Culture

Woman I am: Putting my Game Face, High Heels and Mascara on at the Same Time

Where was I? I heard the cop sirens going on by. But I was pretty sure I wasn’t in New York.  I open my eyes slowly. Yup, my sinuses still hurt. I get up and look out the hotel window. Ah, yes, I was in Kentucky.  I put the TV on and catch 10 minutes of Morning Joe before I head down to work out.   On the TV set they were discussing Hilary Clinton’s Marie Claire interview where she talks about women and the workforce.  These days whenever we speak about women at a national level it’s either about reproductive rights and abortion or “women in binders”-ahem,  women in the workforce. Some women want it all. Some women say we can’t have it all. What does it even mean to have it all? This conversation has gotten so abstract and silly.  Is this about stay-at-home moms versus working moms?

 

I’m on the road often.  I try to call my son from the road but at times he is in high pout mode and refuses to speak to me. And onwards I keep going. I have to handle staff emotional and work production problems from the road-and at times, from the treadmill.  I have actually been on the treadmill texting my family to check in on my son, answering emails and conducting a supervision meeting through the telephone while running.  Do I have it all? Or do I have nothing?  Do stay at home moms pity my busy schedule or wish that they were busy doing something (other than change diapers, laundry, dishes). You know what I don’t care what they think. I’m doing my own thing.  I have a four year old son, I am senior management, I travel the country, I earn roughly the same amount as my husband. I dress the baby up, I clean, I eat, I workout: All before 8am.  I don’t have time to sit and think about the injustices or to tally up the count in the women wars.

 

I not only do all those aforementioned things, I do them well. That’s the kicker! But admittedly, I am tired. I don’t know how to sit still; sitting is no longer in my DNA.  I can’t even count to ten in my head quietly without having to shift around.  I have learned to not only do all these things at once but to celebrate my grand expanded capacity. Don’t get me wrong-don’t call me superwoman or supermom. I think such a term is derogatory and meaningless.  The other day, I was told to handle one problem at a time. My snappy answer was I can’t afford to just handle one problem at a time.  That moment reminded me of the skit on Saturday Night Live about the Caribbean guy who has like 20 jobs and thinks of those individuals with just 3 jobs as lazy.  A colleague texted me that he was reminded me of me when he saw this woman on the train editing a paper while eating cereal.  My answer was: well, we all have a doppelganger. Was she eating frosted flakes?

 

Do women make 70 cents on the dollar in comparison to what their male counterparts make?  It seems to be nationally validated statistic.  Have it seen it in my own past workplaces? Somewhat. But currently, that is not the case. As a matter of fact it is the women that are more highly paid. Why is that? Because nowadays there is a higher percentage of women with advanced degrees and with better writing skills.  Seriously. One thing to note is that women seem to burnout at a different rate than men.  Perhaps a faster rate than men.  At least the married ones. I have seen women not be able to handle the jobs not so much because they lack the skill sets but because they are worried about emotional state of their husband.  It actually lends itself to a fascinating case study.  In social psychology we talk about shared identity (Venn diagrams are particularly useful for this).  Basically, to what extent do individuals define themselves in terms of their relationships to others (especially a sexual or main life partner) and to social groups. An indicator of this shared (or collective identity)  is the use of the term “we” think, “we” believe and so on. In the workplace, what I have found (at least in the non-profit field) is that a shared identity can be the downfall of many women. Ok, downfall is too harsh of a word. But what I have found is that sense of shared identity can lead to an enhanced and more rapid onset of burnout.  [on a side note, can someone fund me to study this?] On the plus, side shared identity in couples can lead to better conflict resolution in the relationship at home.

 

Let’s just note, as well, that women ARE different in the workforce. I know some people don’t want to admit it. But biology is real. Women and women alone give birth to babies –for now. You have to take a day or two to push that human life through the birth canal or have it yanked out of your belly (well C-sections aren’t about yanking but you get the point). For nine months you get bigger and slightly slower. Sometimes you even puke for days and days (or in my case for seven months). There is no denying there are differences. And when you are breastfeeding there are certain accommodations women can ask for-whether they necessarily get it is a different thing (do you get private time in an office or get shoved into a closet?). What’s wrong with admitting that there are differences?   Admitting the differences does not mean that we are inferior or that we are complaining.

 

Now one thing I will add is that I definitely don’t want to be anybody’s mother or sister at work. That’s not for me nor should it be.  The fact that people want to come to me as a sounding board-I will take to mean that my listening and faux non-judgmental skills are great.  But don’t expect me to monitor or care about your transgressions.

In her Marie Claire interview, Hilary Clinton stated: “Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs… Other women don’t break a sweat,” Clinton further said “I can’t stand whining. I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they’re not happy with the choices they’ve made.”

 

So, Hilary basically said to suck it up. Those in high management positions have made choices. We don’t need to roar.  We don’t need to mope. We don’t need to be more manly than men. I’m gonna put on my high heels, put on some mascara and put on a good show. I’m gonna run the world several manic moments at a time while I still can.

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