All my life I was called a “troublemaker” by my mother and I couldn’t understand why she was calling me that when I didn’t cause any trouble. It took me years to realize that my asking adults questions in a West Indian society was seen as troublemaking. That bothered me tremendously. Why shouldn’t I ask questions? The mere fact that I was branded as being a “troublemaker” from a young age pissed me off!!!! Recently, at the end of a conference, a woman professional told me the that I was being a troublemaker when I asked a question to a panelist. That brought back old memories. I quickly corrected her, and said asking a question is not being a troublemaker if the question is asked out of curiosity. How can I be a troublemaker for asking questions? This baffled me for a long time. Then one day, I remembered that one of my best friend’s mothers used to say to us, “a lady should be seen and not heard.” Well, I didn’t get that memo! LOL All of these archaic beliefs and quotes on how a woman should behave and act do an injustice to women all around the world. We need to stop it!
Throughout the years, I have been vocal, many times on many issues. It made some people, mostly female colleagues, uncomfortable. I was seen as being aggressive, arrogant and pushy. But I wasn’t aggressive, I was assertive, there’s a difference-look it up. However, people get wrapped up in how they feel on the job, instead of getting the job done. For example, I was the project manager for several construction projects and I dealt with many male contractors. During that time, I was a professional and would ask for updates on the work and I was treated like I didn’t belong on the construction site. Basically, I was ignored. I quickly realized that being a professional was not getting me anywhere, so I decided to become dramatic and hold the contractor accountable – I was still a professional. That’s when I started getting results. However, a few of the contractors complained about me to my male boss and said I was being unprofessional and rude. I was not rude, I was a woman telling them what to do and they didn’t like it. I had a worse situation with a personal project. The contractor verbally assaulted me and attempted to physically attack me, because I held his feet to the fire on a project – I was doing my job.
We have a double standard in our society when it comes to women in the workplace. Men judge us, but women judge us harsher. There are many women who do not like to see a woman being assertive, they say its unbecoming of a lady. Isn’t it time for us to stop judging each other and focus on how we are doing the tasks and getting results? We can argue all day about the types of ways to do the job and how we are getting results, but that’s another topic. Isn’t it time that women are seen as equals in pay, qualifications, knowledge, experience, recognition and so much more? When are we going to wake up and see that a woman is not a bitch, but a woman who is asking for what she deserves and what she is worth. She is doing her job well and getting it done right!
To the women and men out there who are intimidated and want to suppress another woman for her assertiveness, mental strength and other great abilities, I say, she is an asset! These are great leadership qualities. You can be assertive and professional, but you have to remove that concept, “a lady should be seen and not heard” in the workplace. That kind of antiquated thinking has no place in the conference room.
With strength and awareness,