Friday, March 8, 2013

Do you sit at the table?

I used to be an AVID Cosmo reader, back in the ‘ol college days when apparently all I thought about was lipstick & sex. Has anyone else been super embarrassed carrying their Cosmo thru the airport or pulling it out of your purse to read on the plane?

Well, I don’t know why not? I mean, they’re cover stories are so modest.

You’ve got Kim K with her massive breasts on display, surrounded by cover stories such as "The Sex Move That Brings You Closer," "How to Talk Dirty, " and "Your Best Orgasm."

I haven’t read a Cosmo in years for the reasons I just discussed, but I tell you what ladies, Cosmo just got better. They are rolling out a new feature called Cosmo Careers & it’s fantastic. In April’s edition, nestled between an article on "How to Look Hot" and "The Sexiest Thing You Can Do on a Date" is a teeny little mini mag that talks all things business.

The April edition of Cosmo Career takes a fabulous insider look into a new book written by Sheryl Sandberg called, "Lean In." Sheryl is the Chief Operating Officer for Facebook & quite frankly, is a lady I’d love to have as a mentor. I haven’t read the book yet, but you better be damn sure I’m picking it up this weekend. "Lean In" is written in an attempt to urge women to go for it. Go for those big jobs & never, ever settle. It inspired this post, the first one in a four part series I’ll be featuring the next four Fridays. I hope you’ll follow along & give me your feedback because I’m dying to see how you all respond to all that I’m getting ready to say.

Sheryl talks about a situation in which Facebook hosted a meeting for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. The invited guests were mostly men however there were four women in attendance as well.

"Our invited guests, mostly men, sat down at the large conference table. Secretary Geithner’s team, all women, took their food last & sat in chairs off to the side of the room. I (Sheryl) motioned for the women to come sit at the table, waving them over publicly so they would feel welcomed. They demurred & remained in their seats. The four women had every right to be at this meeting, but because of their seating choice, they seemed like spectators rather than participants."

How profound is that?

This feature struck a cord with me because as of late, I’ve been pondering a lot about my own career. "Am I where I belong?" "Am I working hard enough?" "Am I learning & growing as a professional as much as I should be?" And the loudest question of all…."Am I becoming a spectator in my own career?"

In reading this article I realized that I’m not the only woman asking myself the age old question. As a woman in the workplace, where do I fit in the male dominated area of upper management?

Sheryl goes on to talk about what a "watershed" moment that was for her.

"It was a moment when I realized that in addition to facing institutional obstacles, women face a battle from within. We consistently underestimate ourselves. Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better than it actually is."

Now stop & let that resonate.

I’ve always considered myself a strong, confident woman. Especially in the workplace. I’m extremely proud of where I am in my career at the age of 27, however I rarely show it. In fact, I rarely ever reveal my age in the work environment for fear that my peers will lose respect for me. I work with woman mostly in their 40’s, 50’s & even 60’s. I have carried with me this misconception that if they really knew how young I was, why would they ever respect me? Shit, I could be their daughter & for some, their granddaughter.

This past week when I traveled to Rhode Island for work, I was actually training new associates in my company on how to become an "A-typical Salesperson." I was invited to go thru a certification process a couple years ago & have since coached many teams thru this 3 day course. While out to dinner one evening a few of the ladies were talking about their 26 year old daughters & their lack of maturity. I politely held my tongue & continued sipping (that’s a lie. I never sip. I drink) my wine. After dinner, we went to the hotel restaurant to have one more glass before turning in for the night (let’s get real, I just gave you the classy version of saying night cap). As we sat there talking, they asked me how old I was. I sheepishly tried to dodge the question until one of the ladies said, "Well if you don’t want to tell us, that’s because of your own insecurities." Oh hell no.

I was a little insulted at first, but then realized she was right. Why the hell have I been so insecure to reveal how young I am among my fellow associates? I should be proud not ashamed.

A glass of wine later, I confessed I was 27. The lady looked right at me and said, "Well you are very mature for your age." (If they only knew I once pulled so many fire alarms I ended up getting arrested in the lobby of my sorority house, barefoot & braless)

They later went on to tell me they never would have guessed.

And you know why? Because I have worked very hard to get where I am. I’ve had to grow up quick & even though I’ve wanted to piss my pants at times, due to fear of failure, I put on a diaper and went for it.

After reading this article I realized my outlook has been way wrong. I’ve always been a bit "aggressive" in nature. I’m loud, sometimes obnoxious & I can be quite mouthy when it comes to things I’m passionate about. All this time I’ve been working on toning that down. In my professional life, for the most part, I keep my mouth shut & plug away patiently waiting for the next step

But why? There’s nothing wrong with being professionally aggressive. Keyword, professionally.

As of late, I’ve become comfortable in where I’m at in my career. I’m close with my coworkers, I know the drill and I’ve been striving to sell like crazy since I promoted to my role almost 2 years ago.

But why just "settle in?"

Later in the article Sheryl continues to blow my mind with her thought provoking statements. Hello, is this woman a little fairy sitting on my shoulder reading my frickin’ mind?!

"I know that in order to continue to grow & challenge myself, I have to believe in my own abilities. I (have to) face situations that I fear are beyond my qualifications."

Hello epiphany. It’s time for me to not only face those situations, but face them with confidence & believe that even when I fall on my ass, I’ll learn & be better because of it.

I need to learn to not only sit at the table, but be comfortable sitting at the head of the table.

To the ladies out there….tell me, do you sit at the table?




Sarah said...

Oh man, I needed this and I need to do more of it and be more assertive. I will have to pick up that article! But also, way to go you in your job! Sounds like you are kicking butt! I get the same way with revealing my age too and then I just end up blurting it out and rolling with it.

Anonymous said...

I used to love Cosmo too but eventually I realized it's truly the same 5 or 6 articles every. single. month. There's never anything new. It's always about how to please this guy or how to be "hotter" Really Cosmo? Hopefully this insert is worthwhile!

Sara K said...

It's ridiculous how similar we are right down to our magazine preference in college (their articles on oral sex proved quite useful - kidding!)
In describing yourself, you've described me! I can be super passionate and aggressive and in my female dominated profession it's worked for me, but I'm ready for a change... I'm just figuring out what direction to take.
This post absolutely rocks and I look forward to parts 2-4 and reading Lean In - do I hear a blog book club? holla!

Casey said...

YOU GO GIRL!!! Ahh it's so much easier to keep quiet sometimes, and I agree with you, ESPECIALLY because of my age. Oh hi, I know I'm only 25, but I'm an attorney and now I'm going to plan out the rest of your life and retirement. Trust me with your millions, really. Because I have so many of my own, ha. But for real, I need to remember that I KNOW my STUFF, no matter how old I am!

Kait said...

I loved this post! I absolutely needed it today. Younger women in the work force often don't have the courage to speak up and it's a sin. We are strong, smart, and powerful individuals! God, here I go again..note to self: you're watching too much O Network! But it's true. Cheers to this post AND your awesomeness at work :) peace, love, and teresa guidice's bubbies

Jami said...

I swear you're in my head, can't really say what I want, but I really needed this.

I'd love to say I sit at the table, but in total disclosure, I'm a side sitter in those circumstance by nature. I will say in the last year I have been breaking out of my comfort zone and I'm working my way up to the table.

Congrats on your accomplishments, you do 27 proud! This was a great post and I'm looking forward to reading in the weeks to come.

Martha said...

Wow, this could NOT have come at a better time. I am working really hard on a proposal I created at work...I want to be at the head of that table so much!

Megan said...

Thanks for posting this!!! I keep reading about this book everywhere and can't wait to read it. Thanks for sharing, I can't wait to read more about your perspective on this!!!!!

Satzanga said...

Oh well, thank you for sahring your thoughts. And yes, I am learning to do so every day!
x x