“I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” — Dr. Maya Angelou
One of the questions that I get asked pretty frequently is what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated field. Business schools, and in particular, finance departments are not a place where you find a lot of women. If you are looking for female mentors and a bunch of girlfriends at work, you are probably going to be disappointed. That has never bothered me. Actually, I rarely look around and even notice that I am the only woman in the office.
I was raised by a strong single mother who taught me to be strong and independent as well. I always believed that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I enjoyed playing with G.I. Joe and Matchbox cards as much as I liked dolls. I was good at science, so I was encouraged to consider that as a career option. I went to programs for women in science and leadership for women. Even then, I didn’t really think that being a woman was anything that should hold me back or that I would not be accepted.
So, I went on to get my undergraduate degree in geophysics. I was the only girl in the major and so was often the only girl in class. I noticed, but I was “one of the guys”. I was just part of the group and again it never crossed my mind that it should not be that way. The same thing happened when I decided to join Army ROTC. As soon as people saw what I could do, being a girl did not matter.
Things are a little different these days. Yes, I sometimes encounter older men who don’t think I belong where I am. Still, I’m not the kind of feminist who thinks that she really needs a squad of women yelling about being treated fair and equal. I don’t automatically support another woman for any job because there is an unwritten “girl oath”. If I did that, wouldn’t I be guilty of the same thing that we claim the men are guilty of doing? My brand of feminism involves being the best you can be, working smarter than everyone else, and not standing for less than you deserve. I don’t want to be singled out and treated differently because I am a woman, a redhead, or any other classification. I want to be singled out because I am good at my job. Then, if that is not rewarded, I’ll find another place to work where it is. Women should support each other, but your support system does not have to be other women. Find people who see your worth and want to encourage your career development. When you carry yourself as an equal, others start to see you that way too. Now get out there and go take the world by storm, fellow girl boss.