gender equality matters

a lil' swag goes a long way ... just ask Kanye

Yesterday I started a 5 day series that I am calling "5 in 5"  each day this week I will cover a different hurdle and tips for clearing them as we start climbing those ladders so that we can shatter those glass ceilings. It's a lot of work, so let's get started. First, a reminder of the topics the topics...

  • Sorry not sorry (Posted Monday August 3, 2015)
    • I"m here for a reason, get over it
  • A lil' swag goes a long way
    • Just ask Kanye
  • Eww, verbal diarrhea is so not cool
    • Seriously, dude, it's not a good look
  • I got shot gun, I called it
    • (and other ridiculous game you should learn to play)
  • Let em' hear you roar
    • (it's okay, we promise)

Today, we talk SWAG. Not the free stuff brands give out to convince you to like their product. I am talking about real swagger here. 

graceful confidence

First, a definition. Swagger is a hip-hop term that you are probably farmiliar with but I am putting a bit of a spin on my definition. You will notice I defined it as "graceful confidence". I did this because when we are talking workplace, hustle and purpose, there has to be a certain grace to your actions. You have to balance between being cocky, self assured, confident and a total jerk. If I had a visual for this it would be Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. If you do not know who they are, shame on you.  They were both dancers, singers and actors who moved with a quiet, distinguished and definitely graceful confidence. There was something about it that was just.....well...

cool with out even knowing it. Don't believe me? Watch for yourself.

Ok, so what do tap dancers have to do with swag and what does swag have to do with the workplace?

It's simple, every single thing in the workplace comes down to one thing... confidence. With out it, you aren't going very far. But if you are a woman the rules are a bit different. 

There are studies out there that show identical resume's being looked over by people. The only difference was the name on the top of the resume, for example John vs. Jennifer. The men were always evaluated much more favorably than the women regardless of the gender of the person doing the evaluation. Studies range by occupation and industry but the result are startlingy similar.  All of the things that people use to describe men as competent and exception at work are the same traits that are used to say the women are not.

Negative words are more often used to describe a woman's performance. In many cases, the woman can't win. If she acts "like one of the guys" she is deemed unpleasant, aggressive, bossy etc. If she acts "like one of the girls" she is emotional, unstable, fickle. Talk about playing a game with a loaded deck.

I ran into the situation more than once during my career. I can pull out review after review that use the following adjectives to describe me:

  • too passionate
  • outspoken
  • aggressive
  • need to develop your leadership skills more
  • emotional
  • too invested in the job
  • bitchy or condescending, bossy, 
  • rub some people the wrong way
  • doing too much, other people are feeling "dwarfed" (yes that is a real quote)
  • "maybe take it down just one notch"

Sadly, this list could go on. It is this same list however that would have co-workers come to me for advice and bosses asking me to take lead, be an example and to grab the bull by the horns and get things done. All of my reviews in my career have been marked with an "exceeds expectations" and full raises/bonuses, you name it but the negative language you see above was also in all of them.

How do we then deal with this catch 22? I can only speak from my own personal experience and so I will share with you what I have experienced.

When all of this negative language is presented to you, find out what they would suggest you do to change it for the better. Ask you bosses questions. Questions and insight are powerful weapons. Use them to navigate the "aggression" which I call "confidence" to your advantage.

Don't just ask any questions though. Ask them tough question that require your superiors to have just as much responsibility for your success as you have. Ask what you can do. Ask for examples of when what you did or said could be perceived negative. You will start to see some patterns.

I noticed that the things they were complaining about were also the things they liked in other employees. So I did the comparison game. Now I do no normally recommend this but in this instance it made sense.

Seek out people in your organization that you admire, people who are hard working, have great reputations for getting things done and being effective leaders. Ask all of these people to coffee or lunch or even drinks. Now ask them questions as well.

When I did this I asked both the women and men the same questions.

What do you struggle with in the workplace if anything regarding your gender?

Is it hard to work in an office full of people of the opposite gender?

Got any tips for how to navigate the corporate structure with regards to these things?

When the women responded I started to see similarities. When I asked the men the same question I got a lot of blank and/or confused stairs and a question in return "I'm not sure I understand what you mean."

This was an interesting experiment and one I highly recommend. Next pull your bosses aside and ask some simple questions. Ask them to compare you to a male counterpart. GASP! right? Ask the following:

  • Am I more or less passionate than him?
  • Am I more of less aggressive than him?
  • Is my work better or worse than his?

When asked these questions, every single manager I asked answered "no" or in some instances "more and better". Well, that's not confusing at all. It's like the boys who says he likes you one day, then pulls on your pigtails the next day.

picture borrowed from http://sorryiamnotsorry.com/2012/06/27/taking-the-mystery-out-of-romance-how-to-tell-if-he-likes-you/

The cherry on top for me was the question below:

have you ever heard anyone in leadership use these same words to describe him?

do they call him a bitch?

Do they say he is bossy?

do they tell him to take it down a notch?

Blank stares, sit back in chairs, shadow of understanding comes across faces followed by a frantic brain scan to figure out what to say were typically the responses I received.

This is a long way to say that having the confidence to ask the questions and speak up when something isn't right is swag. It is graceful confidence because it is trying to determine where and if improvements truly need to be made. It puts the focus on the work and not the gender. 

I can not necessarily say after this happened, I no longer felt a gender bias at work. If that were the case, it would have been once boss I spoke to instead of multiple. However, I did notice in all cases, a different level of respect from those particular managers. In one case, my next review raved about all of the changes I had made to become a really "solid leader" of the team and that I had really taken the criticism to heart and made the necessary changes to go further in my career.

I swear to you, I changed nothing except the fact that I asked those questions. 


Sometimes we have to get people to see us in another light and sometimes you have to work your way around the path to get to the final destination. Do whatever works for you but don't shy away, get quiet and sit down in the corner. We gain nothing from shrinking into the background. Sometimes, you gotta get a little Kanye West up in the place (in the most respectful way possible of course.) So turn up your collar, put on those high heels (as my friend Suzanne just emailed me) and get your swagger on.

To the cool kids, hipsters and people in the hip-hop game, thanks for letting me borrow your slang for this. I realize I may not be the intended demographic for such language but it works and it resonated with me, so again ... no apologies, just thanks.


Have you ever got all Yeezy on a situation at work? Tell me about in the comments below or on social media using the hashtags

  • #kanyemademedoitdawne
  • #dawnehanksdotcom

Tomorrow we continue the series and just to prepare you, things may sound a little gross because we are talking about verbal diarrhea. I know, as Jimmy Fallon would say ...  EWW.  


when it happens to you

you came back for part 2. YEAH! 

thank you

here's where we left off... (if you missed Wednesday's part one, go read it so you can catch up.)

when it happens to you...

yes i made these trophies and yes it is supposed to represent hustle and doing good at your job, mainly because who has a random picture of them in a cubicle or desk working away that looks interesting? Not me, so I decided to just use an image of winning. It works, right?

yes i made these trophies and yes it is supposed to represent hustle and doing good at your job, mainly because who has a random picture of them in a cubicle or desk working away that looks interesting? Not me, so I decided to just use an image of winning. It works, right?

I was struggling at work. It wasn't WITH the work necessarily. That was always the easy part. I was struggling with the structure around me and the way in which business was done. This is not to say my way was right, it is simply saying that I wasn't used to what was happening and it confounded me. 

You see, in my experience, work had always been somewhat easy. I got the job, I went in, worked hard, got bored, asked for more, did more and then typically moved on to something new. Here I was in a job that I loved but the environment was all wrong. For the first time in my career it felt as if people were judging me. It felt like people didn't like me. I understand that in the professional world "being liked" should not be what keeps you up at night and normally it wouldn't. I am pretty confident in who I am and I know that I am not for everyone but at work, I had never had to deal with that. 


On a weekly, sometimes daily basis, I was told one or more of the following things:

  • you are too aggressive
  • maybe if you toned it down a bit, people would be more receptive
  • they think you are a bitch
  • why don't you ask (fill in the blank with any guy's name) to help
  • he got promoted because he had more experience (despite having less education and work experience than me)
  • we just really need you to be less emotional
  • you shouldn't care so much
  • You are really good at what you do but we just need you to change this one little thing
  • your personality just doesn't mesh well here
  • some people think you are too harsh, I don't but "some" people do

huh?


I would come home every night and feel like I had gone a few rounds in a boxing ring. Wasn't I hired because I was aggressive? Wasn't I hired because I am good and show results? Should I be worried that people don't "like" me? Why in the heck should I not "care" about what I am doing? Wait, why wasn't I promoted?

huh?


I think this happens a lot to women, maybe not this exact thing but the idea that at some point at work, you are told to act different than who you are and you are done in so in a way that wouldn't have been said if you were a guy. Heck, some of the guys I worked with literally would go into my bosses office and FART, yes FART and they would laugh with the boss about it. First of all WHAT? or to stay with the theme...

huh?

I am not kidding. When we find ourselves in these situations (not the farting, the stuff before that) MOST women, start to question their qualifications and value. They feel the need to justify themselves and the make accommodations that men wouldn't. But why wouldn't we?

For example, how many times have you been in a meeting, maybe you are the only woman, and you are the one is asked to take notes or call for lunch? In my entire 20 plus year career I have NEVER seen a guy take meeting notes OR order lunch. NEVER! We are not "just one of the guys" and apparently that is less somehow.

These things might seem small to some but they really add up to a lot and they are why teaching our daughters to be leaders is so important. We will not become leaders if we do not acknowledge what we bring to the table. We have to find a way to move past the ridiculousness of experiences like the one I explained.

I know what you're thinking, was it really that easy for me to just "get past it"?

heck no.

I was upset. I was confused and don't tell anyone, but I basically cried on my drive home every single night. This was not what I signed up for. I really had a crisis of confidence and I am NOT a person who has a confidence issue at work. But I felt like I was just hanging there and since I knew this was not me I had to develop a game plan. Something had to change and unfortunately I have yet to secure a super power that allows me to bend people at my will. This means...

i couldn't just hang there anymore...i had to be the change.

to be continued...

next we'll talk about ways to change our attitude, outlook & responses in the workplace so that we can continue our upward climbs on those ladders we're always hearing about. Till Then...

gender equality, it just makes sense.

Women account for close to 80% of all purchases. This statistic is used a lot in the media. In full disclosure, I have used the statistic a number of times in presentations. There is nothing wrong with using the statistic as a matter of fact it is a very useful one in the business and marketing world. It is all the more powerful when you consider that this statistic has changed culture.

Lately it seems that the media is glorifying this statistic behind a stereotype. I have done presentations where people are shocked to learn this number and what it represents but I have also watched people learn this and heard them say things like "well, yeah...women love to shop". You may think this isn't a big deal, but it marginalizes the weight behind the numbers.



These stats don't seem to be talked about quite as much as the other one. They should be though. It is these numbers that actually tell a larger story, a story of how powerful women are, a story of how much women are needed. It's quite simple really.

Don't believe me? Think about this, women are the fastest growing consumer group in the world. That means something. It means the types of products and services that are sold are different than they once were. It means looking at the world from different perspectives. The problem however, is that with all of the growth in education, salary and work for women the spoils of those riches aren't quite growing at the same clip. Consider this...

So how is it that all of these hard working women who invest in their families and produce our food live in poverty? How is it that they only own 1% of the world's property?

It is a problem because not enough of us are speaking out. I know, you have enough to worry about right? We live in a world where hashtags like #feminismisawful and #womenagainstfeminism exist. As a woman this baffles me. How can anyone, especially women believe that fighting for equality is something awful to be against? Rather than give that negative perspective too much time I have some questions for you.

  • How much do you really know about women in our country and beyond?
  • Are we making noise about the topics that matter to us?
  • Do you talk about the gender wage gap?
  • Do you feel limited at work, school or home because you are a woman?
  • Have you ever been cat called on the street, been the target of inappropriate jokes in the office or blamed for something simply because you are a woman?

It's not all doom and gloom by the way. There are a ton of groups and organizations out there now working hard to educate and make a difference for women here in the U.S. and beyond. From advertising campaigns, non-profit's, social media groups, networking groups etc. there is a push towards giving women a seat at the table. Is your voice part of the movement?

Below is an example of a brand working to empower women and create dialogue and discourse. Unilever who has been involved in a number of positive campaigns lately released this new video called Empowering Women. Kudos to Unilever, check it out.

In reading this back, I realize it might be a little bit of a soap box but I am okay with that. At the end of the day, if nothing else happens from my blog, my speaking, my events or my coaching I hope that people will be inspired to get up on their own soap box an stand up for something positive. There's enough negativity out there for 10 lifetimes, why not add something different?

What do we do in our every day lives to speak and build up the women around us? Tell me in the comments below.

Let's start a movement for change.

to help I made this quick reference guide of some of the quotes you read here. It is a quick little thing to post on your instagram, facebook, even pinterest. The more people who know the real deal, the more chance we have at change...so share away.

9 things you should know about women and why they matter

SOURCES:

1.Cia.gov
2.En.Wikipedia.org
3.Worldonmeters.info
4.Unilver: Empowering Women - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O71k6-_59rQ
5.Academia and Education.” Women Moving Millions. (2012).
6.“More Working Women Than Men Have College Degrees.” U.S. Census Bureau (2011).
“Women in America: Indicators of Social and Econ“Academia and Education.” Women Moving Millions. (2012).
“More Working Women Than Men Have College Degrees.” U.S. Census Bureau (2011).
“Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being.” U.S. Department of Commerce and Economics and Statistics Administration (2011).
Parker, Kim and Eileen Patten. “A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations.” Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends (2012).
Anderson, Doug. “Below the Topline Women’s Growing Economic Power.” Nielsen (2009).
Holt, Lester. “Men Falling Behind Women.” NBC News (2011).
“Degrees Conferred by Sex and Race.” National Center for Education Statistics (2012
1.omic Well-Being.” U.S. Department of Commerce and Economics and Statistics Administration (2011).
2.Parker, Kim and Eileen Patten. “A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations.” Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends (2012).
3.Anderson, Doug. “Below the Topline Women’s Growing Economic Power.” Nielsen (2009).
4.Holt, Lester. “Men Falling Behind Women.” NBC News (2011).
5.“Degrees Conferred by Sex and Race.” National Center for Education Statistics (2012)