What Keeps High-Achieving Women From Choosing Executive Positions. VI. Results: Themes One – Three
Although the women who experienced discrimination might be angered into action, they were not angered into activism. The actions just fueled them to prove their value even more.
(JE) “So after I had my baby, I asked for a new role. It needed to be a challenge, but not one where I was leading people. So I chose the Master Black Belt program. The Master Black Belt program was highly benchmarked across the globe…There were 150,000 employees at the time. Of those there are maybe 200 Masters in the organization. So I could prove that I was technically savvy, that I was young and a woman and could still do it. The person who led the program told me on several occasions that I broke the mold in many ways. There were obvious gender and age ones, but also I wanted to be really good at it and step out as a leader. So I set up this program where we all studied ahead of time, and I ended up being the pseudo leader of the whole boot camp experience and I really enjoyed it. After that, I was always seen as a leader and was part of a leadership team.”
(JS) “I’m fond of saying, ‘You really can’t offend me.’ Particularly in Washington…it was all a bunch of old white guys, and I walked in. That was huge. When I saw their shocked faces….it’s not a roadblock, it’s a benefit…there may have been men who wanted more than to just help me, but as long as you play along and have a certain detachment, there’s no real problem. In the end, they respect you and the attention turns positive.”
(JE) “I have struggled with being an attractive woman in a male dominated system when I walked in the door. I was told I had to sleep with somebody to get hired on as an intern. I did get hired without that, but I had to do my boss’ dirty work, like filing his papers and ordering office supplies while I’m an engineer. None of the men did that, even the interns who came after me. And men looked up my skirt and left me nasty, sexist voice messages. I thought it was behind me when I left manufacturing, when I went to work for a business unit, but it’s still there; it’s just more subtle. … I didn’t realize that there were still barriers out there. I really thought that I would walk into a world that would be equal. And I know there were people who called me a feminist early on, and my retort would be, I’m just an ‘equalitist.’ I just want to be treated fairly. And I don’t want to rule the world. I just want to have the same playing field to show what I can do.”