The year is 2017 and women are still facing challenges in the work place. When a woman aspires to be a leader, she is faced with challenges that men typically do not encounter. Diversity is not just a color issue, it is also a gender issue.
The industry I work in is a blue color air conditioning industry that for decades has been primarily dominated by males. Being a woman entering this industry there has traditionally been a spot for us, accounting, data entry, and administration. When I started, that is the role I played. I played the part for over 15 years, through 3 different companies. I began to see there was an easy path that I could follow that would take me into a leadership position. I could follow the business path. The thought of following the business path, bored me to tears. My personality is not one of sitting behind a desk, I am a people person. I wanted to go to customer sites, work with the guys in the field, and sell. When looking at the company as a whole, and counting the number of women who took that path, it was rather daunting. In a company with almost three thousand employees, four women had broken through the barrier to the leadership position I wanted.
I found out quickly the studies are correct, women cannot act like men (PSU WC, 2017). Being tough meant I had to figure it out by myself. I knew I would need an education to back me up. I took every class available through the company, and began pursuing completion of my undergraduate degree. I knew I would need a mentor. “Women unlike their male counterparts also lack strong mentor relationships” (PSU WC, 2017). Finding the right mentor, and securing his support was the key to my success. Our company suffers from a lack of developmental and training opportunities (Northouse, 2016, p401). He helped me get into classes I was unable to get into on my own, and he encouraged me to trust in myself. Having a strong successful mentor helped me to break down the barrier that typically holds women back in our industry, which primarily was the corporate culture which was fundamentally male driven.
With my mentor’s encouragement, I was able to show my employees that while I may be a feminine woman, I do understand the fundamentals of machines. I may paint my nails, but I am not worried about them being perfect if I need to pull refrigerant or oil out of a machine. I had to show the men that while I am every bit a lady, I can also get my hands dirty. If a technician needed help on a job, I had to show them that I could take off my heels, put on work boots, and help to the best of my ability.
I learned that as a woman, I had a harder hill to climb than most men. I could bow down to the challenge and take the easy path, or I could rise to the challenge. I could do my part to help dissolve the gender stereotype that keeps women out of this side of the industry. I learned that the work prior to the promotion to educate myself, so that I could work alongside my employees when needed, was instrumental in gaining their trust and support. I learned that I am not successful, unless my employees are successful.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, California, USA: SAGE.
PSU WC L13. (2017). Introduction to Leadership and Diversity. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1867456/modules/items/22975789