It’s rather infuriating that a woman’s womanness still needs to factor into how she is perceived in the workplace, and as a result of that, how she behaves. It’s pretty maddening that people will still add “For a woman…” after saying something positive about a professional female. Like, “She’s pretty assertive…for a woman” and “She’s very confident…for a woman.” But the truth is, this is all still happening. And if you’re a boss woman—a woman who demands respect, doesn’t tolerate misogyny, and lets it be known that she knows her worth—every action you do within those is done with the knowledge, “Because I’m a woman, this will be taken a certain way.” You’re judged based not only on how you’re doing as a professional but also, as a woman. Oh, if only men had any idea what that’s like…Here are dilemmas boss women face every day.
Disciplining female subordinates
When it comes time to discipline your female subordinates, you can sense them judging you—thinking you should take it easier on them because you’re both women. And while you want to do that, you also know that taking it easy on them and babying them won’t help them get ahead.
Disciplining male subordinates
You know you have to work extra hard to show your male subordinates that you’re not to be messed with. You can feel them looking for signs of your femininity—of your “softness”—showing through the cracks. You fear if they see it, they’ll pounce on it, and you’ll lose your authority.
Having someone sexualize your confidence
You’ve probably had many men tell you that the qualities you’ve developed for your professional life—assertiveness, good communication skills, confidence—are sexy. They’ve sexualized something you didn’t intend to be sexual. They’ve inserted sex into an arena of your life where you don’t want it.
Colleagues seeking nurture
As a boss woman you’re often torn between being a boss and being a woman. To be a woman can mean to be nurturing, empathetic, and even maternal. So you can feel that some colleagues come to you seeking nurture—wanting that maternal energy from you—but you often have to deny them, because you need to keep those professional boundaries up.
Worrying your outfit will undermine your power
I doubt many men wake up and wonder, “If I wear this, will it distract people from my presentation?” But boss women have to think about that all of the time.
Feeling b*tchy for not adding a smile
As a woman, you know that other women expect you to add a smiley face emoji to the end of your email, or a real smile to the end of an in-person directive. Since you know women expect that, you know men really expect it. So you know you come off as bitchy, simply because you don’t add emojis to the end of professional emails.
Feeling pressure to couch criticism
If a man needs to tell his employee something like, “You did this incorrectly” he doesn’t feel the need to first give the person three compliments. If he does give such compliments, people call him very nice. Meanwhile, if a woman doesn’t couch criticism in compliments, she’s called mean.
Knowing men are toning down their talk for you
You’ve walked into rooms where all the men suddenly became quiet. And then, they were so polite and politically correct, you could feel them checking themselves. You know they tell themselves that they “have” to do that because “a lady is present.” Hey, what if they toned down the misogyny just to be good humans? And didn’t pass the blame off on you? That’d be something.
Superiors worrying about you being intimidating enough
When your male colleagues or superiors have sent you out on a big meeting, or some event in which you’d be the face of the company, you’ve felt them worrying that you wouldn’t be intimidating enough. Because you’re a woman.
Superiors sending you out to soften things
You’ve also picked up on the fact that sometimes, your company sends you out to be the face of the company because you’re a woman. Maybe they’re working with a man they know gives in easily to attractive women. It angers you that they’re using your looks, and not your skills, to get the job done.
Taking credit and being seen as selfish
Typically, when a man takes credit for something for which he deserves credit, nobody thinks anything of it. But when a woman does the same thing, she’s seen as grabby.
Knowing people blame your hormones for your anger
You’ve overheard a couple of men reference your menstrual cycle or menopause as the reason for your actions. Just hearing this once has made you worry that people say this behind your back, all of the time.
Dealing with old, sexist superiors
You hate how often you have to not speak up when dealing with a much older male superior who is blatantly sexist. The entire company has agreed not to say anything to him about it. “He’s so old, he’s probably retiring soon anyways” and “He’s too old to know better” are things you’ve heard.
Feeling judged for hiring men
If you hire a man, you know people are thinking, “She should have hired a woman. We need more women here. I can’t believe she doesn’t have women’s backs as a whole.”
Feeling judged for hiring women
Of course, if you do hire a woman, people say, “She just hired her because she’s a woman.”