Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's A Man's World

Nine months ago, I began transitioning from an administrative role at my company to a professional role.  I knew that the change came with the need to up my education level, which I am working on.  I knew that at my company, it was a predominately male department.  I probably should have checked out the demographics across the career as a whole.

Maybe then, I wouldn't be so surprised at what a Man's World I've entered. 

My first real taste of how predominately male my new career is was about four weeks ago.  I went to a continuing education seminar.   In one of the more lulling discussions, I took the opportunity to look around at the people around me.  Out of about 100 attendees, there were no more than 10 women in the group.  Of the 10, I was only one of three under the approximate age of 50. 

In the office, it's a little different.  I'm obviously the only professional woman in my department, but my department is small.  There are only eight of us total.  2 (female) administrators, 2 of us at my level, 1 rainmaker, and 3 partners. 

My problem lately:  I feel more lumped into the administrative side than the professional side.  The partners/rainmaker include the male at my same level in business meetings, networking introductions, etc.  He got taken to a breakfast meeting & a lunch meeting yesterday (both by the rainmaker.)  I've yet to be invited at all.  Admittedly, my male counterpart has a couple years more experience and knowledge base.  As James pointed out last night, he's probably more capable of carrying the financial based conversations more than I am at this point.  

But, I do feel, well, slighted. 

At this point, I'm not sure how to handle. 

One suggestion has been to focus on my own backyard (getting my certification, building knowledge base, working on getting comfortable talking to people in a non-running environment.)  I see the validity of this, but wonder if it will be enough.  I've already heard my counterpart referred to as The Golden Boy.  How do you compete with that?  No, I don't want to be the Golden Girl -- that's a whole different connotation.

Another suggestion has been to find a successful female in a partner/director level to be a sort of mentor of how to be successful in an environment that rivals a Good'ole Boys Club.  The problem is I don't know that many women at that level outside the firm where I currently work.  I'm not comfortable with asking one of those women, because I would be constantly concerned about where loyalties lie.  I'd want someone I could be open and honest about what's going on and have real feedback on how to handle.  I definitely don't want someone to go to bat for me, as I want to fight my own battles.  I'd also want to be sure I was getting real feedback, not feedback jaded for the good of the firm.

Another suggestion was to discuss with the managing partner of my department.  I shot this one down quickly.  I can't take the emotion out of how I feel at this point.  I get flustered/upset anytime I discuss this and well, that definitely won't help get me on equal footing.  Getting emotional when discussing my concerns would only stereotype me into traditional crying female.  

I'm open to other suggestions. 

Right now, I just feel like I'm on the outside looking in. I feel like I'm not going to be successful because I will never get past the fact that I'm a woman in a man's world. 

1 comment:

  1. in some places, the transition is the challenge. i knew paralegals who got a JD and stayed in the same inhouse place...they got the lawyer name but people didn't think of them that way. i don't know ho to help make that shift, but i imagine it is part of the issue. in the right workplace, it might involve a lot of reminding ("i'll give that to AdminPerson since i'm not ProfessionalLauren" might be better than "not my job!")....