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Women bosses and women drivers are sometimes deemed in the same social light – as cranky, pushy and loud. Relax, even as you need to push back.
Society subtly lets women drive – both, an organisation and a car – and then judges her behind her back.
In my work experience, I held different positions – as an employee to a woman boss, as junior to female seniors and as a senior to junior men and women. I have had my share of friendship as well as disagreements with them. But one thing that I could not pin down on is – if we were male bosses, would we have been less disagreeable? I mean I once had a cranky-pushy-loud male boss too and he wasn’t getting judged because of his gender!
But in a hen-house (sorry for the term), sniggers and chuckles are common, with all kinds of sexism – “Must be PMS-ing, that one“, “She’s going crazy”, “It seems she isn’t getting enough at night” – floating around!
Women bosses, as per my experience, can be stylish, gutsy, confident and strong. At the same time, they could suddenly become overbearing and insensitive too, when they feel like they are taken for granted. These are not unseen among male bosses. It’s just that we notice it more when it’s a woman.
Later, when I headed a team I found that only ‘saying yes’ and being benign pleases men and women alike. And men, even if they are your juniors, would like you to ask them to ‘kindly do the needful’ instead of setting them tasks. Otherwise, you will be complained about, or become targets of sexist jokes.
I tried to figure out why women bosses inevitably become the topic of judgement. And I found this. People often colour social cognizance about leaders, with their historical perspective. Since history doesn’t speak much about women leaders, the current winners are looked at with the awe of watching wild animals.
Let me also include that sexism is impartial to looks – if she is pretty, she’s to be hit on; if she isn’t, the jokes slide towards the lack of physical appeal.
There are only a few types of women who can probably break the gender ice, and most often with socially recognised ‘male’ superhuman powers – the ones who can drink without a blink, the ones who have automobile skills and the ones who can box the hell out of smart-asses. And even then, they’d either be categorised as a slut or a lesbian – a seemingly harmless term that can turn into victim-shaming if she is seen superseding the men.
Facing such an inevitable predicament, do you think it is possible for any woman to keep a cool head? Of course, she becomes insecure; of course, she thinks she is taken for granted; of course, she believes every joking man is trying to get her laid. And that’s why she does what she has always been taught – guard and attack.
The woman boss/leader, I sadly feel, hasn’t yet learnt to play it cool. Because, no matter how qualified and talented she is, no matter how much she has achieved, no matter how shrewd and smart she is, she is always living a doubly marginalised identity – in her struggles and then in her achievement. To curb that, I believe she has to take lessons on letting loose her social inhibitions, as regularly as yoga/pilates.
I agree that a woman leader is often tough because she is overtly meticulous, but while that is her high ground, that can also tend to keep her on the edge all the time, much to her own chagrin. She has to learn that it is alright to take it easy sometimes.
Or as Reshma Saujani says in her Ted Talks speech: “Teach our girls bravery, not perfection.” She goes on to elaborate that unless a girl is taught to take risks, she will remain convinced that whatever she does has to be 100% right and pleasing to the social eye. While she is seeking perfection, she will lose the fun of experiment and lose her patience. That will never let her evolve from her current image of being insecure and bossy. (Disclaimer: This doesn’t apply to all women. Just the ones employees truly complain about.)
I personally believe that to achieve that, other women have to start appreciating and believing in her – loudly and clearly. Mothers need to tell their daughters to go ahead and try, till fathers and brothers come out of their paranoia about the big bad world. Seriously, women have to pat each other’s backs and stop getting emotional when one of them succeeds, like it could have never happened.
We also have to spend our accolades generously over other women’s achievements and stop complimenting with hidden malice. We also have to stop reacting weirdly if we see another woman in the same dress in the same room. Enough with the memes now! Get sexy or get shabby – your choice, I won’t judge you.
To make this a culture, I guess we have to begin with unisex upbringing of our children. Let the kids exchange their toys and swap their proficiency classes. Let us, for once, learn to treat them in the exact same way. Let them live the life that they want – no matter what history our generation had with genders. Maybe then, women will shed the guard and do what society and genetics taught men young – to hell with what others think!
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Blogger, standup comedy addict, movie and music lover. I often scare people saying, "Beware, I'
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