Let me start by saying that I enjoy being a woman. I like dressing pretty. I like wearing skirts and high heels and lingerie. I like men opening doors for me or rising to stand when I arrive on the scene.
There are well established drawbacks for women in leadership, however.
For instance, I have heard over and over again that I have a reputation, even among people I have never met or worked with, for being demanding and difficult.
Truthfully, it used to really bother me. Lots of anxiety and depression.
What the hell is wrong with me for crying out loud?!??! Why can’t people I work with like me as much as my patients do?
I don’t yell at my staff or anyone else. I don’t call them names or belittle them. I don’t throw things. I don’t go looking for trouble, stirring things up.
But I work in a field where precision is a must. Lives are at stake. Hundreds if not thousands of dollars are at risk for each of our patients if something is not done exactly right. I want everyone striving for perfection, getting as close to it as possible, even though I understand we will never actually reach it.
To that end, I try to discuss errors to understand how to prevent them from occurring again. I ask questions before agreeing to changes in work flow handed down from corporate so I can make sure it is going to benefit and protect patients and staff instead of endangering and alienating them. If there is a problem with the EHR (electronic health record) I am going to tell someone so they can fix it. Not that they ever do…
All of this makes me difficult.
I realized recently that the problem was not really with me. I cannot do a single thing to make myself more friendly and less threatening unless it is just simply always keeping my mouth shut. It is a cultural problem with how I am perceived. Even if I am smiling and respectful, I am a woman. I will always be a woman. Whenever I open my mouth I appear threatening to other women and bossy to the men.
For years I struggled with this, feeling ashamed that I could not make others like me all of the time. Should I just keep my mouth shut, no matter what, since that is what makes everyone else more comfortable?
I cannot in good conscience keep silent.
So I have decided that if I am speaking up in a way that is fair and balanced and respectful, I can rest knowing that I have done my due diligence. Now I have at least some degree of peace.
There was an article from November in the BBC here discussing women in leadership and depression. I encourage everyone to read it if you have not already done so.
Truthfully, I am guilty of the same behavior myself. A woman openly criticizes me and I think to myself what a bitch she is, whereas if a man does the same thing, I take it. He isn’t saying it in a more diplomatic way. I just simply respond differently.