I’ve been a woman in a sea of outspoken extroverted men my entire career. Sure, there are others like me, but we are a measly few compared to the masses. And sure, we gotta stick together, because the guys certainly do. But just because they get us confused and use our names interchangeably, that doesn’t mean women in my line of work are all the same. Those of us lucky enough to find success in spite of the odds and the numbers don’t actually fit a single profile or a canned type. There’s no winning formula to being a working girl who doesn’t jump ship (or frankly get pushed overboard) before her time. In fact I’ve seen ladies stay afloat using many different personas over the years. I’m still trying to figure out which category is mine, but when I think about my choices, they boil down to the following:
- The Cool One: They joke with her, and she can take it and dish it right back. She knows all the right people, and is happy to introduce you to anyone in her Rolodex. What she’s lacking in appearance she makes up for with personality. She is confident but not threatening to her peers. She’s going places.
- The Fun Girl: She calls everyone “babe”. She goes out late night and can hold her liquor. She’s cute and dresses with flair. She giggles (!) in the workplace. The risk here is there may or may not be whispers about who she is having a fling with. And they may or may not be true.
- The Sporty Chick: She played Division I lacrosse/crew/field hockey/golf. She’s the youngest of four girls who did the same. She has thick skin and works effortlessly in a team. She’s not looking to compete with the men around her, but they know they’d lose to her in any physical competition. They take her on golf outings where she is always part of the elite foursome.
- The Mother Hen: She keeps track of everyone’s birthday, and makes sure cupcakes are at hand to celebrate. She dresses up on Halloween, wears red on Valentine’s Day. She is in charge of Secret Santa and punishes grinches and deadbeats. She knows the names of every child, wife, and dog on the desk. She will plan your next vacation, and edit your kid’s college essay to ensure they get into that reach school.
- The B: She doesn’t give a crap what people think. If you insult her or her gender, there will be hell to pay. She’s worked her ass off to get to where she is and she’ll be damned if any of these pigs try to get in her way. She may or may not have a family, but even they know she’s not to be trifled with. They all respect her to her face, but condemn her behind her back, and that’s just fine with her.
- The Smartypants: There are a lot of guys who pound their chests and talk a big game, but she actually delivers. No one understands what she is doing slumming it in this office. She is insightful, but sometimes smarmy. They keep this one at a distance, although she is great with grammar checks, and helps them look good to clients when they need it.
So, which one are you? Which one am I? Truth is, I’m probably a little bit of all of these at different times (except the athletic one unfortunately!), and it’s worked for me so far. I haven’t found the winning identity for myself, and it’s virtually impossible to dimension oneself into a particular silo in an environment that is at one time both so dynamic and so prehistoric. The problem is, it seems that is how the majority of our male peers view us, and once that perception becomes consensus, we’re told it’s reality. To quote my favorite 90’s coming of age flick, Reality Bites.