There is a line between being perceived as a B**ch and a Pushover in your organization (The GREY LINE).
It is an unfortunate reality that society is still battling. Too often, women find themselves performing a balancing act on the GREY LINE, all while trying to perform at a high level to be respected as a professional. No, it's not fair, but it is an unfortunate reality in far too many organizations. Women waste valuable time conducting this unproductive task.
What can women in the business world do to minimize this or avoid this?
Qualify the organization you want to join.
In a recent conversation with an administrator from a prominent business school in Pittsburgh, PA, she mentioned a woman who had a high level position offer pulled back because of her demands during negotiations. Were her demands unreasonable? Not at all. They were of equal demand as any man in a negotiation. The problem is the organizational culture that she was being interviewed by. Of course they communicated a different reason for pulling the offer to cover their tracks. Even though tough to prove, it is still gender bias and discrimination, but it was also a blessing that she did not have to work in an organization like that. The GREY LINE would have been razor thin in that company.
Ladies, interview your prospective employers with the thought process of measuring how wide or thin the GREY LINE is.
One way to do this is to KNOW YOUR VALUE!
When you interview for a position, know what the average salary for a man is for performing the same position. Without gender in the equation, how would an organization compensate for your skills and experience? Do not be afraid to negotiate and demand that your value be met. You sell yourself short when you except less than you know you are worth. Remain confident and professional when your terms are presented to your prospective employer, and be alert to observe their response, because it is in their response where they will reveal the type of organization they are. When you are respected in your negotiations, and you feel your terms are seriously considered, you may be looking at an organization who has a much wider GREY LINE. If they try to demean your terms or communicate that you are asking too much, when you have done your homework and know they compensate men with more, you know they are not the kind of company you want to be a part of.
Speak to women who work there.
Why Not!? Ask to speak to people who work there, especially women who would be peers. Communicate that you are wanting to get a gauge for the culture of the organization, because you are! Find out how well men and women interact. Don't dismiss perceptions people have. Though, they may be miss-perceptions, perception is reality.
Humans operate in funny ways. We judge others by their actions, and we judge ourselves by our intentions. So, with that stated, people are judging you by your actions, not your intentions. That is where the saying "Perception is Reality" comes from. Though an organizational culture, especially made of predominantly men, may have good intentions in their interactions with the women they work with, their actions are what shape the culture, not their intentions.
How the women you speak with perceive the culture they work in is based on observed actions, not perceived intentions. Do not second guess perceptions.
The final thought I will share is to trust your GUT!
I say this to my wife all the time. She is quick to dismiss her intuition and instincts, when they are always right. I am sure you can relate to having a gut feel about something, went against your gut, and then regretted it later. Intuition is a gift. Use it! Don't be afraid to hold your ground or walk away from an opportunity based on your gut telling you to. And most importantly, don't hold regret for doing so, or second guess yourself either. Live with the decision you made. Learn from it, and look for other opportunities. Find yourself an opportunity that has a WIDE GREY LINE, or even better, no need for the line at all.
Women have a much tougher time than men in the business world.
All I know is that I don't know how tough women have it. I can only imagine. What I do know is the man's perspective having had conversations with men speaking of the GREY LINE. I do not share their mind set. In fact, I work better with women, because so many women work harder because of trying to avoid the GREY LINE mentality. Women should not have to operate in this way. Until that utopia can be found, women must qualify the organization they hope to join and have greater control of how thin of a GREY LINE they are willing to deal with to advance their careers.
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