Glass Ceilings…the other “G”

I have slammed into the glass ceiling a time or two in my career. The last time was so blatant that I was stunned speechless. My boss gave a substantial raise to my male counterpart because “he has a family to support”…as if I didn’t…and as if that was even reasonable.

I firmly believe in equal pay for equal work/experience.

The problem, however, runs deeper than just getting paid the same. It has to do with the perception of worth and age-old ingrained stereotypes about gender roles.

In August 2006, I attended a President/Senior Executive Roundtable in Cabo San Lucas.

Limited to 50 participants, people come from all over the world. There is a waiting list. It is popular.

It was a game changer for me.

The first thing I noticed when I got to the meeting room – of the 53 people present (50 participants and 3 moderators), there were only four women. Four.

OK, I thought…baby steps. The Factoring industry is, historically, retired bankers…white, male bankers in their 50’s – there is a twisted sort of logic in most of the industry’s senior executives being men.

I had a firm grip on my feminist ire.

About halfway through day two, the discussion turned to sales people v. brokers. It started as an interesting conversation. Then it got REALLY interesting. Someone (and to this day I do not know who) said “No one will ever convince me that the best sales people aren’t young attractive women in short skirts”.

The firm grip on my feminist ire became somewhat tenuous.

And then the room erupted in chuckles – some in discomfort and some in approval. Chuckles.

The tenuous grip on my feminist ire evaporated (exploded, really).

I made it clear that while I no longer considered myself necessarily young or necessarily attractive and I would not be wearing a short skirt any time soon, I could sell circles around their best of the best.

The chuckles stopped. There were sheepish looks. One of the moderators all but slid off his chair under the table.

The following year, at the same event (Boston), seven women attended. The giant ship that is the Factoring industry was slowly turning. Now, at conferences and workshops, I see women leading more sessions (I have moderated a few myself) and more women are opening their own firms. I think some of it has to do with technology and the ability to blend our work lives and our home lives (see Balance, Blending and other B’s).

I also believe that while the ship might be slowly turning – it is important to realize that just because we know it takes a long time for a ship to alter its course, that doesn’t mean that we have to stay on that particular ship. And it certainly doesn’t mean we should let someone else define our worth, values, goals or the expectations we have of ourselves and others.

It is “safe” to stay on a ship that is slowly turning. In hindsight, that last slam into the glass ceiling and that trip to Cabo were pivotal turning points that made seizing the opportunity to start LDI so exciting.

The lessons…

Safe choices aren’t always wise choices.

Another…

Never let someone else’s belief system or values define you.

Finally…

If you don’t like the ship you are on, re-engineer its design or go build yourself a new ship.

Melissa~

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