Any woman who has suffered discrimination in the workplace will feel angry. How dare someone treat you differently because you aren’t male. Sure, there are distinctions between the sexes yet that’s what makes female entrepreneurs an asset. You bring things to the table a guy can’t because he wouldn’t tackle a problem in a similar vein.
The idea that labels can be a positive thing, then, is hard to swallow. However, the truth is they help build character and give women a drive to succeed. Suffering at the hands of an outdated man is never nice, but here are a few of the things you can take away from the experience.
Let’s not beat around the bush and pretend to be ladylike. When somebody crosses the line, you want to chop off their private parts and serve them on a platter. The anger women feel when they are patronised and spoken down to is immense. It’s also a tool which drives the majority of women to think “okay, screw you!” Rather than let a man win, you want to succeed in spite of what they believe. Female entrepreneurs have passion, but this is the shot of adrenaline that tips you over the edge. There is nothing better than watching a person eating humble pie.
A knock-on effect of this is doing things to prove a point. “Oh, you think I can’t get my hands dirty? Well, watch this.” Suddenly, you’re knee deep in dirt taking care of the land clearing or full of grease trying to repair a machine. What this does is give us the opportunity to boost your skill set. Instead of being a problem-solver and an excellent listener, you’re now practical people. And, everybody in the office knows it because they’ve seen you at work. The result is a bridge of the opportunities gap.
People who have suffered discrimination never want to stoop to that level, so they try to be the best person possible. In the workplace, this is a valuable skill as it helps to build relationships with key people. Your ability to listen to problems and to offer advice is a favour in the bank which most individuals will happily return. Plus, it helps bring the women in the workplace together as a team. Savvy women understand they have to make contacts to climb the ladder or else they run the risk of being left out.
Sometimes, women are better off letting a comment slide. Usually, it’s not a man trying to assert themselves, but rather a clumsy attempt at humour. However, it’s essential you fight back when guys do it on purpose. Noting the incident, telling a superior and going to the HR office are all part of the process. So is bringing evidence to support your claims. Although it’s never nice to go through a nasty he said she said routine, it does teach you how and when to fight your corner.
Do you agree or disagree? Have work incidents made you a stronger person and a better entrepreneur?
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Vinh Van Lam & Stuart Horrex
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