This week marked an historic moment in the history of the United States: a woman competed and won the top spot on a national party ticket — only 96 years after women were permitted to vote. Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton has earned her place in the history books.
It never occurred to me as a young girl that it was not possible to become anything I wanted to be. Women do not want to return to the gender roles of the '50s and early '60s. I suspect men do not either, but for different reasons. Yet, I am not sure the question has ever been posed to them. We haven't even asked, because any response other than "no, of course not!" would lead to their being labeled a misogynist or sexist. It seems women have found their voice by minimizing men.
Having grown up surrounded by girls — two sisters, six cousins and a female majority of neighborhood playmates — I developed a skewed perspective of the world. While my father and uncles were powerful forces in my life, they were the strong, silent types, unlike my mother and aunts, who were quite expressive. It was always clear to me how the women were experiencing life's events, but it never occurred to me that the men might be experiencing the same events differently.
As I became an adult, the collective hormonal pool in my world shifted and I often found myself outnumbered by men at work and at home. Surrounded by male colleagues, brothers-in-law, nephews and a grandson, I began to see that boys and men think differently; they care about different things. Not better, not worse, just different. While it is universally accepted that "men are from Mars and women are from Venus," it seems that girls and women have been empowered by acknowledging these differences while boys and men have been minimized.
My experience as a coach suggests that men and women encounter similar obstacles along their career/life path, which tend to thwart advancement. Both men and women must deal with perceptions of competency and commitment, bully bosses, difficult co-workers and work/life balance issues. But they experience those challenges differently. It impacts their personal brand in unique ways. There are many women's groups to help women navigate these situations, but there aren't many for men — as soon as a group of men attempts to get together excluding women, we scream discrimination. Given our history, the response is understandable. Perhaps it is time for us women to feel secure enough in our position in the world of work to allow men to gather without us, to explore their thoughts and feelings on these issues. (Of course we hate the idea because we know they won't do it "right"! There is no doubt in my mind that they will do it differently, but it is important that women recognize that their way isn't "wrong".)
Instead of being at war with each other, let's give each other space to explore our unique perspectives on our evolving roles in the world of work and learn how to share those views with each other without accusations and name-calling. Working together, we just might be able to improve the experiences of both genders!