four brutally honest truths I had to learn if I wanted to get shit as a woman in Corporate America.
1. Sorry women, we are going to have to work harder and longer than anyone else
If you feel you work within a company culture were gender gaps exist, instead of complaining or pulling out your soap boxes, you are going to have to work harder, stronger, faster than others. I will be the first one to raise my hand, with first-hand knowledge, that nagging and fussing about the ‘unfairness’ of it all, does very little. There are a time and place for protest.
Put in the hard work until the work pays off. We can’t as a generation or gender walk through our professional careers with this air of entitlement. No, it’s not acceptable. Yes, it’s unfair. Do something about it locally, globally. Then while on the job, work hard, speak up, and keep moving forward. Simply put, dig in until there is no other option, no different argument that can be made against your cause. Work harder AND work smarter. It’s not the time to cry over spilled perfume. It won’t get us anything but watered down perfume. We have to fight by digging deeper.
2. It may be a bitter taste for our female warrior spirit to bite into, BUT, we are going to have to seek and accept help from men
Look, no one ever gets to where they are going all by themselves. There are trusted advisors, mentors and workplace allies along the path of those who have attempted any assent. Help is always needed both horizontally and vertically along the ladder that is the corporate food chain.
The Center for American Progress reports that women fill only 14% of all executive roles.
Although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions:
They are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs
They hold just 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats
In the financial services industry, they make up 54.2 percent of the labor force, but are only 12.4 percent of executive officers, and 18.3 percent of board directors. None are CEOs.
Now it may surprise you to find that there are women out there who shun ‘help’ orally agreements from their male co-workers or bosses. Much like women who detest doors being held open for them. It’s an act of defiance in the face of chivalry. But with reports suggesting such numbers as above, it would be nothing short of foolish to turn down any assistance, camaraderie, mentorship, referrals, etc. from anyone – regardless of gender. (Are we not seeking gender neutrality in the workplace, after-all?)
3. We can’t ignore each other or the congregation of like-minded spirits
In addition to the above, there are then women on the other side of the table which can develop somewhat of a blind eye for those that are in line behind them – again, regardless of gender. I believe that no matter who you are; you were at one point assisted. Likewise, open your eyes and assist. After all, what legacy will we leave behind us, for ourselves, for other women, for the following generations?
Additionally, it’s equally important that we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals for support, community, and inspiration. As we navigate these waters, there is safety in numbers. Join the community here as we ride the wave that is a working woman in corporate America.
4. The truth about success is in the eye of the beholder
Let’s get one thing straight, just as with beauty, success is in the eye of the beholder. If we can focus on discovering what makes us feel satisfied and accomplish, then we can put away the notions and stress of others – the proverbial keeping up with the Jones’. Let your unique ideal of success be your guide and work towards fulfilling tasks and goals that meet that model.
What I’ve found through not only speaking with others but with being assessed and judged by others is that my idea of success is not necessarily other’s ideas of success. Fulfillment is my journey and progress.
Well, to quote Winston Churchill:
“Success is going from one failure to another without the loss of enthusiasm.”
For every milestone or action I and 100 others deem successful, ten others would call it a failure. My goal is to move through those peaks and valleys without loss of appetite.
C’est la vie, Mon Cheri