This is the fourth in a series on the journey taken by many women in the tech world toward a life of fulfillment, satisfaction and balance. To read the other entries, click here: www.mnorabouchard.com
Let’s catch up with our Heroine, shall we?
In our last installment, our Heroine (could be you) had found success in the world of work. Along her journey, she made a choice to align herself with the leadership figures nearby — mostly men. She learned to capitalize on her masculine strengths; she pushed herself to be tough, direct, competitive and a problem-solver. At the same time, she became expert at hiding part of herself so that others weren’t put off or distracted by the feminine aspects of her existence. Going under cover made it easier for our Heroine to fit into work environments created and run mostly by men. It has been a tough balancing act for our Heroine, but she’s become so adept at hiding part of herself, that she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.
Until she does. Until she awakens to what is missing. Until her eyes open to the reality she denied existed.
This awakening is a key moment in The Heroine’s Journey (based on the work by Maureen Murdock). It can be as overt as an earthquake that rattles you out of your slumber, or a subtle persistent nudge that won’t go away. Either way, the awakening comes when women, at last, begin to see life very differently. The proverbial veil is gone and what “is” becomes clear. And clarity is a powerful thing.
But what triggers this awakening? What causes women to rouse themselves after so many years of trials and rewards? For many women working in tech careers, a number of triggers may get their attention and spark this change in perception. Here are a few:
Children: When a woman becomes pregnant, her entire world view shifts. What used to be important to her is now inconsequential, except in how it may support the new life she carries. New priorities surface; old games become obvious. As tired as new mothers are, they are truly wide awake to what’s important.
Pregnancy is literally life-changing, and adoption of a child feels very similar. Selflessly caring for another shifts perspective like nothing else. In fact, any choice that pits the needs of children against the needs of the job can be a wake-up-call. Your son needs to get to the doctor? No strategy meeting is going to stop you from keeping that appointment. Family trumps all.
Work/Life (Im)Balance: One, more subtle, way that women open their eyes to reality is when they get fed up with chasing the myth of “work/life balance.” Whether they have children or not, single or married, women eventually learn that work/life balance is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. When women get tired of spinning the plates on sticks (one for this project, one for that kid, one for vacation, one for that boss…) they begin to see the unending sameness of it all. Awake women understand that the only way to stop the plates from spinning is to stop spinning the plates. Choices need to be made.
The Disrespect: After a while, some women wake to how much energy they spend to avoid experiencing the open disrespect of their gender. In other words, they tire of dealing with the disrespect that comes when they bring all of themselves — the masculine and feminine — to work. Awake women are sick of wasting time and energy hiding those aspects of themselves that are not exactly welcome or celebrated: feminine qualities such as patience, nurturing, compassion and empathy. (Check out our early blog to learn what these qualities are and why they are so critical to the work environment.) Why do women bury these vitally important qualities? It’s no surprise to awake women how we have been taught our entire lives that these are not valuable. From the not-so-subtle teasing on playgrounds: “You’re just a girrrl!” or “You throw like a girl.” or “Don’t cry like a little girl.” To the subtle messages at work that come through an acceptance of mansplaining, manterruption or bropriation. (For a fascinating look at how women are treated in some workplaces, read this Time article that documents the attitude and behavior changes that result toward transgender men and women.) At some point, women just tire of having to fight to be respected and to fit in. Speaking of fitting in….
The Boys’ Club: Still, another way in which women experience a personal awakening is when they realize they will never, ever truly be part of the men’s club where they work. Now, of course some organizations do a fabulous job of creating welcoming and inclusive work environments for their employees. Many more don’t. At some point, awake women realize as hard as they try, they will never be one of the guys. Nor should they. It’s not that women want clubs of their own. Rather women want open, collaborative and transparent environments that enable them to be fully themselves.
This great awakening happens on a macro-level, too. Women working in technology industries are becoming more vocal about gender disparity. They are using new language to identify inequities and to call out bad behaviors. Women are waking up and demanding change. This awakening may also explain why:
- 56% of women in the tech industry will leave their jobs mid-career, and
- An estimated 315,000 women quit work each month.
It’s very possible that many of those women who left had their own awakenings. Perhaps they realized that their energies and talents could be better used — and appreciated — elsewhere.
Women aren’t asking for special treatment. They want fair opportunity and to have their voices heard. Not so much really.
The next step in The Heroine’s Journey has to do with the choices women make once they are fully awake. If you’d like to explore your own journey, please reach out.
M. Nora Bouchard, MA, PCC is a seasoned and deeply experienced executive coach. Over the last 20 years, Nora has guided men and women leaders in the tech industry. She appreciates the analytical mindset and is profoundly familiar with its light and dark sides. Nora is author of the ground-breaking book, Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need. With over 10,000 hours of coaching, and hundreds of hours facilitating learning events, Nora can help you find your success. www.mnorabouchard.com.