I Spoke Up Like This

That is, as a woman. Inspired by @Lisa_Fav
  1. One job taught me how important it is to be an active feminist, as opposed to a theoretical feminist.
  2. I was hired at a small branding firm of seven people. There were two other women, one of whom was the co-founder. The other was the CEO's sister, our office manager.
    The male founder was given the title of CEO. The female co-founder was given the title of Art Director. Seem fair?🚩
  3. At first, everything went great. I was hired to manage a multi-million dollar account with one of America's largest corporations. This was formerly being managed by the female co-founder.
  4. Funnily enough, she could never find the time to sit down with me and give me the background on the account, even after multiple requests.
    I plowed forward at her insistence, flying blind, faking knowledge of the client's dense internal corporate lingo and inane "best practices", doing my best to get by just on my skills as an art director and my instincts for branding.
  5. Five months later, still no meeting. And I found out that she went to my client privately and critiqued many of the ways I handled the account. This feedback was never given to me directly. 😳
  6. I was also working on developing a set of guidelines for a recent re-brand, a sixty-page book meant to act as a coffee table book for the brand. My client was paying the firm almost half a million dollars for me to develop it.
    (Sidenote, not only did I complete it on time and under budget, I received emails from this Fortune 500 company's CEO & CMO congratulating me on the work. There was no question about its success.)
  7. As I developed this brand book, I quickly realized that voicing my opinions on design and strategy was considered very hostile by my male co-workers, even though it was my project. I was frequently told to watch my tone. My opinions were always questioned or met with resistance. I pushed forward anyway.
    I internalized this and it made me feel terrible about myself. I started recording myself while at work, believing that I must be some kind of monster. Spoiler: I wasn't. I was succeeding professionally but personally my self-esteem was being decimated.
  8. My female co-workers rarely expressed opinions and when they did, it was in a way that implied their opinion was not valid unless it was seconded by a man.
  9. I also successfully initiated and negotiated a deal that gave my agency a $250k windfall from my client's yearly marketing budget, all profit.
    Emboldened by my success, I went to my boss and asked for 1% of the deal as a bonus. He declined. At the time, he was giving male employees up to 15% shares on new deals they brought into the company.
  10. I also remember the day I was informed that I could not travel to a new business meeting on a lead I had been developing because my boss had a policy not to travel with women.
    He had made this promise to his wife, as had my other male co-worker. As a result, I was blocked out of all new business development once the time came to pitch new clients in person. And guess what? My male co-worker was given his 15% after landing these deals in my place.
  11. I'll also never forget the day I learned that my company did not offer paid maternity leave. If I got pregnant, I was screwed.
    Meanwhile my male co-workers were becoming fathers many times over, never with their paychecks or jobs at risk.
  12. Finally, at the end of my fourth quarter, I went to my boss to ask for a small raise, a raise that had been promised to me throughout the year. At the time, I had been responsible for bringing in $3.5 million dollars to our company, whose total operating budget was around $8 million. I was asking for $6000.
    My boss declined. Instead he chided me for my tone in the workplace and told me I should "strive to be more gentle and graceful" and "stop focusing so much on success".
  13. My best friend died and I took a week off of work for the funeral and to be with my family, as was outlined in our corporate leave policy.
    When I returned, I was handed resignation papers and told I was "not a cultural fit".
  14. I worked around the clock for that company, just trying to do my job to the best of my ability. I tried to remain friendly, cheerful, and positive. I was never combative or insulting. I asked for feedback every step of the way because I was genuinely interested in how I could do better.
    Instead, I was punished. Why?
  15. Because I was driven. Because I was independent. Because I had expertise. Because I stood my ground when I thought it would create the best work. Because I wasn't soft enough. Because I spoke up.
  16. As a woman.
  17. The double standard infuriated me. Try to imagine a scenario where a man who has had the same success is met with the same resistance. The men at my company who had fractions of my success were promoted and heavily rewarded.
  18. Nobody wants to rock the boat with their boss or co-workers.
  19. And you could say this is just one bad company. But even they were operating from cultural standards that were easy enough to justify at the time.
    And the worst part is, by the time they let me go, they truly made me believe that I deserved it. At that point I had been second-guessing myself for so long that my self-esteem was at zero. And that's how these cycles of gendered discrimination get perpetuated.
  20. But the culture must change. Real equality will only become mainstream when women are empowered, supported, and groomed in the workplace just as men are. Women need to be rewarded for their confidence, initiative, and creativity, not be taught to downplay or subvert them.
  21. So please, please, please speak up.