Two Kinds of Women

As a woman working in a corporate environment, I’ve seen more interesting scenarios and challenges than I could ever sit and list. (That’s why others have devoted books and seminars to the topic…) And as much as it makes me audibly groan, a lot of this weirdness stems from gender roles.

When you hear a woman talk about gender roles at work, it’s often assumed to be in relation to the glass ceiling, equal pay or working under all male leadership. What’s less frequently discussed are the dynamics among women themselves, which can be just as challenging and complex. To the extent that many of my female colleagues and I all admit we prefer working for men. How’s that for progress?

Over the years, I’ve started to recognize two kinds of women in the workplace. Actually, to be fair, there are hundreds of kinds of women in a given workplace. But for the sake of this post, here are the two kinds of female leaders I’ve come to identify most often.

The first kind of female leader is the one you’ll get to work for at least once in your life if you’re lucky. She will transform you. She knows how freaking hard it is to be a working woman and because of that, she’ll work to make your path easier than hers was. She’s a leader who is strong, vulnerable and seeks out opportunities to guide you. She will challenge you and push you beyond what’s comfortable, but only in the interest of helping you grow. She unknowingly transitions from boss to friend, and becomes the permanent recipient of your emergency “What the F am I supposed to do” calls. Hang onto this person.

The other kind of female leader is one you’ll work for once and then forever avoid. You’ll warn others about her. She might drive you to therapy. Because she has a heavy chip on her shoulder. No one helped her, so why would she help you? She didn’t get any breaks, so you shouldn’t either. This is a damaging mentality that makes females resent one another rather than rallying together. This person will teach you many lessons, but they’ll be far more painful and aggravating than needed. Take the lessons, leave the grudge, and vow to be different.

A lot goes into how a leader becomes who he or she is, and I don’t pretend to know the half of it, but I’m particularly sensitive to how much easier things would be if more leaders fell into the first category above.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Two Kinds of Women

  1. I’ve never been in a corporate environment– but in my field I’ve been #blessed to work w/ several women in Category #1. Your description of their roles as mole rodels (not correcting this typo) and life-changers really maps onto my own experiences. I’ve only worked for one type #2. Unless it was in the immediate short-term or incredibly valuable-long term service of other people, i would never do that again. it was a contract project, so i had the freedom to walk away. it was a powerful lesson in what i don’t want and who i never want to become. most of my life is dedicated to diversity in one form or another– focusing on research and advocacy….identifying and attempting to address issues such as the one you’re talking about here. and now i’m teaching leadership in organizations to college students. i’d much rather work with groups that are changing the world that have a focus on gender equity/human rights *or* focus on teaching young women and men that are headed into the “real world.” I admire your determination and perseverance you’ve shown over the years. and i think it’s great that so many women are encouraged and inspired by you. you’ll probably never know how many people’s lives you’ve touched. …… qualification– i now have skills that could’ve helped me navigate working for a #2 women, but i still wouldn’t do it again. Thanks for this post!

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