When I started my career there was a common saying about women who went into non-traditional career fields: “They are looking for a man or they want to be a man.”
Think about the two extreme options this statement presents for women. Our choices are that we are desperate to get married or that we have a gender identity issue.
Not too long ago the expectation was that once a woman married, she would soon become pregnant, quit working and opt for the life of a housewife. And many of my fellow female engineers (and STEM) did this. The top female engineering student at my college graduated a year early so she could get married! Even though she had her pick of jobs and was offered more money than any other student, she took an intern position with Junior League. We all questioned why she even got an engineering degree in, let alone do it in 3 years!
Over time I saw most of my female peers leave engineering and live more traditional lives.
The 3 women I knew that remained in engineering or architecture were all single. And all were labeled extreme feminists man-haters or feminist lesbian cows. Not very nice and certainly not true. None of these women were man-haters and none were lesbians. But the men could not get their heads wrapped around any other explanation which is why I sent them into a dizzying state of confusion.
I married before I graduated college but still got my engineering degree. I still went into the Air Force right after college and did not get pregnant immediately. I was really good at my job. But what really threw the guys off was that I wasn’t a member of NOW and I didn’t preach feminism. I just did my job.
Eventually we started having open and candid conversations about working women. I had to explain to explain that I wasn’t a freak of nature – I was the new possibility for women. My colleagues liked and respected me because I did my job well with no feminist agenda. They could get on board with this new concept – they genuinely liked it.
For many years I had no identity conflict, I was simply a real working woman – an example of what was to come.
But this identity of the real working woman did not happen!
I don’t know what happened but women became confused with men. Women confused themselves with men! In the last 10 or so years how many woman have made this statement:
“I am more like a man than a woman.”
I see women making that statement all the time on LinkedIn group discussions. Why?!
The first time I heard that statement applied to me was when I got divorced. My male colleagues told me I would have a hard time finding a man because I was more like a man than a woman. I found that statement hurtful and insulting.
I still saw myself as the same hard working woman who was really good at my job, even though my job was traditionally male. Just because I am good at my job it doesn’t mean that I am a man.
The concept that women who excel in business are more like men brings us back to the days of the Cult of True Womanhood which states that true women, don’t have what it takes to handle the rough and tumble world of business. So, what my colleagues were telling me was that I am not a true woman and therefore not attractive to men. To keep this illogic going, does that then mean I am supposed to become a lesbian? Or should I schedule a sex change operation?! But then would I be gay and not a manly man?!??!
This is ridiculous! (and insulting to the LGBT community)
It seems that in 30 years we women have only confused ourselves even more. How can we get ahead if we don’t even know who we are!
And where are the positive images?
Last year, my daughter and I had a long drive to California and she rented some books on CD. One book was about a high powered female attorney who defended mob bosses. At the office she was a strong, independent fierce woman. In her personal life she was…a wimp. A dumb wimp. She had a whirlwind romance with a handsome man who swept her off her feet (this was the first time a man paid so much attention to her.) She quickly married him only to learn he scammed her and now was after her. Scared and defenseless, her manly neighbor Wiley, comes to her rescue. Throughout the book she kept saying in a breathy, timid Marilyn Monroe voice “ooohhh Wiley”.
It was sickening to listen to. But I kept listening. (It reminded me of what my male colleagues expected from me.) And in the end she gave up her career to be with Wiley. Of course.
It seems we haven’t come a long way baby.
How about this picture?
I opened up a magazine last week and found it.
Can you relate to this?
If you are more like a man than a woman, is this how you picture yourself?
I hope not! There is too much I can say about this picture! But if women describe themselves as men, this is what we get! And we don’t get ahead.
So let’s stop. No more “I’m more like a man than a woman” or “I’m a man in a woman’s body.”
Being good in business doesn’t make women men, transgender or asexual.
Women who are good in business are still women. We need to hold onto our womanhood, it is at the core of our success.
Let’s describe ourselves using the description the man who redesigned my website used. He got very familiar with my articles and said “you’re a really good woman…you’re really good at being a woman.”
I like that.
So, from now when you describe yourself say “I’m really good at being a woman.”
Empowered women are really good at being women.
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