Just like many other passion chasers, I too also work a day job. I’m what my job likes to label as a Senior Internet Systems Analyst. So in other words, I am one of the little elves behind the computer that make everything interactive, pretty and functional. I am one of the very few women working within our eBusiness team that is actually technical. Being the only female on my immediate team is not new to me at all and though times are slowly changing, this is the environment most women within tech have to get used to in the very beginning.
It’s never really felt daunting, in fact, I hadn’t really noticed it until I started my job here in NYC. It was just work, and though it still is just work, I’ve come to realize a few things about women vs. men, about myself and my coworkers, and about how one should conduct themselves in order to achieve and gain respect.
In my previous job, I was “Do no take any shit” Yetti. I worked extremely long hours with the best team a recent college grad could ask for, but we serviced people who had little to no respect for our time nor our skills. In order to set some boundaries, I learned to push back on deadlines more, I learned to say “Absolutely not. I will not complete that”. It balanced out well, until in my last performance review, a project manager had stated that I was difficult to work with. In the spirit of starting off fresh at my current job, I went about things differently. I made myself available, I pushed back less in order to gain more projects and visibility. My aim was to “catch more flies with honey” or whatever that haunting phrase states.
It worked. It worked incredibly well, until it didn’t. Yes I gained visibility. Yes, everyone learned of my skill-sets. People wanted to work with me, and the projects and responsibilities began to roll in. But the respect for my time? The respect for my voice? That didn’t come in just yet.
I tried my best to politely so “no”. I aimed to speak up more in terms of ideas and best practices, and not use the fall back of having another coworker reiterate what I had already said in order for it to be taken into consideration but that didn’t work either. Not until jolly amicable Yetti left the window one afternoon during a heated discussion and I politely advised the business on how they would conduct business with me. It was unexpected, it was curt, it was totally out of the character I had been portraying to my coworkers, but it was necessary. Necessary as fuck.
When my high-pitched voice is stern, it throws people off. When I make demands or simply say, “No”, it’s sometimes seen as me being difficult. This all did gain me some respect, but it also gained me another a title.
And I can’t help but wonder why that when a man is assertive, confident even, it’s well received but when a woman does it she’s “Emotional”, “Difficult” or in my case, “An Angry Black Woman.” No, I wouldn’t classify myself as a feminist, I’m still honestly trying to figure out what term truly means. Catcalling doesn’t irritate me, and I don’t mind being told to smile, but it does irritate me to no end that a woman’s voice or opinion is not always valued. This doesn’t stop in the workplace, I’ve experienced this in past relationships, and random discussions. Why is it that when I am to voice a concern or disagree or even to simply state I do not like something being done to me, it’s never seen for what it is.
I can see where some let emotions thrive before logic, but if I can back it up with my knowledge, experience or even statistics and facts, it’s me inserting my expertise. If I feel disrespected, [no, not only men can have their feelings bruised,] it’s me asking for what I deserve because I do the have right to let you know you have done something wrong. If I come off polite, yet stern and unrelenting, that is me being assertive, not a bitch.