Thursday, November 21, 2013

Breaking Through The Glass


            I have always worked in female dominated fields and just recently I encountered gender inequality. I am the only female in a group of four males. I did not consider the gender imbalance until discussions commenced and I began to feel alienated. The males tend to take control of the conversation and acknowledge my contributions but do not incorporate them completely. Their actions make me feel like I am not being taken seriously. They made me feel belittled and intimidated. I decided to handle the situation with grace by staying strong and finishing what I started. Walking away would mean their preconceived notions of females being weak, limited and undetermined would be true, however, I do not ascribe to such limitations. I am determined to show them that my recommendations are equally valuable and actionable as theirs by presenting them in a more confident tone. I have to believe in myself first in order to radiate that confidence and be treated as an equal. I believe in gender equality in the workplace and equal opportunities. Feminism embraces these ideas as well and provides the means for expressing them. 
          Feminism is an important issue to address and one I had not pondered before. I have always been cognizant of the Glass Ceiling women face, but never focused on it. Growing up in a culture that portrays females as the submissive gender made me accept this reality. That is when I realized that change needs encouragement and motivation from those being affected from the lack of change. If we all accept this reality of inequality, then our opportunity to create positive change as future leaders will pass us by. We are future business leaders who possess the power to bring more equality into the employment field.
          I chose to write about feminism to clarify its actual meaning and purpose. I do not classify myself as a feminist, but I believe in equality and equity for everyone in the workplace. As I prepare to launch my career with a Fortune 500 company, I came to the realization of the struggles I will face trying to climb the corporate ladder. As future leaders we need to correctly understand and be aware of the issues that plague society. Feminism is not a new concept or ideology, it is a hushed movement. In order for change to occur, everyone, males and females, need to be cognizant of the issue.

          Feminism is a strong word many fear to utter due to the negative connotations it has gained. Feminism is an important notion to understand and embrace in today’s corporate world. Feminism is not about condemning men but rather creating social, political and economic equality among genders. It is about equity and equality in the workplace.
          This is important to understand especially with the growing number of females pursuing corporate careers and the prevalence of misogyny in corporate society/culture. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Women in the Labor Force: A Databook reports that women account for 51% of the labor force employed in managerial and professional positions in 2011, but only account for 47% of total employment. Currently 49% of undergraduates and 58.4% of graduate students pursuing a degree in Business Administration at Anderson School of Management are women. Harvard Business School (HBS) conducted a case study on gender equity and found an alarming disproportion among the student body and faculty members. The Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity, reports that women make up a fifth of the tenured faculty and identifies the large gap between male and female student performance. Nori Gerardo Lietz, a real estate private equity investor and HBS faculty member, states that the disproportion occurs with intellectual prestige. Males tend to share and trade insider secrets and opportunities otherwise not offered to female students. Although women are at parity or surpassing their male classmates, the HBS case study states that they are still not “touching the money.”

          The problem revolves around confidence; the manner female confidence is interpreted by males and the fear of becoming an outcast in society. There is a fine line that separates a confident and successful woman from being classified as weak or over assertive. If women assert their authority they are seen as being “harsh and overly demanding.” When women are nice they get walked all over and become “weak pushovers.” This minute difference is what creates fear in women. How can you be assertive and liked at the same time without committing social suicide?
          In order to combat this issue Frances Frei, dean of faculty recruiting at HBS, advises to project warmth and high expectations at the same time; To avoid trying to bolster credibility with soliloquies. Other options to bolster managerial confidence and female success are to join networks of powerful women, find female role models and mentors in authoritative positions. The wealth of knowledge that will be gained through these networks will provide a valuable foundation for career growth and will greatly improve your confidence. Just by knowing that someone has been where you are, has endured the same experiences and has come out on top is empowering. These resources will boost your self-esteem and make you believe in yourself.
          I have applied this advice through my collegiate years and my confidence level has greatly improved. I used to be very timid until I decided to join student organizations in order to grow my network. I met many people who gave me great advice, presented me with opportunities and most importantly believed in me. Having a support group really helps improve your confidence.
          Embracing feminist values does not make you a “man hater” or defines a gender as weaker or stronger. It is about combating inequality, inequity, and extending equal opportunities to women of all races, ages, and economic classes. Women have the same capabilities as men but are hindered by a lack of confidence and the fear of becoming a social outcast in society. Exude confidence by believing in yourself. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too, and if not, just remember to fake it ‘til you make it!

Diana Solis is a BBA student at Anderson School of Management. She will be graduating this December with a dual concentration in Accounting and Marketing. Diana currently serves as an Anderson Career Services Ambassador, Senior Advisor for Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, and is an Accounts Payable Intern with Southwest Brands LLC. She is very passionate about student success and giving back to the community. Diana is always ready to help students with resume reviews, career advice or simply connecting them with future employers. After graduation she will be launching her career with General Mills Inc.

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