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.