As a female Hispanic executive I have often faced the dilemmas Sheryl Sandberg discusses in her book Lean In. I have felt the “impostor syndrome” and I have seen women tear each other apart. Then again who hasn’t I mean, rather, who hasn’t seen people just tearing each other apart in the workplace? It happens across the gender spectrum.
At this time, I do not need to reiterate her points. I don’t need to critique her book. I know my own experience. I don’t know why we sometimes feel like we have to validate our experiences by reading about how others have also had the same experiences. Yes, I know about sharing best practices and helping others not make the same mistakes. I fully share my experiences with other people, and women in particular. What I have often found is that others are not interested. Why is that?
Well, many want to have their own experience. Many feel that they will not be authentic if they follow the paths laid out or recommended by others, even when those paths represent hard-fought wins. One female colleague noted to me after experiencing the same problems I had tried to warn her about that she didn’t want to be biased. Tell me, what is the point of lessons learned? It seems that these days we eschew the idea of “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it..” However, considering how quickly things are evolving these days, what is the likelihood of history repeating itself?
I have been involved in a series of negotiations lately where I have been painted in clearly contrasted terms. For some I am a cheerleader and for others I am a bully. Let me tell you something I am neither and perhaps I am both. Which executive is not both of those at times. Maybe Steve Jobs? My understanding is that he wasn’t much of a cheerleader. But I really do not know and I do not intend to watch any of the movie that have been released recently about him. It’s a bit too soon, if you ask me. The funny thing about how people are boxing me in, is that men tend to label me as the cheerleader and women tend to label me as the bully. I recently noted how we need to stop thinking about how we need to think outside the box. As long as we position our thinking in relation to the box, we are ruled by it. The same goes for how we position ourselves as female executives in the workplace. Am I not more than the sum of those pom poms and rulers I seem to be painted with?
Part of what I have learned to do in the workplace is just to be myself. I can be charming and hard-headed. However, above all I am smart, thoughtful and fair. Also, I wear pretty clothes and awesome shoes. And why shouldn’t I? I enjoy looking pretty and wearing five inch Betsey Johnson heels. I enjoy wearing dangling long earrings. I do not need to hide any of that in order to be effective or taken seriously. I did note that during this current election cycle Hilary Clinton has embraced her gender outright gleefully noting she would be the first female president of the United States Last election cycle she seemed to want to hide that fact or at least not talk about it out loud. She is now Out and Proud acknowledging that she is a woman. Good for her.