Every month I facilitate a conversation with a mixed group of professional women who work in a predominantly male environment.
Last week, they shared their frustration at
- Being treated like a highly paid secretary
- Not being supported by their boss
- The lack of support they get from their women colleagues
They complained that:
- too often decisions were made around them,
- they often felt invisible and overlooked and
- one woman in particular was being paid an enormous amount of money and was ‘bored out of her mind’.
There’s no doubt that working in all male environments is tough. However, many women say they love it because ‘men are easy to work with’: They’re straight-forward, don’t take things personally and as long as you do the job you’re respected.
It probably doesn’t hurt if you also modify your expectations, adapt your style, your sensitivities and your sense of what’s fair.
If you work in a male dominated workplace,
- look for co-conspirators to help validate your sense of injustice
- complain about all the things that aren’t working for you.
- Be direct, (even blunt)
- Be explicit about what you need to do your job
- Pull your boss and colleagues up for any assumptions they make about you.
One woman in the group shared how she did this when it was clear she was being sidelined:
She scheduled a meeting with her boss, was direct and to the point and said, ‘You hired me to make decisions. You told me I’d have resources and a budget to do my job. It hasn’t happened. You’re not letting me make decisions, you want me to get approval for trivial expenses and I don’t have the staff you promised to give me. Unless you trust me, I can’t do my job.’ Her boss looked confronted but said he’d delegate more responsibility to her.
Nothing much changed until she went in the second time and said exactly the same thing, but ended it with, ‘I’m not interested in having this discussion again, you need to trust me, treat me with the respect I deserve and give me a budget. If I screw up, then sack me.’
Her approach worked. She’s now running the division she was hired to manage.