It happens that I work in a field that attracts men, and (for whatever reason) intimidates women.
When I got my first big promotion I was ecstatic. I felt that big times are coming my way. I felt I could move mountains and fly to the moon. Then I found myself in a room full of men.
I was the only woman in meetings. I have to admit that in the beginning I was intimidated being the only woman in the room. Later, I started to get annoyed. I got frustrated with the way I was treated by my male counterparts. I noticed that most of the time my opinion was dismissed or overlooked. My voice wasn’t heard. If by some miracle my opinion was heard, my words were taken with a huge dose of skepticism. And sarcasm. And obvious doubt.
After some time the good ol’ boys’ consistent dismissal started to get to me. I wondered if I ever would be not just noticed, but heard and respected. One day I had enough and made a plan to infiltrate the good ol’ boys club for three reasons:
- I wanted to prove to myself that I deserved the promotion I got;
- I wanted to show that I can do my job;
- I wanted to be respected.
To be honest, I did not want to belong to the good ol’ boys club. I am not big on any affiliations. However, I decided that I did not want to send emails and get responses that addressed my boss and ignored me. I did not need to look into these men’s faces and see “you are a woman, what do you know” dismissive smiles. I simply wanted to be able to express my opinion, and get a meaningful response.
Therefore I came up with Six Steps To Infiltration
- I accepted the notion that there will be no major change in the good ol’ boys club. I was not the one to bring that change. I needed to adapt.
- I started to wear more professional clothes. Men mostly wear suits, right? Initially, I dressed somewhat business casual, then I started to wear suits too. I wanted to come across as professional as I could be.
- I tried to learn as much as I could about my new responsibilities. I put in a lot of hours, and a lot of effort to make sure I was staying on top of things. The more I learned, the more confidence I gained.
- I took initiative and invited myself into situations I would never be invited otherwise. I volunteered to research. I volunteered to prepare spreadsheets. I took more responsibilities. This allowed me to get noticed.
- I trained myself (almost forcibly) to speak up. It was very intimidating at first. But I learned from my experience that if I did not voice my opinion (that was as valuable as anyone’s else), I would never be heard.
- I figured out that respect should be earned. It was very difficult to earn respect of the good ol’ boys club but it was possible. What is the most valuable asset that earns the most respect? Knowledge. The more you know, the more respect you earn.
Have I successfully infiltrated the good ol’ boys club? Not yet! It is still a work-in-progress, and it, probably, will remain a work-in-progress for a long time. However things are getting better. Slowly.