It's interesting to me when I hear men say things like:
"There is no gender gap"
"You really think things haven't improved for women? I think women have the upper hand these days."
For real? Do you have to worry about hiding your relationship status, the length or fit of your clothes, and not laughing too much when you're nervous? Do you have people trying to book meetings with you because otherwise, they would not get a date? Maybe. But, I would assume it is rare.
Sure, many opportunities for women have transformed over the last few decades but there is still discrimination, glass ceilings, and unnecessary problems.
The one on my mind recently is unwanted advances and the unique challenges faced by women in turning them away and saying "no."
"Will I be perceived as a bitch if I turn down this meeting?"
"What will it do to my reputation in the business community?"
Here are three of my recent experiences.
Two were on LinkedIn
1. You have a nice smile.
Yeah, maybe I should run for office.
Who even has time for that? The thing that made this response easy was that this person wasn't in the same city, community, or networking circles.
2. You don't own me.
I dictate my own schedule.
How about this one from someone I don't even know demanding a meeting without any permission from me? Sorry, if I wanted my schedule dictated to me I'd have a job, gone through a vigorous vetting process, and be willing to obey. Turns out, I'm my own boss and I run my own schedule.
You'd better check yourself.
You ask a lady for a meeting, you do not demand it.
The crazy part is that when I saw this I felt guilty and in turmoil over whether or not I should go to the meeting until I got my lady balls back and asked him a few questions about what he was looking for specifically. It is easy to talk a big game about demanding respect but it is a whole other level of challenging when you actually have to draw boundaries.
Do you think men have to face the same amount of guilt and worry about how they will look if they say no? Maybe a few? I am genuinely curious. I am also curious if YOU have had to face anything like this. PLEASE let me know in the comments.
3. Let's Meet.
Or, let's date? The choice is yours.
How about the time last month I went to a business meeting thinking it was a huge opportunity with a prominent business person. It turns out, this person was looking for something more casual. Like "no strings attached" casual as he mentioned throughout the "meeting." I laughed awkwardly throughout the meeting.
This person continued to text me for a month even when I was honest I wasn't interested. Even when I ignored him. It was a huge source of stress to see him at a public event when really - I should not have been the one feeling ashamed. I shouldn't be worried about my business reputation when all I am doing is CRUSHING IT. I'm not abusing my position to make people hang out with me.
I'm not on a cause horse.
I'm building a business.
I'm not saying that I'm going to change the world with this post. I am actually a little nervous that I will come across as egotistical. I'm not even saying men are evil. I like men. I have three beautiful little men I'm raising, in fact. Sure the dynamic is there and we need to be aware of it - but what if we can change it? What if it really can get better and being gracious and being quiet is not the only option.
This is unfair.
- It is unfair we feel we can't call out this misuse of femininity.
- It is unfair we are afraid to speak out.
- It is unfair we are worried about our reputations when we need to draw boundaries.
You are not a bitch if you say no.
I'm not alone in this experience and if I was it would be a lot easier to stay silent. I have a client who is being stalked on LinkedIn by an ex. I have another that was terrified to turn away advances just last week for fear of her business reputation. This makes me furious. This is when my mama bear kicks in. If we are having trouble learning to say no for ourselves, let's band together and say no for each other.
You deserve respect, and if you won't demand it for yourself, I'll demand it for you.
I really want to hear your stories.
I'm working on a piece about self-acceptance and the need for women to create their own identity outside of an abusive society. I want to know your experience. Let's stand together and change the narrative for women in business.