If you find yourself a woman in power, you have a very special and important opportunity in your hands: you can bring other women up with you. When you first realize this, you’ll feel excited, hopeful, and motivated to make some changes. And then you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed, confused, dizzy, and unaware of which direction is up and which is down. Every person in power—man or woman—should be doing their part to eliminate things like the wage gap, and the fact that there are more men named John (yes, just men named John) running large companies than women in total. But as a woman, you feel particular pressure and all eyes on you because people are thinking, “Well, you should especially try to help because you’re a woman!” And the tough thing is that, it’s impossible to have every person approve of the way you use your power. Here are tough things powerful women promoting equal opportunities face every day.
When you promote women, you’ll be criticized
If you give an opportunity to a woman, men will criticize you and say, “You only gave her that because she’s a woman—you’re not being fair. That’s not the best person for the job.”
When you don’t promote women, you’ll be criticized
If you give an opportunity to a man, then women will say you should have given it to a woman. They’ll claim things like, “She should be lifting other women up. She clearly just wants to be part of the boys’ club.”
Men trying to intimidate you
Some men who are afraid of women in power, and fear a world in which there are a lot of women in power, will try to intimidate you. They may pull you aside, and give you some speech about how you’d better not turn this business into some feminist headquarters.
Women trying to intimidate you
Other women in power may even try to intimidate you, and specifically request that you do pull strings to put as many other women in power as possible. They may even threaten that you’ll be ostracized by the other current women in power if you don’t do what they say.
Suspicions of how you came into power
Everyone will wonder how you came into power. People will question: did you get the job because you were the best one for it, or were you part of some initiative on the company’s part to provide more equal opportunities to women.
Deciding between seniority and minority
You often have to make the decision between giving an opportunity to someone who has been at the work the longest—someone who boasts the most experience—and someone who represents a minority group. This is never an easy decision to make.
Deciding between work ethic and minority
You also sometimes need to choose between two people who have been in the industry the same amount of time. But, one person may have clearly put in more work, while the other represents a minority. Again, this is never an easy decision to make.
People asking for handouts rather than guidance
You do want to lift up other women and use your position of power to do so. But you’d like to do so by teaching, training, guiding, and advising. Unfortunately, you do experience some women coming to you and asking for a handout (i.e. a job or promotion), without having asked your guidance on how to do that job in the first place.
Recognizing and pushing talent
You’ll recognize tremendously talented women who, clearly, are being bullied and intimidated by men in the industry. You want to work extra hard to guide them, inspire them, and make sure they stay the course. You know, firsthand, how easy it is to be scared away entirely.
Starting initiatives without being called a militant feminist
Any time you want to start an initiative that could bring more women into the workplace, a few people call you a militant feminist. Nobody, of course, calls a man that who suggests the same initiative. He’s called a hero.
Still working with mostly men
As the article we referenced in the intro might have told you, you’ll still be mostly surrounded by men. So you have to talk about lifting up women, using language that men are comfortable with. You’re really straddling two worlds.
Turning down good, hardworking men
This is a very complicated matter that you face often: having to reject good, hardworking men, over and over again, so that you can give a woman the opportunity. How do you explain to those men that other men, throughout all of history, have repressed good, hardworking women? And that’s why the scales need to be tipped in the other direction now? These guys aren’t those men: they are, like, Sean and Christopher who you like laughing with in the break room.
Being accused of coddling
People will always accuse you of coddling other women, and allowing certain mistakes to slide with females that you wouldn’t allow to slide with men. Maybe those people are right, but considering history, maybe women deserve a little coddling in the workplace to compensate for all the terrors they face.
Having your mentorship work exhausted
You absolutely want to mentor and train ambitious women. But, that being said, your mentoring work is called upon much more than that of your male peers. As good as the work is, you have to admit that it’s also tiring. Men just get to focus on their work, while you must focus on your work and mentoring younger women in the workplace.
Feeling the weight of the world
Women in power feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. They know that all eyes are on them, and that somebody will take some issue with every move they make.