Shay’s Story: Struggling to Be Taken Seriously at Work

by Gloria Feldt on December 16th, 2010
in Power Tools, Tell Your Story, Workplace and tagged , , , ,

It’s been quiet here with the holidays taking people’s attention. And I’d just about run out of 9 Ways stories to tell. Then in the “what you need is there if you can see it” mode, Shay Pausa’s story landed in my inbox. Shay has a video production company, ChiKiiTV, and in full disclosure is currently making a new speaking reel for me. Trust me, if you have video production needs, hire her. She wrote to share how her experiences and feelings as a woman in the workforce matched my findings in No Excuses. Here’s Shay’s story:

Truthfully, I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist yet as I read your book and watch your presentations, I know that I am and always have been. I struggled from the time I entered the business world at 17 years old to be taken as seriously as my male co-workers. I made attempts to be unattractive so that my superiors would see that I was a smart, assertive hard worker. I was passed over for promotions and opportunities repeatedly. I was even once was told by the hiring manager that though I was the heir apparent, the executive team could not “picture” me in the job. They hired a man with 5 years less experience from outside the company. But I did not give up and I stayed at that company until I got the promotions. At a certain point, I brought up my concern that I was not being given deserved promotions based on my sex and age. I got the next one. What they feared even more than a smart woman who can call a spade a spade was a lawsuit.

As I worked my way up the corporate ladder, I found that my success was dependent not so much on the results I produced. but in demonstrating that I could act like a man. I never took a full maternity leave because though I had the legal right, I knew it would hurt my career. I took calls and had my laptop within 3 hours of giving birth. I had to work harder than my male counterparts just to keep my job. I felt I had to sacrifice being feminine to compete. And yet through it all, I believed that if I wanted it to be different, I was going to have to make a difference. I imagined that when I was the CEO of a publicly held company, I would change the culture and the unspoken rules. The laws were not my problem. I wanted real parity, the kind not forced because of law but accepted because it is true. Women bring skill sets to the workplace that produce results. These are natural skills and talents that make a difference.

I know that my experience is not uncommon. And I know that companies are not getting the most out of their employee base if the women in those companies feel as I did. Women are keeping and getting more jobs right now because we’re cheaper labor in a tough economy. And we’ll be the ones who turn the economy around but I fear if there is not a real change in core belief that women are equally valuable in producing profit, we won’t see those board room or management statistics change in any significant way anytime soon.

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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