It’s obvious that in today’s modern world women have come a long way since the years where we could not vote or own land, and where it was not acceptable for a woman to work outside of the home. With every feat and obstacle overcome comes a new challenge. We are now women of the 21st century. We can work, we can be single, and we can own a home. But as a young women just about to start my career and hearing friends and family talk about their own careers I have come to notice that women now face a new struggle. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying women are the only group of humans that have struggles in the workforce but being a woman myself, I have started to pick up on our struggles much more and what I have realized in recent years is the difference in consequences when a male and female employee vocalizes their opinions.
I have seen and heard of women in the work place being admonished like a child, or even more severely, being pushed out of jobs for articulating their opinions, especially when it comes to fields where there are changes being made. Take the field of education and more specifically public schools. There are huge changes being made to curriculum, how we evaluate students, and how we evaluate teachers. Whether you’re opinion on these changes is for or against, it is undeniable that education in the U.S is changing and schools are struggling to adapt.
I still can recall my mother coming home from school (she was a high school history teacher) and being so frustrated that she could not teach creatively and effectively because of the restrictions being put on all teachers. My mother taught at a failing school (which pretty much means the students were not meeting the standards of the state) therefore every single teacher was being evaluated with a fine toothed comb. But what we began to notice was the pattern of who was being punished by being pushed into resigning from their positions.
Vocal teachers. It was these strong willed, passionate teachers, like my mother, that were expressing their concerns about the school. The result however, was not in the favor of the teacher. Female teachers, like my mother, were being ignored and penalized for standing up for the students and their teaching. Evaluations were becoming more numbered based. But what we saw was the male teachers that voiced the same concerns as the female teachers being promoted and patted on the back. Most of the male teachers that had a big voice were involved in the athletics department mind you, so they were an asset to the school. The female teachers on the other hand were disposable.
This is just one example of what happens to female employees when they assert their opinions or ideas in the workforce. The field of education is a prime example because of the fact that it is changing so rapidly. And with change undoubtedly comes tension. The working relationship between a boss and his/her employees is fragile. There are certain lines that we draw when it comes to opinions, responsibilities, creativity and flexibility. These lines are set in the beginning but as the working relationship develops, the lines shift or are crossed. This means that female employees have to be extra diligent not to blur these invisible lines set forth by their bosses. It is important that we figure out how to be vocal but stay well within the lines of our position. Easier said than done though, right? The women of today are becoming more independent, more involved in how society views the world. Many women have taken leadership roles. Women determine their own future. It has become hard for women to see themselves inside a box with clearly defined lines when so often they are being blurred. It is much easier for women to step outside of their box in today’s world. We just have to deal with the consequences.
I hope to one day work in a field where my opinions are valued and considered despite my gender. But my greatest hope is that my future daughters, nieces, and students are able to express their views and be taken seriously. I hope that the generation that succeeds mine will demolish the negative consequences for female employees and break the tension. But in the meantime, while we work towards that goal here are two major ways for female employees to can break the tension:
There is nothing wrong with being bold and independent. Being yourself is what sets you apart from the rest of the crowd! But being bold and assertive doesn’t mean being obnoxious and rude. Want to have your voice heard? Express your ideas firmly, confidently, and most importantly NICELY. Insults tend not to work in breaking the tension.
Persistence is key! If you really want to see a change you’ll need to work for it most likely. Giving up because you get one rejection won’t fly. A boss that is set in his/her ways may take some persuading and I be they’ll be appreciative you coaxed out of their comfort zone, POLITELY, especially if your ideas are successful.
Tension in the work place is inevitable, but have no fear ladies! We are on the move forward and our voices shall be heard! Remember what the lovely Emma Watson has said, “Believe in yourself and go for it.”