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Pause & Consider; What it's like being a woman in a leadership position.

Often as a woman we have to put up with mansplaining, men not understanding that we are allowed to have an opinion, or being completely disregarded. But as a woman who leads a mostly male team it’s often the case where it’s the subtle disrespects that is the most frustrating. We had an uncomfortable conversation during executive meeting months ago because of this.

I have a staff member who’s a little old school and at every turn, even though I am the leader and ultimately responsible for him being part of the team, (I created the position and hired him) he’s executing on my goals, and I’m the person in leadership he most interacts with at the company, he continuously needs validation from other men when asked to do something by me. Its subtlety done, but it's done at such frequency that it gives me pause.

The reason we ended up talking about this at executive leadership meeting is because I had called out, in private, another male leader in the company for playing into this stereotype and he didn’t understand what I was talking about nor did he understand why it was an issue. After a lengthy conversation trying to explain why allowing said staff member to circumvent the directions of his direct supervisor was a problem, plus the fact that it was apparently that was doing it for the validation of the other men in the executive team, I had met my complete frustration point because yet again being a woman in leadership with any kind of feelings or opinion was "too much". And I left the conversation with my colleague feeling like this issue would never be resolved and I was just going to have to live with this disrespect.

So because I walked away from the conversation at an impasse, this was brought up three days later at an executive leadership meeting by my male colleague to get "everyone's opinion" on why I was wrong. I really didn’t want to have the conversation when this was brought up during the leadership meeting in fact it made me really uncomfortable. Because having to explain to an entire room full of people why it’s frustrating to be constantly undermined because of your gender especially in this day and age shouldn’t happen. Now, our executive leadership team is 50% women so needless to say what ensued was an explanation on why this need to do an end run around a woman giving directions is in fact wrong and a problem. I was actually happy to see the other women in the team share how this same scenario would have made them feel, so it wasn't just me being "too emotional".

I don’t know if we made any headway that day on helping anyone understand what it’s like to be a woman in leadership position but at least we got to sit at the table and have the conversation. So the next time it happens, maybe just maybe, having had the uncomfortable conversation will make others in leadership pause and consider.

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