I had to laugh, but I was incredulous nevertheless for a few minutes, a few months ago. I ended up being the only female at a meeting and even in this day and age, there was that curious pause most women recognize. All eyes turned my way when the question of minutes and note taking came up. Sigh. Still? In 2018? Yes, still. (I didn’t take the minutes. I cheerily said, “I’m a rotten note taker. Record the meeting or someone else might like to do it.”) And you know what? They figured it out without my female self to save the day. Yay me. It’s not that I would have minded taking notes, mind you. It’s the expectation was that I would take notes, because I’m a woman. Nope. No more.
My story and two friends were the impetus for this blog. At a girls’ night out, one friend laughed about her first job interview out of college. Having earned a BS in Mathematics from Northwestern in the late 80s, at her first post graduate interview, she was offered a receptionist position, “to get started.” She’s a biggity big these days, and is so successful in the actuarial field that, in her late 40s, she is semi-retired, working part-time from her home overlooking the Pacific in Northern California. “Is receptionist the position you offer to men with a BS in Mathematics,” she said she asked. She walked out after declining the job, confident she would find a position for her skill set. Her advice is that she doesn’t really give great advice. She says she worked harder, then she worked smarter, than everyone else. Plain, simple, analytical advice.
The other friend, couldn’t quite laugh even today, but shared some stories of her first real job as an engineer working as a shift supervisor for a Fortune 50 company. “It was so hard to go to work every day,” she said. “Cat calls, insubordination, loneliness, pranks. Most of the plant workers were old enough to be my grandfather.” Friend B became a plant manager, then rose through the ranks to become an executive who was charged with developing talent of high level executives within that same Fortune 50 company. She’s never forgotten how minimized she felt, how threatened, how intimidated. She advises that finding a mentor, then being a mentor, is incredibly important for women in business.
Those two friends’ stories are what brought me around to wondering about my daughters. I wondered if they had faced similar challenges to women of my generation as they entered the workforce. What had they experienced in their first forays into the workforce? Where there any mountains of equality left to scale in their chosen professions, in their eyes? (Sidebar: I know, statistically, women still make $.87 to a male’s earned $1 in the same position with the same amount of experience and education. But did my daughters still “feel” the like my friends, my sister and I did in our 20s and 30s, and still do, today?)
What advice would my daughters give to women in business, of any age? I have three daughters working in different environments. My oldest daughter is director of a nonprofit youth state sports program. My middle daughter works as a site supervisor in the not-for-profit world of early childhood education. My youngest is a merchandise planner in the corporate world of retail clothing industry.
My Daughters’ Advice
Daughter/Non for Profit Sports World
- Be confident.
- Speak up if you want to be heard.
- Volunteer and ask for more opportunities because opportunities won't always be handed to you for excellent work.
- Create a work/life balance that works for you. Disconnect from work when at home. If your office isn’t open, it can wait until tomorrow. Take advantage of time off and do not let it go to waste each year.
- Lose the word “just” when writing emails. If you’re “just asking” or you “just wanted to see” , you are using insecure ways to ask for compliance. “Just asking” leaves the idea that expectations are fluid. Be confident in your communication and say exactly what you need from others.
- Stop over apologizing. Take personal accountability by thanking those helping and use mistakes as learning opportunities.
- Don’t fear speaking up. Be confident with your tone and be ready/able to handle the criticism that comes with speaking up.
- Be accountable to yourself and to your co-workers.
- Sacrifices will have to be made to be successful, and you have to be ok with those sacrifices. Therefore, you must be brutally honest with yourself on where you can sacrifice and where you won’t.
- Develop resilience. You may not get the end results that you have planned or wished for but do not give up. Rebound, try again, try something else.
- Show respect. Even if you disagree or do not appreciate the other person’s perspective, be respectful. Show respect and hold yourself in a manner that you can hold your head high.
- Give. Give of yourself and make a difference, no matter how small your contribution might be. Remember, we never know the impact we are making on those we meet along our journey.
Have a wonderful May and Happy Mother’s Day, especially to my girls!
Robin Boggs Choquette, Psy.D.
Elite Performance Counseling, Inc.
Psychological and Consulting Services