“If you want something done, give it to a busy woman.” – Kelly Hellickson
So often, we, as powerful women in an industry captivated and consumed by male domination, feel the need to prove our worth, prove our position and take on more than our male counterparts. Why? Because it’s the societal norm? Simply due to the gender gap that exists within the financial industry? Because we deserve it less than men?
I think it’s time we talked about it.
I grew up in this industry from the age of 24 and have had the opportunity to feel empowerment from my leaders as well as feel armored leadership, stripping me of my empowerment, from other leaders. The wonderful thing is each had a positive impact on my future as a leader in the financial industry.
Emotions = Weakness
Regardless of my leader at the time, I always found myself pushing to prove something. Prove something to the men in positions above me, to my co-workers, to myself, to the industry. What was I trying to prove?
My worthiness of the position I held. Period.
Perhaps as women we hold tight to our worth and place unnecessary pressure on ourselves to remain “worthy” of things that we are entitled to and have rightly earned – but that’s beside the point, and a discussion of its own.
“Emotions equal weakness.” I distinctly recall feeling emotional during a particularly tense meeting where I wasn’t performing up to someone else’s standards, and telling myself “if you’re emotional, they’ll think you’re weak. Whatever you do, hold back.” I also recall sitting in management meetings with both men and women, and witnessing other women being unfairly held to standards and goals that the men were not, with a clear agenda to push them to their breaking point. It always worked. Next thing I knew, they were gone. And there I stood, to my surprise, the lone woman in the c-suite. What did this mean? Did I finally prove myself? Was I done tirelessly overperforming, trying to live up to someone else’s standards? Of course not. The pressure only increased. With a new promotion and representing all the other women (in my mind), I had even more to prove. But soon, regardless of the strides I made and growth we achieved, my position was eliminated, and I was faced with the choice to take a 20% pay cut and lesser position or leave. I left. It ended up being the best decision I ever made, and as a result I’ve made it my mission to empower others, both men and women, and to remain empathetic and supportive of those climbing their way up the corporate ladder. The reality is we’re all in this together, so we should be advocates for one another, and stop stepping on others to reach the top.
Why am I telling you this?
Let’s not beat around the bush and pretend that every woman reading this (and perhaps some men) resonated in some way with the story above. The facts are, it’s no longer about how we get to the c-suite, or do we deserve to be there. It’s about WHY we are there. It’s about the fact that gender inequality in this industry still exists. There are many credit unions that make a culture of inclusion, gender equality and empowerment a priority and deserve to be applauded. There are also still credit unions that operate in the perpetual “prove your worth” space. Don’t get me wrong, everyone must earn their way up the corporate ladder, but I encourage financial leaders and boards to keep a very close eye on the pressure placed upon women to prove their worth in this industry.
The bottom line –
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
We’ve been labelled emotional, irrational, amateur, and even unprofessional – but the reality is women are equally as strategic, intelligent, professional and capable financial leaders as men. We can all agree that a career with a credit union is more than just a paycheck. Credit unions are family to us, and this family needs more matriarchs.
She-Suite Empowerment Resources: