Several years ago I was working on a project where some senior male managers didn’t want a woman in charge. They wanted to prove that anything I could do, a man could do better.
This was a particularly difficult project and men lasted about 2 months. So every 2 months, I was back in charge with a mess to clean up until they found another man to take over. I stayed in this revolving door for over a year. My direct supervisor fought hard on my behalf, using every bit of clout he had but even he couldn’t make a difference.
Eventually they ran out of men who were my peers, so they decided to promote their star up-and-coming young man, a man who I was mentoring. I was basically out of a job because this time all of my responsibilities were taken away. A couple of days later, the young man approached me in the hallway and said “You are still going to do everything you’ve been doing right?”
I gave him a steely cold stare and said “No. You wanted it, you got it.” I turned and walked away.
Four weeks later he gave his notice.
He approached me again and said “I didn’t realize how much you did.”
My cold response was “No you didn’t.”
He then apologized and confessed to back-stabbing me to get the job. He showed me emails, leaving no doubt that a particular manager saw me as the company’s Token Woman.
After my young colleague left, no man would take over. They threatened to quit if assigned to the project. This time I didn’t step forward. Instead, my supervisor went to bat for me again and this time they gave in – with a 15% pay raise. By this time the project was in dire straits and everyone ran away from it like rats leaving sinking ship. They were happy to have somebody, anybody take over.
In the end the company lost a tremendous amount of money trying to prove the impossible – that a man could run the project better than a woman. Soon after I was put back in charge, another woman joined the project and together we kicked butt and got ‘er done while all the men scratched their heads wondering how we did it.
All these years later, I find myself in a similar situation. For several years I’ve been the President of a board for a small organization. This year, a man came forward, wanting to be President. I chose to take a break and let him be President. Since taking over he’s made a mess of things.
As he tries to squirm out of his responsibilities I am holding him accountable and find myself again saying “You wanted it, you got it.”
All too often men take on positions they aren’t ready for. As women we watch them mess up and then we make a HUGE mistake – we clean up their mess for them.
For some reason we find power in this. We find power in secretly knowing that men need us and can’t do their job without us. But that is our mistake – we keep it a secret when it should be a huge flashing neon sign that our male colleagues need the skills we bring to the male-dominated workplace.
It is time for women to take off our aprons and put down our dust pans. If a man wants a position then he’s got it along with all the responsibilities and accountability. He can clean up his own mess or step down.
If we wind up taking over and have to clean up someone else’s mess, then we only do it with full recognition – the authority, job title and pay. And our pay must be higher than what the mess-maker earned….because that is what any other man would demand.
Empowered Women Don’t Clean-up Other People’s Messes for Free!
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