80% of the people I have reported to in the workplace have been women. This includes every position I have had, from my high school jobs to my college internships to my career. Most of my bosses have been women.
I come from a hardworking family with two parents who worked full-time. My mom took her maternity leave to have my sister and I, and then got right back to her job, working as one of the 11% of civil engineers that are women.* And yet, she still managed to have a life AND be involved with the PTA. The women there would give her patronizing remarks when she was unable to make meetings in the middle of the day because of having a career. “Oh… you have to work?” Really? Not to judge these women, but my mom is a project engineer managing teams across a multinational company with a masters degree from Penn State who also is able to balance being an active mom, so who are they to speak?
All that being said, it’s no surprise that I take pride in the fact that I have mainly reported to women. I have had the opportunity to work for some amazing, powerful women, (and one awful one) and I am very thankful.
My first job, however, I worked for a man. In high school, I worked at a pizza place called Bella Roma, which was/still is owned by a man named Ray. To put it frankly, he was a sexist pig. Only girls were allowed to work behind the counter and wait tables, and only boys were hired to be delivery drivers. He made inappropriate remarks about women who came into his shop. You could see it and hear it in the way he treated and talked to people. Luckily for me, he was only in the restaurant during one of my shifts each week so I didn’t have to deal with anything first hand, but the stories were passed around. He was a douche.
I worked there for a year and then I started my long line of working for women. My hometown job included working for my friends’ mom, and my college campus job had me reporting to one of the female graduate students. It wasn’t until I started my internships that I noticed the amount of women in the workforce around me.
Maybe it’s my industry. I was a Communications major with minors in PR and Professional Writing, and my experience has been in HR, PR and Marketing. I had four internships while I was in college, all of which I reported directly to women. Three of these internships were within small businesses, and, this next part is noteworthy, ALL THREE OF THOSE BUSINESSES WERE OWNED BY WOMEN. These women were boss ladies, bad bitches, and I wanted to be like them. They were rough around the edges, intimidating, hardworking, and determined with something to prove. I was given mentors at these internships as well, also women. I was inspired by the attitude they had and the image of themselves they they projected into the world. Say what you want, but women get shit done, and done well. Today, almost 40% of all businesses are owned and operated by women.*
My first job out of college, I worked for an awful woman named Heather, who was the HR Director for a small manufacturing firm. When I first started, I heard rumors that she wasn’t well liked, but she was so nice to me in the beginning that I figured they were just saying those things because she was a dominant female. As I got to know her more, I realized that she didn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time. She wasn’t great at managing people. She was no where to be found for 90% of the time, and the other 10% she would micromanage so much that it was hard to do our jobs. One time, she told me that instead of teaching me the new way she wanted things done, she had been giving me a look periodically to see if I could figure out this own my own. Sorry I didn’t pick up on your telepathic signals, Heather. I could continue on about the strange things she used to do, but my point here is that I didn’t see her as a good boss. She was off-putting and manic and hypocritical and backwards. She didn’t know how to handle people, but then again, neither did most of this organization. I worked there for less than a year before I was begging another company to take me.
After that, I did a complete 180 and started working for a wonderful individual named Cheryl. You can put Cheryl on the top of the boss lady list. Professionally, she helped build a branch from scratch and was running the HR department for her home office and several other offices in the region. Meanwhile, she was dealing with a mother battling cancer, a husband having multiple surgeries on his airwaves, and a daughter in and out of the ER with asthma issues. As if all that wasn’t enough, she also fought against the daily prejudice of having an interracial family (a beautiful one) and fought against stereotypes of women in leadership. I was continuously inspired by her strength and prosperity, and the fact that she was a baller breadwinner for her family. Over 40% of moms today are the sole or primary source of income in U.S. households.* Cheryl also was a phenomenal manager. She cared about us on both a personal and a professional level, cared about our growth, and cared about us overall being happy. The year she was my boss, she won HR Manager of the year across a national company, and soon after I left the company, she was promoted to Regional Manager. To put it simply, she dominates.
When I interviewed to leave that company, it was with a man named Glenn. Upon accepting the offer, I learned that Glenn is who I would be reporting to. Truly, my immediate thought was, Wow, this is the first time I’ll be reporting to a man since Ray. I wondered if the differences would be noticeable or noteworthy between working for a man versus a woman. I was unsure of how my experience had shaped me or catered to me in my career. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but certainly curious.
However, it was obvious from my interview experience that working for Glenn was going to be a much better situation than the man I worked for when I was 17. True to my expectations, Glenn has been a great leader who is extremely knowledgeable and a great teacher. He’s also managing a team of over 40 individuals while juggling a daughter at home with health issues. I’ve clearly been fortunate to work for several admirable leaders. Lucky for Glenn, we are now adding leadership to our department, and his team of 40+ will be broken up into four teams with four separate leaders. As we make this switch, I will no longer be on Glenn’s team, but will now be reporting to a woman named Michelle.
What I’ve learned about great leaders and managers, is that they are also great people. They are professional and experienced, yet level-headed and caring. They are advisors, mentors and confidants. They multi-task, they prioritize, and they execute. They are the kind of people that you want to surround yourself with. And in my case, they have mostly been women. This should be celebrated! But we have a long way to go.
Almost 52% of professional-level jobs are owned by women*, and yet only 15% of executive officers are female.* Not to mention the prevailing wage-gap issue – despite the spotlight that has been put on it, women still make about 78 cents to the man’s dollar.* I won’t even get into the workplace harassment issues that the media has highlighted, but let’s just recognize the amount of mountains that women have to climb.
So I say, keep climbing! Inspire and empower the women around you. Celebrate their successes, and learn from them to create your own. Collaborate. Nominate. Share knowledge and information. Acknowledge accomplishments and milestones. Break boundaries and tear down stereotypes.
I want to thank the women who have inspired me. From my mom, to my previous bosses, to my mentors, to my friends – you all dominate everyday. As leading women in your industries, you are constantly knocking down walls and paving a greater way for the women who come after us. I hope to pass along the gifts that I have been given from you to other strong women with powerful potential.
Who run the world.*
Thanks for reading.
*11% of civil engineers are women, according to bls.gov. *30% of all businesses are owned and operated by women, over 40% of moms today are the sole or primary source of income in U.S. households, and the pay gap across all occupations is 77.5%, according to resourcefulmanager.com *Almost 52% of professional-level jobs are owned by women and 15% of executive officers are female, according to americanprogess.com *Who run the world? Girls. According to Beyoncé.