Do We Ignore Women In Professional Life?
We Don’t See Things As They Are, We See Them As We Are
- Anaïs Nin
I have been an entrepreneur and have run large organizations and now engage with several startups as a mentor, investor, and academic. Most of my interactions have been mostly with men – by sheer virtue of their numbers in the workspace.
However, something happened recently that made me cognizant of the fact that women get ignored or under played in professional settings, a lot.
I was at a prestigious venture event the other day. As these events are, full of investors at one end, mostly Ivy-leaguers, and entrepreneurs on the other, mostly trying to hustle introductions, trying to get some mindshare etc. Now I am a guy, entrepreneur and investor myself and investors and entrepreneurs alike generally are courteous, make place for me in groups, let me have a word in, and show general interest. I assumed it’s the same way for everyone.
On this occasion, I had a friend woman entrepreneur with me. Over tea, I introduced her to a pre-dominantly male group, part of usual business courtesy.
However, turns out, the same rules don’t apply to men and women – she just went ignored. She was completely un-noticed as if she was invisible.
Her business is probably a bigger and better business than most entrepreneurs, but in this setting, I could see that the guys basically ceased to notice her after the initial hello. The reasons could be any – lack of interest, lack of confidence or sheer lack of courtesy. But invariably the same isn’t likely to happen if the person in question was a guy.
I now remember discussions in my previous company GlobalLogic almost a decade back that when salary discussions came up, being a woman was a factor. HR factored this in. I didn’t resist either. Everyone solved to their own convenience, I did too.
It leaves me wondering for sure, do we (men) ignore women professionally? Do we slight them knowingly / unknowingly / sub-consciously. Maybe we just assume that they are not in this setting for business. Maybe we carry a stereotype bias around?
There are only a few women entrepreneurs and wanna-preneurs around in the ecosystem. As a percentage, they are a minority. Now this one in question is an Alpha. She has won at her terms and could occupy the conversation, if she stepped it up.
However, when I extrapolate this incident to all women, I am certain this happens in all professional settings and often. They get slighted by default. Or women make a different group and men make a different one.
When food is ordered in offices, women open the boxes by default and serve to everyone. Combine this with a life-long doze of “fitting in” through having to look good and all other usual expectations; it’s miraculous that even some women make it.
I know better now. It’s a tricky situation. I don’t want to ignore women, at the same time I don’t to over-compensate, because that’s a form of slighting too.
I don’t want to be secular. I want to be agnostic. I am working at it, I would encourage my brethren to be too.
C*****I do relate in some part to this, though my experience has been quite different. With 35 yrs of background in manufacturing industry, the growth has been quite satisfactory. Yes, initially there was a lot of resistance for "acceptance" among my peers and business associates, considering we were into industrial products. So, I was more in Sales Admin, Customer servicing etc. It was couple of years later that the recognition did come in. I am fortunate to be wkg in an orgn, which has a progressive mgt. I have done the gamut - marketing, raw material sourcing, business development, operations. The best years was when I was given oppurtunity to handle Operations at one of our plants. It was a clear msg - no discrimination. I was the only woman staff at the plant. We did have women workers, but only in sorting/packing. Through a lot of motivation, encouragement - with support of the male workers/their own family, they now are actively involved in the prodn lines - handling processes, quality control etc. We have set up Quality systems - 5S, TPM etc and these women have successfully contributed, even though this is a predominantly Engg unit. I have travelled to over 20 countries for my work (some of the so called unsafe ones like Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania etc), and have the best relationship with our clients!! To certain extent, there is a disparity in salary, in my case too - we are working in resolving this too. I urge the women too, to strongly project themselves - half the battle is won with your confidence !! No one is going to teach you, you have to imbibe this as you go along...
S*****This is deep rooted in the social values men in India are brought up with with regards to women -its hard to change in the professional environment.
R*****Why should we beg for equality. It is the mindset that needs to change. And there are many male member in our family, office and friend circle who encourage women and support to the extent they can,
G*****i liked the way presented but not understand what actually is conveyed ...
K*****I have seen this happen all the time. Women do not no more need special treatment. Equal opportunity and recognition is what we need.
N*****I sure liked reading this ! I am not a proponent of 'treat us special at workplace because we are women', but definitely a supporter of rights and opportunities on the basis of merit and merit only. 'I want to be agnostic' - Wish everyone agrees !