Leading people is a passion. Leading is about knowing what inspires and empowers people. Learning about what people care about and guiding them down the right path to succeed is a great feeling. I love to see people develop and grow in their careers. So when I hear passive comments that are demeaning to women it pushes my buttons. These comments are why women do not speak up and lack confidence. Women have extra barriers they have to break down to be recognized and get promotions. Passive comments may not mean anything to many people, but it leaves imprints on people.
Then the subconscious will start to think this passiveness is a reality.
The other day I had two accounts of blatant disrespect towards females. The funny thing about it is that the men, who committed the blatant disrespect, did not even realize that they said anything wrong.
That morning I was sitting in a meeting and we were discussing how to optimize a piece of equipment. Someone mentioned that we need to check out the modifications that our other facilities have done on the same equipment. The modifications to the equipment were performed with direct leadership from a woman. They have enforced a program that requires a daily inspection and it seems to be performing well. After this was said my boss asked, “Is she mean?” I could not believe what I was hearing. He didn’t even realize what he said. He was sitting there smiling and nobody in the room seemed to be offended at all.
Of course, I am the only women in the meeting again. It is mind-boggling to me that a woman must be “mean” to get any work done from subordinates. Are you kidding me? Then what am I supposed to do? Do I confront him or do I ignore it? For this specific situation, I ignored it and moved on. In retrospect, I should have said something after the meeting. If we do not bring awareness to people about what they are doing, nothing will change. If I do not say anything then I am essentially saying it is “OK” to continue.
We need to strive to break down barriers for women in the workplace and encourage other women to speak up!
In the afternoon was when the second event occurred. A piece of equipment was not performing well, so I had been on the production floor for a few hours. I was working with two co-workers to get the equipment to perform more efficiently. One co-worker was an operator (woman) and the other was a corporate representative (man). After a while, we had to call for help from a mechanic. When the mechanic arrived, he immediately looked to the corporate representative (man) and asked what was needed. The corporate representative said, “The little girl needs help.” I was completely taken aback by this comment. I “kindly” reminded him what the operator’s name is and let him know that she is not a little girl. She happens to be short, but that doesn’t make her a “little girl.” He just laughed and brushed my comments off.
The two situations that were described are some of the comments that happen on a regular basis. Working in today’s society is a constant battle of gender biases. These biases come from both men and women. We need to work together to change the ingrained mindset that most people have become imprinted with. Most people do not even realize that they are demeaning women when they are doing it. I know that I am a strong leader in my place of work. If I do not speak up when these comments are being made, then who will.