Several days ago, Alyson Indrunas published a beautifully written and timely blog post that challenged me. It not only made me think about the topic of grown up mean girls (and the way we suffer to respond – or not), but about the sisterhood of women in leadership, in general, and about writing our truth.
So I am taking a line “Shrink It & Pink It” from Alyson’s post, and claiming it for a cause. That cause is the need for all of us ladies to share our experiences that challenge us, to open up the conversation, to be inclusive, to write more about it, to create a community of support. Shrink the problem and pink it up. Turn what was/is a demeaning marketing ploy into a call for action. I challenge others to take up the hashtag, find your voice, and blog/Tweet with it, too.
Let’s start something.
And now for my story…
Those who know me, generally don’t use words like “shy”, “timid”, or “lacking assertiveness” to describe me. For the most part, I’d agree. I learned long ago to work through my nerves. I present a lot in my field, and I am pretty confident that I know my Edtech and eLearning stuff.
Yet a recent experience completing my year-end review made me question all that confidence – not from anything anyone said to me, but from my inability to express my own qualifications and what I wanted out of my career.
I’d completed the usual set of “rate yourself” prompts, and was working on the narrative summary that ends the review. I’d just written that I felt like many in my institution assumed I knew leader-type information I didn’t. They assumed I was included in higher level meetings than I actually was…and this was hampering my ability to give the best advice and create the best strategies for my department and to provide the best service to other departments.
Then I got stuck.
I knew what I wanted to write – “I should be included in those higher level meetings” – but I just couldn’t bring myself to write it.
Me. Assertive-confident-know-what-I-am-doing-me. I couldn’t bring myself to make such an outlandish suggestion.
(Feel free to insert your psychoanalysis here).
So, instead, I opened a chat window and proceeded to lament to a trusted male buddy of mine who works in a nearby department. I shared what I’d written so far for my evaluation summary. The following is some of our exchange. The italics are my post mortem as I write this now.
Me: I think they need to bring me to the table…but they’d have to make me something that can respectably sit at the big boys’ table. (WTF – why is it a boy’s table?) Can’t have a mere ‘coordinator’ at the big table, now can we? (Yes, he and I are #snark friends).
Him: Ha! Very true. So…will you say that? #elephantintheroom
Me: Not sure…I implied it rather heavily, didn’t I?
Him: Yeah, but I think when you are asked ‘How can I help?’ [as part of the evaluation process], it’s good to have something in writing. Then your thoughts and comments are documented. No one can come back to you and say, “We didn’t know” [you wanted that role]. It’s been vague too long. It feels like the underlying goal is that this is a director position, but the more time that passes, your current situation becomes “institutionalized”.
Me: This is where I claim “Women suck at negotiating for themselves” in the workplace. (Or at least that’s my truth 😦 )
Him: Ha! Want me to go for you? (How much of a chickenshit am I that I really wanted to reply “would you?”)
Me: I need a shot of testosterone!
Him: I can hear it now…”that position was ALWAYS a coordinator”
Me: Ugh. I need cajones.
Him: Go online…black market 🙂 (I did mention we were #snark buddies, right?)
Him: Give it some thought. Share if you want, and I’ll give you my thoughts. Your first two sections are good, so don’t end there!!!!!!
Here I paused for a bit and tried to come up with a way to write what I wanted and just couldn’t get going.
Me: All right, you’re a guy…How do I tack that on to the end in guy speak?
(He makes this sound so obvious. So simple. So easy. My stomach tied up in knots just reading that one word.)
Him: Say, “I want_____ and here’s how to make it happen.” Rationale and reason don’t play much of a role.
And yet that’s exactly what I did. For 30 more minutes in our impromptu “coaching session”, I kept trying to rationalize, verbally hug, cajole, and softly tip toe my way into suggesting my employers might want to consider the idea of thinking about possibly looking into the fact that I am already doing twice the work my predecessor did for a lesser title and 2/3rds the pay.
A little backstory: To be fair, I’d leapt at this job when it came open. I’d been languishing in adjunct purgatory with no chance at a tenure spot barring some unfortunate accident befalling someone in the English dept. Everyone was youngish and healthy…chances were slim…(wait, that didn’t sound quite right). Besides, the opportunity to run an eLearning department was what I’d been aiming for longterm anyway – I’d been working in the field, written a book, taught professional development in it – it was perfect. This was my opportunity to move into leadership!
The joke was on me when there was a suprise re-org and the position was demoted just before my name was attached to the job. So I was out of the adjunct pan and part time work, but I am now trapped in the exempt coordinator fire.
Him: Take the fluff out of that last line!
Me: But that’s my girly way of softening the blow [of the added cost of a promotion for me].
Him: Totally – take the girly out!
Me: I hope this doesn’t grow hair on my chest! #snark
A little more tweaking and I finally got there. Straight forward. No girly fluff. No pleading. No hyper-rationalizing. Perfectly reasoned and reasonable considering the history and circumstances. And yet I still cringed and closed my eyes when I finally clicked submit.
What will they think of me? Oh God! Too agressive? Too bossy? Too full of myself? Doubt! Panic!
It was so stupid to feel that way. And yet I did.
But, ironically, I would’ve coached any friend (male or female) to do exactly what my buddy coached me to do and not thought twice about it. Yet I couldn’t coach myself down the same path. Assertive, confident me was a little old chicken.
It’s no wonder women make $.77 on the dollar to men, when push comes to shove (or click), it’s very, very hard to click the button and just ask for what you want.
Like a guy.
No. Scratch that.
Like a guy.
It’s hard to ask for what you want but not impossible.
The worst that can happen is they might say ‘no’.
So shrink the issue down to size and pink it with some support. Own your courage to ask for what you want…
Like a lady.
Like a woman.
Like a girl.
Like a chick.
Like however you see yourself.
But, by all means, click submit.