My first real-life work experiences have been at all female companies. My first internship in Washington, DC was with a non-profit called Running Start: a small, all-female nonprofit working to empower women to run for office in the United States. Running for office is no longer one of my goals. But there was something about watching these women inspire women that made me understand something fundamental about male leaders, and the work culture in DC.
While interning with Running Start, I worked on some research that would be going into a sponsorship proposal. Running Start sponsors women from all over the country to come to Washington, DC and intern on the hill. It is expensive to live in DC, so these proposals help Running Start fundraise. When writing these proposals, we have to back up what Running Start does with studies of female leadership.
Doing that research wasn’t anything special then, but some of the facts and concepts have been impossible to get out of my head. What I learned was this: the reason women don’t pursue leadership positions as often is not that they aren’t qualified, but because they seek more qualifications before pursuing them. Women see power coming from knowledge.
The reason men pursue these power positions is that they think power comes from confidence. And they are right: power does come from confidence. Women end up earning way more qualifications than they ever needed, all to get the same positions as the men, not because they need to, but because they think they need to.
In general, women think that in order to be in charge, they’re not allowed to have flaws. You’re not allowed to say “I don’t know.” So in order to prepare for leadership, they prepare to answer every question, accurately and fully. Women have a higher standard for ‘qualified’ than men do. They prepare all the knowledge they need in order to be successful when men take half of that information and run full speed into leadership positions. And women are still preparing.
Some of my peers at University feel this way. There are women on my campus majoring in international service and Arabic and wanting to go into the peace corps and going to grad school all because they want to run for office, or be a leader in their field. Meanwhile the President of the United States has legal disputes and can barely spell his own name. Women are striving for perfection. Men don’t have to.
As a younger member of staff, especially a younger woman on staff, there is something intimidating about going into my supervisor’s office. After all, they are a supervisor. But when it is a woman, I have only experienced not only extreme care and empathy, but also intelligence, backed up with experience, and an ability to figure out what needs to be done. Without that empathy, all the workplace has is competition. When you make a mistake, there is no support to learn from it. When you succeed, there is no reward.
But my women supervisors have always been extremely careful to help me follow in their footsteps. To me, companies that function with empathy work more successfully as a team. When we support and uplift our coworkers, ultimately the company, and you, benefit from that work. And when we make mistakes, we need support, not negativity. My female supervisors have always supported my work, and supported me. I think that my work has improved because of it.
Male supervisors have a perception of confidence, knowledge, and facts. But in the current political era, it is time to double check that. Are they knowledgeable and factual, or just confident?
I do not mean any of this to offend anyone; these are simply examples of modern sociological phenomenons. But they are changing. As women become more empowered, they become not only more knowledgeable and factual but also more confident. Female leaders are incredibly intelligent. We all know that. But they also had the confidence to push past the facade of male superiority. And doing that takes more than the confidence men have, backed up by generations of favoritism.
As I have watched the incredibly qualified women in charge of me work, I know that they too are working hard to help women rise in the corporate ladder. That they are increasing not only female representation but intersectional female representation. And while men are working smarter not harder, women are working smarter and harder.
I have had the privilege to have only female bosses. This has definitely effected my paradigm. I am encouraged, empowered, and uplifted, all to succeed in a world where men are more likely to. I know what kind of boss I want to be when I am in charge: empathetic, but still confident, knowledgeable, and factual.