Being a girl boss in a male-dominated world

 

girl boss rules“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.

One Word Resolution.

new years resolutions

 

Happy New Year! A new year is a chance to reflect on the year behind you and think about your hopes for the year ahead of you. Most of us make resolutions and start the year afresh with plans to pay down debt, lost weight, exercise more, eat better, read more, or other such self-improvements. I used to make those types of resolutions too. Then, one year I realized that I was resolving to do the same things every year…just better. At that point those things don’t seem much like resolutions; they are really sticking to healthy behaviors. So, I changed my view of resolutions and started making a list of goals I wanted to accomplish over the next year. That worked pretty well for me. I had a list of priorities and could check off those accomplishments. This year I sat down to make my list of goals for 2016, a pattern quickly emerged. My checklist included a lot of things like “finish paper #1”, “finish paper #2”, “finish paper #3”, “finish book draft”, “finish closet redesign”, finish, finish, finish.

 

At that point, I realized that what I needed more than anything was a one-word resolution: FINISH. That is my biggest weakness and biggest struggle. Like many of you, I am busy. In addition to my job as a university professor, journal editor, and writer, I am an active mother of two busy children. My daughter is a dancer. Parents of serious dancers will know this can easily take over your entire life. On top of that, my son is an actor and plays select soccer. I am the assistant manager of his soccer team. I also make ballet costumes for my daughter’s ballet productions. One more thing: I homeschool both of my children. I do a lot. Unfortunately, I also don’t finish a lot (at least in a reasonable amount of time).

 

Here’s a blueprint for not finishing what you start. First, attempt an overwhelming amount of multitasking. Moms are the queens of multitasking. We couldn’t imagine life any other way. Yet, research coming out over the past year or two keeps telling us that multitasking is bad for our overall productivity. If you are like me, you laugh and roll your eyes wondering who can afford to do one task at a time. While laughing and rolling your eyes, you are probably running a load of laundry, helping with homework, and yelling at someone. Unfortunately, I think they might be right. I’m not suggesting that we stop multitasking altogether. I realize that finishing some big tasks means temporarily reducing the amount of tasks occupying my mind.

 

Second, you end up not finishing when you are not selfish with your time. Again, mothers have a terrible time with this. We give to our families and think about our own needs last. My time and energy are scattered in so many different directions, and I don’t do a very good job putting myself in the schedule. I’ve decided to change this over the next year by making and keeping appointments with myself.

 

If you are going to finish, you need a plan. What are your New Year’s resolutions? Could you summarize them in one word? Do you have a harder time starting or finishing projects?