Some more about perceived gender inequalities.
Readers who know me well know a few things about me that apply in this post:
- I have succeeded in three “male dominated” careers: accounting and finance, technical (computer) writing, and (helicopter) aviation.
- I have zero tolerance for women who use gender as an excuse not to succeed at something they set out to do.
- I have zero tolerance for anyone who gives different or preferential treatment to an individual in the workplace because of gender.
I am sick and tired of fielding questions from women who seem to think that their gender may prevent them from pursuing a career. I thought I’d take a moment to review two recent ones that crossed my path, along with my responses and some comments from a like-minded woman I know.
The other day, the following comment was added to a blog post I’d written here about becoming a helicopter pilot:
Can you tell me more about how gender matters in this industry? Wouldn’t they want to hire more women since it is so obviously a boys club? Or are ‘they’ quite happy to keep it that way?
I’m a 20 year old Canadian woman thinking about making this a career. I’ve done ground school previously for fixed wing aircrafts and got top of the class and surprised everybody when I did (to look at me one thinks “she’s pretty so she must be stupid. Girly, flirtatious, naive, pushover” – although the way I am constantly misjudged has never and will never stop me from doing what I love.) What challenges are ahead of me in regards to my being a woman?
The answer is simple: gender matters if you make it matter. Are you being girly, flirtatious, naive, or a pushover? If so, why? Do you know any successful male pilots who have these traits? None of these traits make for a professional pilot — and isn’t that what you want to be?
I’ll admit that I’m royally pissed off when I see a woman pilot wearing inappropriate clothes: low cut blouses, short or tight skirts, high heels, oversized jewelry. Do men dress that way? I understand that you want to be feminine, but if you go that route, how can you expect to be treated the same as men? You can’t expect to be treated the same when you’re obviously going out of your way to be different.
My advice to this person was simple, too: Act like a professional and you’ll be treated as one. On the job, there is no gender — or at least there shouldn’t be. Be “one of the guys” and you’ll be treated like one of the guys.
Don’t want that? Want to be treated like a “lady”? Expect guys to do the dirty work for you because you don’t want to get your clothes dirty or break a nail? Then you’re in the wrong profession.
This Facebook update appeared in the Women Helicopter Pilots Forum on Facebook:
Seems like the only realistic way for us ladies who recently finished flight school at commercial level is to slave by being an instructor first to ever build over 1000 hours to be employed by any company. I understand you learn a lot but I have no patience to teach, hence I didn’t sign up to be a helicopter instructor. What’s left to do?
This update blew me away. Seriously. In fact, I included it in a blog post titled “Helicopter Pilot Reality Check” in May which covered, for the most part, how future pilots expect to walk into high-paying jobs without “paying dues.”
What bothered me about this update was the author’s insinuation that the 1000-hour experience requirement was different for women than men. It’s not. Why did she assume it was? Could it be because she’s heard so many other women whining and complaining about career hurdles? Could it be that she assumed the experience requirement was yet another hurdle that only women had to jump?
Who gives women these ideas?
Do Women’s Organizations Really Help Women?
There are a lot of women’s organizations. Maybe too many.
I’ve attended meetings of various women’s organizations with the idea that I might want to join them. In every single case I was so turned off by the whining and excuse-making by the members that I left without joining — and didn’t go back.
You see, most of these organizations seem to exist primarily as a place for women to share examples of how they struggle — mostly unsuccessfully — to get ahead in their careers. It’s so hard for them, you see, when they’re trying to be wives and mothers while holding down a job. They don’t understand why the men get the promotions when it’s pretty obvious — at least to me — that an employer would prefer to promote a worker who gets the job done than the person who misses work every time a kid at home sneezes or another kid needs to be picked up early from soccer practice. They’d rather employ a person who does the job without making waves than the woman who screams “sexual harassment” when a male worker complements her on her dress or shoes. They’d rather employ the professional who has some level of dedication to a career than the woman punching a clock until she decides it’s time to start a family. The women who belong to these organizations complain that the men get ahead and make more money than they do and that it’s simply not fair. And that’s the underlying theme in all their meetings, in all their literature, in all their members’ attitudes.
So these organizations become a place for women to continue spreading inequality myths of their own creation that, in many cases, have become self-fulfilling prophecies — because of their own attitudes and expectations. They don’t help women understand that the only differences between women and men in the workplace are the differences they make.
Against the Odds
Earlier today, I was corresponding via email with my friend Martha, a blogger who lives in New Hampshire. We’re starting discussions about working together on a project and I was very worried that she might have the “gender excuse” attitude I’ve discussed here. I could not be part of a project that either promoted or allowed such attitudes.
Her response to me was spot on (emphasis added):
I’m with you on the wife/mother whining and the excuses for not pursuing goals. The corporate world taught me that the only differences between men and women are the ones women perceive and propagate. Succeeding against the odds just means you focused on the “odds” to begin.
And that’s really what it’s all about these days. A woman thinks the odds are stacked against her because she’s been told they are. She does nothing to prove that they’re not. Instead, she walks around acting or dressing like a woman — instead of like the professional she wants to be. And she magnifies every single example of how she’s treated differently, using it as proof that the odds are stacked against her.
Self-fulfilling prophecy, often magnified by women’s organizations.
Focus on the odds and you’ll never beat them. Focus on the job at hand and you’ll succeed.
What Do You Think?
I know my views on this topic are not popular with most women. I think it’s because they don’t want to hear the truth. I think they like being “disadvantaged,” I think they like having the gender crutch to lean on when they don’t succeed and need an excuse.
(Harsh words? Yep. But that’s the way I am. No bullshit out of me.)
Still, I invite readers to share their thoughts about this. I just want to make two final points before I let you loose on that comment link or form:
- I wrote this in the United States in 2013 — a land of “equal opportunity” where we have laws to help ensure that women are treated equally in the workplace. I’m not writing this in Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t even allowed to drive, or in 1910, when women weren’t even allowed to vote. If you want to bring up other nations and ancient history, that’s fine. Just don’t expect me to apply it to what I’ve written or even to comment on it. I only know what I’ve experienced.
- Before commenting about how wrong I am and offering up your excuse for why you (or your friend or your mother or your daughter) did not succeed in a career, take a moment to analyze that excuse. What’s the whole story? To succeed in a career as well as a man, you need to be able to perform as well as a man. If you can’t do the job, you can’t complain about not succeeding. It’s as simple as that.
Remember the site comment policy, too. If you can’t be civil, don’t waste your time commenting.
And finally, I’d like very much to hear from other women who agree with Martha and me about this — especially female bloggers or other writers who think they have something to share with other women about their own success. Comment here with a link to your blog or other writing.