Last week I saw a post on a private online group I belong to. The author was asking for advice on what she could have done better so she’s prepared should the situation arise again. So, what was the situation? She works at a university and along with a male professor and another researcher (male) received outside funding for a research project. She was frustrated because despite her qualifications, she was being treated as admin support and not included in critical decision making nor being asked for her professional opinion on certain aspects of the project. She was frustrated but put up with this. It wasn’t until she saw a proposal from the second researcher designating the tasks and payment to himself that she felt she had to say something. As you can imagine he was surprised she had seen his submission. What he hadn’t counted on was the faculty’s policy to run all external funding proposals through their gender equity group – of which she was a part of. With a great deal of fear and trepidation she faced him and negotiated a new proposal that still had him receive the majority of the funding. She was happy she had confronted him and renegotiated the proposal, so she was included but she was also annoyed he had done this and put her in this position.
So, as you can imagine many of the responses to her question included praise that she had taken action. “Thank you for doing this for us” they said in recognition that this type of thing happens all the time. I’m with them. Every time someone in the workplace stands up and says “no, that’s not good enough” we create a little ripple. You know the butterfly sneeze that creates a tornado on the other side of the earth type of thing? A shift in consciousness, a new level of confidence to say something earlier next time, a colleague who might do things differently from here on in, an observer whose ideas and beliefs might shift even if it’s just by 1%.
And then the tone started to change. “Reflect on why you found yourself in this situation”, “think about how you attracted this into your life”, “what limiting beliefs do you need to clear to make sure you’re never put in this situation again”.
And this when I get on my soapbox….
Why do we as women, feel the need to take responsibility for other people’s bad behaviour? People have been behaving badly and taking advantage of those they perceive to be weaker than them forever. It’s the cost of living in a “civil” society. I don’t prescribe to the view that fully functioning mature adults somehow allow or attract badly behaving people into their lives. I believe that for most of us it’s a part of life and it’s the way we choose to respond to it that can either elevate us or suck the life out of us.
As women we have a long history of being kept small at work in what’s often referred to as a “man’s world”. In the same way men have been kept emotionless and competitive. This view that women are somehow inferior, less intelligent, less capable or otherwise distracted by children and family responsibilities serves no one. We each have a responsibility to break down these entrenched views one thought, one word, one action at a time. No one is going to do this for us. No number of quotas, gender equality committees or reviews or reports will change these ingrained systemic views. They may help but it’s up to each and every one of us, each and every day, building our knowledge and our resilience and our intention in how we want to show up in the world. Being able to respond to these types of situations, whether they be as blatant and obvious as the one above or the seemingly insignificant comments that serve to undermine others, in a way that aligns with who we are takes work….
Every. Single. Day.
Are you up for it?