This past weekend as I watched Serena Williams become upset about being reprimanded by the referee due to her ‘tantrum throwing’, it made me think. It made me think of the different ways that I have, and sometimes still, experience sexism in the workplace as a leader.
This is what I am constantly learning in the world of business through the eyes of a woman:
1. Defying labels.
When I was a young girl, my dad would tell me that the world will see me as a black girl but that I shouldn’t attach myself to those labels. He told me that the only label that I should wear is my name. He explained that if I wore the label as a ‘female’ and ‘black’, it might bring me down because history has set the bar low for us. I am very proud to be a black female; however, history has shown us that black females have less of a chance to ‘succeed’ in this world. I have to constantly remind myself that I, also, deserve a chance to succeed regardless of where I come from or what I look like.
2. Boss up!
When I was 20, I was offered a management position of a café in The Lower East Side of New York, my proceeder was 10 years older than I, and my employees were also 10 years older than I was. It was a tough position to be in. I was called all kinds of names, sworn at, threatened and shouted at almost daily but I stayed strong. I knew that I had to learn to be tough then or I would continue to live life being taken advantage of. I saw it like this, I could have either let people walk all over me or be firm and stand up for myself and the ultimate goal because the goal was bigger than any of us.
3. Many people will have an issue working for women, accept it and rise above it!
Sexism, just like racism, is alive and well. And, anyone who says that it isn’t, isn’t being affected by it. From manager to Business Owner, I see how differently my male colleagues are treated. When I am assertive, I am ‘on my period’ or another word beginning with a B. I have sat in boardroom meetings where I was the only female and boldly asked if I was cold because my nipples are pointy. It is clear that the gender roles play out in (and out of) the office and it’s up to us to prove them wrong. Some people may have a problem working for me because I am a woman but is a reflection of them and where their mind is at, all that I can do is progress on my road to success.