latest collab for Journeys: persecution.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
i had originally opted out of this collab, because it didn't seem to me that i could speak directly and honestly to the topic. persecution is the systematic extermination or subjugation of people, primarily for religious reasons, altho it can be for any moral belief or principle. i've never suffered from persecution, nor perpetrated it upon others. so how could i address a topic from the outside?
or so i thought, until last week. it suddenly struck me that i'm guilty of it when it comes to women executives.
it was interesting, in an observational sort of way, to go to our recent quarterly meeting. there were three women executives speaking. they were uniformly atrocious. they used abominably bad grammar in speaking, used overheads that clearly hadn't been proofread (my favorite: the opening slide that said 'Congratulions on a project well done!'), were unclear on financials - generally, just made one wince and want to crawl under the table. and it made me mad.
one of the announcements was the new slate of executives. they're nearly all women. the guy to my left joked that they were the CEO's harem. and i couldn't disagree. i was horrified to find that i couldn't challenge that. bit of back story: nearly every woman executive i've worked for has been the wife/girlfriend/mistress of the man who promoted her. and they've all been less than competent, with one shining exception for whom i had a great deal of respect.
as i looked at my reactions, i realized that the women in question were no better or worse than the men who have held the same positions. but i cut the men some slack, or at least don't get angry about their shortcomings in the same way. why is this?
i find myself guilty of absorbing the societal more which says that men are naturally suited to positions of power. *gag* ooohhh... that's such an inbred thing, taught in ways both explicit and implicit that it sneaks up on you. well, me, anyway. it's not right, it's shouldn't be true, we shouldn't reinforce that idea - in fact, we should do everything we can to make the playing fields as equal as possible, regardless of sex. and it has been changing over the last few decades.
however, i think it's accurate to say that in society today, men still have the advantage. they will more often end up in power (elected, appointed, hired, whatever) than women. sort of no harm, no foul. this is not to say they're all competent. but have you ever read a news story or heard a conversation where a, say, male board appointee was accused of having slept their way into the post, or getting a nice severance package because his girlfriend pulled some strings? didn't think so.
i suppose you could make the case that women sleeping their way into a job isn't really all that different than the 'old boy' network - more intimate, to be sure, but essentially the same in the sense that it's using personal connection over skill and talent to achieve an end.
i don't mean to harp on the sex bit, really. it's just the most egregious of accusations, one that's thrown around casually with little thought for the damage done. and it's also a charge used almost exclusively to 'put women in their place', take them down a notch, prove that they don't really deserve responsibility.
earning recognition, especially in the executive workplace, is more difficult for women than men. and it gets increasingly difficult the further up the ranking you go. when i see a woman executive rise through the ranks for anything less than sheer talent, i wince. when she speaks poorly, i grind my teeth. when she wields her power in inappropriate ways to prove a point, i cringe.
by so doing, they are helping to perpetuate a stereotype that allows for all of us, all women, to be unfairly judged. and in response, i hold up their actions to a harsher light. i judge them against an inhuman standard, and i am quick to do so. i need for them to be perfect. i have to have them be exemplars of what our sex can accomplish.
isn't that just another form of persecution?