Yes Ma’am! Can You Handle A Woman Boss?

Last updated 19 Sep 2016 . 7 min read

It is known that workplaces can become hostile for women. Unfortunately, we are programmed to ‘deal’ with such scenarios, as we don’t always have other options. To top that, there are general and fundamental fallacies about a woman who is at the top, the “boss”.

Though we are pretty much done explaining ourselves, and haggling with anyone about these perceptions, we are definitely laughing at your myopic point of view. Some things are best left alone, and not given any ‘bhao’ or worth.

When I asked women at work across industries such as law, retail, insurance, hospitality and banking about how their journey has been so far as women or women bosses, they all had stories to tell.

Here are some of them:

 "A woman boss is incompetent."

Often, when people discuss how they are facing difficulties in dealing with their boss, others listen to the whole thing very attentively, giving an impression that they will come up with an ace solution. What they actually come up with, as an initial response, is: “Oh, is your boss a woman?” And if the answer is yes, then there is no further discussion.

Miss C, assistant vice-president, credit cards collections, in a leading international bank, said, “When I took over, the women were very excited as they felt there will be someone who’ll be empathetic to their needs. The men weren’t excited, nor did they take me seriously. In this area of my industry, it is the men who have ruled the roost for 10-15 years; and here I was, a woman with just few years of experience as their boss.”

Next time, address the problem; don’t attack the gender of the person. If one expects empathy for their side of the story, they must know using the “gender card” completely kills all their chances.

A woman boss is tricky and temperamental during ‘that time of the month’.”  

A passionate, engaged and ambitious woman boss doesn’t need to be asked if it is "that time of the month". She just wants you to do your job well. So when she demands that from you, just prove yourself at work rather than crib about her.  

Miss B, an administrative officer in one of the foremost insurance companies, said, “It was simply terrible. They react differently to a woman boss; taking orders, instructions or learning from a woman at a higher position made my subordinates uncomfortable, especially the men. When what I said was told to them by my male counterparts, everyone was suddenly far more cooperative.”

Ms I, a commercial marketing manager for southwest Asia in a leading hotel group, said, “I have never faced any opposition or insubordination based on my being a woman. Perhaps I have been fortunate to be associated with forward thinking organisations. Having said that, I know that there are lots of places where gender is used at to seclude, ridicule and even create a sense of discomfort at work. When dealing with external stakeholders, especially the older generation, or those belonging to the old school, you do feel that a bit of patronisation sets in.”

Being a woman has got nothing to do with being a demanding boss. Leadership styles, personality and circumstances are about a person, not their gender.

A successful woman boss is heartless, loveless, not family oriented; hence mean at the workplace.”

When a man works hard at his job, and is spending endless hours away from his home and family, he is considered to be successful and powerful. He is reassured that this is how things are done to be the best at work, and it is right to compromise all other aspects of his life. It doesn’t make him bad, emotionally unavailable or any less of a person.

When the exact same thing is done by a woman, it is often perpetuated that she is heartless, loveless or not family-oriented. This assumption is hilarious!

Look at successful women around you; just because she doesn’t show sentimentality at work (and rightly so!) doesn’t mean she is insensitive towards others or doesn’t have a personal life. That’s being way too nosy about her choices and infringing on her private life.

Casual sexism is no big deal.”

Some believe annoying judgments about a woman’s ability based on looks or clothes are kosher. Unsolicited jokes, remarks, advances or looks are ways to impress the female colleague. She doesn’t feel bad, or she wants to be adored like that. Nope. So, just stop.

Women handle these situations in a very polite and fragile manner every day, honestly because they have far more important things at work to get done. She is polite because that’s giving her colleagues a chance to evolve. So get those work ethics right before she gives it back, and you call her the “evil devil”.

“I am taken far more seriously as a woman in certain places or by people at work when I dress up in Indian attire. Even when I am in strictly conservative and formal western attire, the stance of the same people changes,” said Ms D, a senior advocate at a leading law firm.

Casual sexism is a no-no here. Period.

“She is nothing.” 

Time and again, a woman boss is put down, shut off and secluded to ensure she gets the point--that she is 'nothing', or incapable, or not good enough.

Ms R, a senior design manager for visual space at a retail brand, said, “Although I was constantly challenged in my initial years, I was finally the highest paid employee in my management bracket, beating the salaries of many men whose remuneration was close but not the same. As I had grown in the ranks and built the team from scratch, my team had absolutely no issues in having a woman boss. Contrary to normal companies, I actually felt that the the male-female disparity was more visible in the seniors, than from the juniors. There was always a glass ceiling that was difficult to crack because of the "boys club" that seemed disturbing, yet couldn't be challenged. Many female colleagues who seemed obvious choices to be in the top management roles were denied, in spite of long hours and obvious intelligence.”

For employers, and colleagues, it is imperative to understand that by ill treating, discriminating or secluding a woman, they can’t stop her from being successful anymore. She will be at the top more so now, as it will fuel and propel her to realise her dreams. She will rise because of her stupendous talent, intelligence and hard work. Those never get wasted. 

So, the question is: Can you handle a woman boss?

(The names and companies for all the women were withheld, as they didn’t want any further animosity at their workplace. Unbelievable right?)  

image source 1, 2

Piyali Dasgupta
A writer and an educator with expertise in experiential learning,capacity building, counselling & content development. A feminist, wit addict and time/life traveler. She loves trees, water bodies, vintage,cooking and arts

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