I had a couple of really thought-provoking incidents in the last 24 hours. One was that, during a meeting yesterday with a powerful committee (won't say what), the head of the committee, a male (who is awesome), turned to my supervisor (female) and thanked her for taking minutes. Not that big a deal except he followed it up with the statement that somehow at every meeting he's ever been at, a female ends up taking this duty.
Next to my supervisor was a man who is her equivalent, who has a different position but one that is not superior, and he has never been asked to take minutes, nor can I picture that happening. The only time my boss didn't do it was once when I volunteered, just to give her a break, because she has MANY more important things to do.
Then, this morning I listened to the TED talk by Sheryl Sandburg, the woman that wrote Lean In. That book has been discussed amongst my friends since it came out. This talk did not really focus on child-related issues, but the book does. Those aren't an issue for me, although it's an important issue.
She talked about how women are perceived as bossy or aggressive for behaving the same way men do in the workplace. This has become such a cliché that I don't think people take it seriously. One of the only doubts I have about my ability to advance career-wise pertains to the chance that I might be perceived as too aggressive. I know that I'm well-liked at work, which goes a long way, but I wonder if a man who was as outspoken as I am would worry about that? That's what's so hard about these issues - it's impossible to know.
She talked about how when people think about these issues, men and women, they can take steps to counteract some of them. Even in small ways, like not letting women take all the seats on the side of the room when a conference table is full. My department makes an obvious effort to hire women and is headed by a women, and my previous workplace was pretty much female-run.
If it's not blatant, it comes through in these insidious small ways like the taking of the minutes somehow seeming like a female job. I try to do the best I can to be outspoken and assertive. I have volunteered multiple times to speak in front of groups and give presentations in meetings. I even sometimes wear shoes with heels which make me about six feet tall, especially in a situation where I might be dealing with an intimidating male (which happens quite a bit). My job makes me happy I have that height, I'm not sure if you petite ladies out there have ever felt it to be a hindrance?
Anyway, lots of thoughts