When men and women go into the same trade, vocation or profession they take very different career paths. Men tend to take the path that leads to the higher paying jobs and advancement while women take the path to lower paying government, secondary and support jobs that don’t offer as much advancement. This is a significant underlying cause of the pay gap and why women aren’t advancing in society and the workplace.
Women have to ask themselves “Why aren’t we going onto getting on the same paths as men?” After all, that was a point of equality – to give women the same opportunities to achieve as men.
The problem is we still believe a lot of misrepresentations and listen to a lot of false narratives that tell us that we aren’t suited for these paths.
As a woman who took these male-dominated paths, let me just say “Ladies, we should be all over these paths. We are definitely suited for them.”
First, let’s understand that all of our employers see us as Doers in a transactional relationship. (We do work and they pay us for that work.) They then divide us into two Doer groups. The Active Doers work directly with producing our workplace’s product and service and therefore have a direct impact on performance, profitability and viability. The other group of Support Doers work in the background helping the Active Doer be successful.
All of our workplaces also have goals and objectives they have to meet such as:
- Sell more product and increase revenue by $X
- Win that big contract
- Finish the project by this Date with a margin of $X
- Deliver a new product by this Date
- Improve efficiency and deliver $X to the bottom line
To meet these goals, our workplaces turn to the Active Doers to “make it happen” and “git’er done.” There is pressure, often intense pressure on the Active Doers to meet these goals. The Active Doers who meet them, whether they are in management or part of the workforce, are now part of a small and elite group of Achievers.
In return for their effort and their direct impact on workplace performance, Achievers demand higher pay, bonuses and promotions.
We tend to have a very stereotypical perception of Achievers. They are aggressive, brash, very confident, risk-takers and driven. They are bulls in the china shop. To reach their objective they bulldoze through people and obstacles creating a rampage chaos in their wake. But, no one cares because they got the job done!
Women, in their Support Doer roles, clean up the mess the Achievers leave behind. It is by no means an easy task and we get a sense of satisfaction from it, knowing that the Achievers aren’t so perfect.
If we are lucky, we are rewarded with a “thank-you.”
This is the scenario most workplaces are stuck in, but it is soooo 20th century. In the 21st century this is NOT how you become an Achiever, individually or as a workplace.
Super Bowl LII gave us a great example of how to be 21st century Achievers.
It was 4th down and the Eagles were on the 1 yard line. They decided to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal. Everyone saw it as a gusty, risky move because they assumed the Eagles were going to rely on brute force to bulldoze their way through the Patriot’s line to reach their objective.
But, they didn’t.
They used a creative, complex play that required synchronized teamwork. And they scored.
Using 20th century thinking, Nick Foles is credited for the touchdown because he caught the ball. However, that ignores everything else that went into making the touchdown possible.
The touchdown was possible because there was a Team of Achievers.
As a woman who took the Achiever career path, I used the Team of Achievers approach and I always out-performed my male colleague Achievers.
I learned to use it when I was just 23 years old and had to coach and train an even younger and more inexperienced team for a competition. Using the conventional male-dominated workplace wisdom of the time, my team and I were a joke. We were mocked, openly laughed at and called the “Kindergartners” because of our youth and inexperience.
But at the competition, we won in our category.
We also achieved the highest score among all the teams in all of the categories in the competition. We earned the title Best of the Best.
A team comprised of the youngest man and the only woman in the competition, coached by the only female coach in the competition blew up all of the conventional male wisdom of what it takes to be a Top Achiever.
For years I carried in my wallet a picture of my team accepting their trophy to remind me not to listen to all the nay-sayers who said I couldn’t achieve, or all the Achiever-Wannabes who tried to stop me because they didn’t want a woman showing them up.
That picture was my reminder to using the Team of Achievers approach to succeed far beyond expectations.
As I kept succeeding, I reinforced over and over and over again that as a woman, I brought a unique value to the team that my men cannot. When women are part of the team and our traits are blended with men’s traits, together, we create unprecedented achievement. And that feels really good.
It feels good to achieve. It is a feeling of euphoria that you want others to experience. However, many people are afraid to do what it takes to experience it.
Women don’t want to see themselves as an Achiever because we believe that if we raise ourselves up, we automatically diminish someone else. We believe that in the male-dominated career paths, there is more competition and that if we achieve then we will be attacked.
The truth is that Achievers appreciate other Achievers. Achievers don’t care about gender, race, education, religion, ethnicity or any of that stuff because the feeling of Achievement diminishes all that other garbage. Achievers want to be surrounded with other Achievers because they know that together they can achieve more.
A lot of women get discouraged in our careers, because we choose career paths that are too low for us and run into Achiever Wannabes. When we out-perform the Wannabes, we reveal that they are just a Wannabe and not the Achiever they espouse to be. The Wannabes then work to discourage and even sabotage us to protect their imaginary status. And all too often, we let them be effective.
If you are running into this, move your career path up to a higher level. Find the people who perform at your level and want you to be part of their Team of Achievers. Don’t give the Wannabes power over you or subject yourself to their judgement. Move up and leave them behind.
Many men remain Doers or Achiever Wannabes because they don’t want the responsibility and more importantly the accountability that goes along with being an Achiever. They are still entrenched in the old Bull in the China Shop definition of an Achiever. They still believe that Achievers work alone. They don’t understand the Team of Achievers approach.
This is where women come in.
We inherently understand teamwork, shared responsibility and shared accountability. Women naturally help out other people. It is why we gravitate to secondary and support roles.
But we have to stop going to those roles.
Our desire to help people, support people and make them feel good about themselves is exactly why we should step into team leadership positions.
As a woman Achiever working with men Achievers, I found that my best opportunity wasn’t being the team quarterback or wide receiver. There were a lot of men who wanted those positions for the stereotypical personal glory that comes with it. Even though I was a good quarterback, I saw my greater opportunity was in being the team coach. Not only was it a great fit for a woman Achiever, none of the guys wanted to be the coach.
As the coach my job was to create teamwork, develop each team member and design the plays that made us a Team of Achievers. I had to bring together the Active Doers and the Support Doers together into a cohesive and synchronized team. I didn’t fill my teams with A players, just with people who wanted the opportunity to experience being an Achiever and the great feeling that comes with it. Together we racked up a long list of Achievements.
All of our workplaces need to transition to operating through Teams of Achievers but to do that they need women to leave the Support Doer career paths for that of an Achiever. There is a goldmine of opportunity for women in the higher paying career paths of all professions and especially the male-dominated professions that women avoid. We don’t need to compete with the men who all want to be the star quarterback or wide receiver because the coaching positions are wide open. As the coach we then take on the role of the Leader of Achievers and we make a real difference by delivering the feelings pride and self-worth we hoped we could deliver in our low paying support positions.
Empowered Women Lead Others to Achievement
To learn more about how to see your value and realize your potential as an Achiever checkout my book.
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