When you are a woman trying to rise through the ranks and live your dreams in the workplace, it can be very challenging especially when you get to become the boss of some people or someone who has to supervise people. This happens more when you are working in a male-dominated work field. People judge you based on your gender not based on your competencies. It is like they’re expecting you to perform below expectations just because you’re female.
This sometimes affects the way the ones you are supervising or are in charge of see you and relate to you. This is particularly true if your junior colleagues or subordinates are males because many of them do not believe that they should be led or supervised by a female. They would sometimes communicate these beliefs by disregarding or disobeying clear direct instructions just because it is coming from you. They might also talk down on your suggestions and act like you shouldn’t be in that position you are now. Many times, they would be offended when you correct them or they would harbor resentment when you are stern because of that egoistic mindset a lot of them have been raised with. This is usually the case when a man is married and feels like he has “your type” at home. So If you’re a person who asserts doesn’t tolerate any form of laxity or incompetence, it could make some people see you as wicked or overbearing just because you’re female but they wouldn’t mind at all if you’re male.
If you are bold, outspoken and authoritative as a woman in the workspace, people tend to see you as wicked but they don’t judge male counterparts too harshly. Someone said, “When women raise their voices, they’re seen as aggressive but when men raise their voices, they are seen as assertive.” It is like people don’t expect you as a woman to ever put your foot down or frown at anything anyone does. They also do not expect you to appraise the people working under you from time to time as a boss should. They do not expect you to challenge any inappropriate behavior people (especially men) working with you mete out because you are female. Apart from their ego, some of the men for some inexplicable reason feel like it is a privilege, not a right or something well deserved, for you to be in that position you are currently in now. They feel like you somehow smiled your way to the top. These attitudes that show up in their action can be very frustrating and challenging to deal with on a regular basis.
Going to work often and facing these challenges regularly can be exhausting. It could also start getting on your nerves and infuriating you. This could make you tempted to challenge everyone who acts like they are trying to undermine you. It could also make you lose your cool and lash out in anger but never do that. Think of the young women who you are paving the way for and be an example to them. Be calm and tackle things with tact and grace. Always ask yourself if this confrontation would be worth it. Don’t just fly off a handle, act in a rash so that younger women coming into the workplace would see these things, and emulate them. What you give out would be what may be used to judge other women after you so let it be something good.
If you are among the female bosses who are stern or wicked maybe because you got tired of being walked all over or being disobeyed or taken for granted, you should stop doing that. Think of the effects of what you are doing on people around you. You will not earn their respect by being mean or strict unnecessarily. You would only succeed in making enemies and giving people more reasons to resent female bosses. This is definitely not a good example for the younger generation or the kind of reputation a person should uphold. Let go of all the hurts you have held in, hold your head high and do your work calming. It is work, not a battlefield.
My candid advice to every woman who is a boss or in levels or positions of authority (or aspiring to become one) would be to never listen to the voice of their attitudes. People would always have an opinion about you. They would always have reasons to undermine you or think you are incompetent. Ignore them. Know your worth and remind yourself how hard you have worked to get to where you are. Always remind yourself that you were not gifted that title, level or position. Know and remember that whether anyone agrees or not, you deserve that job. You deserve that position. It was not donated to you as part of a charity. You earned it so do not let anyone gender-shame you into thinking otherwise so that you do not start feeling insecure or incompetent.
Then, choose your battles wisely. Decide what actions to ignore and what to address. Always lookout for the outcome, that is, what you hope to achieve after every challenge or confrontation. Never let yourself react rashly or thoughtlessly in anger or out of raging emotions. Know when to put your foot down kindly but firmly. Know when to insist on your or on the right way. Also, know when to ignore the haters and just do the work. Show them how it is done!
Never fall into the trap of trying so hard to prove to those who have misjudged you that you are good enough or that you deserve the spot you are currently occupying because no matter how hard you try, there are people who would never believe in you. You will not ever win their approval. If they eventually do, their prejudice may not let them admit it to themselves or to you.
Finally, surround yourself with a healthy support group. Find and connect with women in similar or different fields of endeavors who are facing the same challenges as you and connect with them. Find out how they are coping and share with them too. It helps to know that you are not alone. It would also help you gain more tips on how to deal with things like this. As part of your support group, have a handful or more of male counterparts or colleagues in the office who see humanity and competencies before they see gender. These would be your allies and would always stand by you and urge you on to achieving greater things in the workplace.