There is a great quote from Amy Poehler (isn’t she brilliant?) that runs something along the lines of
“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.”
The reason I think it’s so good is that it taps into something which is almost a subconscious attitude and highlights the fact that it is almost exclusively female.
When I was in my early twenties I started working for the local authority. It was easy work, I was getting paid enough to live (more or less) and it was a nine to five office job. At the time I felt lucky. Most of my friends were still desperately applying for jobs that were relevant to their degree or had more than a 0 hour contract. It was stable, it was safe and I was on the bottom rung so I had minimal responsibility and the potential to work my way up within the organisation.
But it wasn’t until I quit and started working for a tech startup that I finally found my self confidence. It made me re-examine the job I’d left and the first thing that jumped out at me was the gender split.
I had gone from working in a large, open plan office, surrounded by an admin team, the majority of whom were women, to working in a small space with five other people, the majority of whom were men. The managers in my old job were almost exclusively men, with the exception of a few women who seemed to be “competing” in various ways to be part of a male sphere. My new line manager and CEO is a woman, and not once have I been made to feel as though my work place is male dominated (despite the fact that the numbers would prove otherwise).
Perhaps it was something about working in the public sector and in an organisation that had historically been monopolised by men compared to working for a company that has no history. Perhaps it was more directly related to the hugely differing sizes of the two companies, the old containing thousands of employees, the new less than ten.
Whatever it is, it allowed me a chance to shine. I stopped asking for permission every five minutes and apologising every ten. I took responsibility for my work, rather than letting others take it from me. In a small company there is no one to hide behind and that, for women used to waiting for praise, is brilliant. And I think that is the main issue.
I grew up expecting to be noticed for my achievements, and at school that is one thing, but in the working world that is something else entirely. It doesn’t work like that. You can keep your head down and get on with your work and your louder colleagues will get the credit. But that’s no way to live. Now I don’t hesitate. I take credit for what I do something worth it and the blame when I deserve it.
And I have Memberoo and the wonderful people I work with to thank for this new self confidence.