graphic for The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech: The Emergence of Intelligent Software

 

dont-be-a-drag-just-be-a-queen-hrexaminer-web by Heather Bussing
Heather Bussing is a returning contributor to our HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Heather has practiced employment and business law for over 20 years. She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio


Don’t Be a Drag, Just Be a Queen

by Heather Bussing

Last week in John Sumser’s article HR is Female, these words set off a string of comments by people who were offended.

“Being a fundamentally female function, HR behaves differently than other parts of the organization. It’s more networky and can be nurturing. It’s natural that development is housed here.

The essence of HR might be its ability to make clear judgments about really intangible things like personality, potential and match-making. These are stereotypical female things.”

The more articulate called Sumser sexist. One Facebook commenter referred to him as “a douchey smarmster . . . ick.”  However, this isn’t about Sumser.  He’s often provocative.  But he is generally an equal opportunity offender.

Many women were upset at being called “nurturing” at work.  They want you to know that they can handle the union busting men of HR and are really most concerned about the financial bottom line.   They are busy managing a business. They are not nurturing.

Would you hire these women as a Vice President of HR?  Not without knowing how she deals with people, I hope. You might also want to get a good employment attorney.

The role of women in the workplace has changed a lot in the last 25 years.  I started working as a lawyer in 1987 after graduating in the first mostly female class at my law school.  The US business world was run by 50 year old white guys.  As a young lawyer, I was groped, sexually harassed, brought along to carry papers and look cute, called kiddo, darling and always paid less than my male colleagues.  I didn’t have children until my very late 30’s because being a professional and having babies were mutually exclusive.

I’ve worked on many gender discrimination cases, including the executive who was excluded from the management retreat because she couldn’t pee off the side of the boat, and the female prison guard who had suggestive tattoos on her leg—of naked women.  I have advised insurance companies, banks, hospitals, garbage companies, sheriff’s departments and local governments about gender discrimination.  My clients are CEO’s, business owners and HR Departments.  Here’s what I’ve observed about how women and the workplace have changed over the last 20 some years.

  1. The US business world is still run by 50 year old white guys.  But these are not the same 50 year old white guys from 20 years ago.  These are the guys I went to college and law school with.  They have been working with women for 20 years.  They have daughters in college who want to run companies.  They usually want the smartest person with the best insight and experience doing the job and they don’t care if that person has a y chromosome or not.
  2. The current crop of 50 year old white guys was mentored by white guys who were a) in charge; and b) didn’t know how to work with women who weren’t secretaries or personnel managers.
  3. The current crop of 40-50 year old women worked for the old school 50 year old white guys.  We were mentored by women who had to work harder, be smarter and put up with a lot of crap.  We learned to fight because we still had to.

Gender discrimination still exists in the workplace, but it’s not the same as it used to be.  Women run large and small companies.  Women run for president.  Women are on the United States Supreme Court.  Things have changed a lot.

Women now have the opportunity to be complete assholes, just like men.

But many choose not to.  Instead, they bring their stereotypical female traits of compassion, empathy, listening and consensus building to the workplace.  These skills are especially useful when working with people who, regardless of gender, need to be heard and appreciated.

It’s ironic, but all the sports analogies are really designed to promote working together toward a common goal and improving communication so that the team is both efficient and effective.  Many women already know how to do this—whether or not they played team sports—because that’s how girls play together.

One of my favorite clients manages a medical practice with multiple offices and several different work shifts.  She oversees all the HR functions of hiring, discipline, benefits, compliance as well as facilities operations, purchasing new equipment and dealing with the physicians– who are all men.  She is brilliant, funny, creative, tough and has a penchant for wild glasses.  She understands the bottom line and all the lines in between.  And she is both caring and nurturing.  She signs her name with her title abbreviation QOE—Queen of Everything.

Women business leaders need to be strong, smart, tough and decisive.  This does not preclude being compassionate, caring and nurturing.  So perhaps it’s time for women to stop being so defensive and be themselves.

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen.  Of everything.

graphic for The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech: The Emergence of Intelligent Software


 
  • going back to the whole “nurturing” thing. i’m lost on this whole issue and why women would be upset about being called nurturing. shouldn’t we all be nurturing? why isn’t the call for all of us, women and men alike, to be nurturing and embrace that trait when it comes to employee development?

    in all of the back and forth related to whether it’s OK to call women nurturing, does it demean us as business people, is it appropriate, etc… i think i may have read in previous posts a comment/stream of thought that went like this… HR is mostly women, women are nurturing, this is good because nurture = development and HR “owns” development within most organizations. on the surface, makes sense. but the issue for me is really that HR shouldn’t be seen as the ones owning employee development. we can create the infrastructure, we can ensure the tools are developed, we can push leaders to really focus on development… but at the end of the day, an employee’s development should be owned by that employee’s manager. employees want that interaction with their manager. it’s personal. it’s not HR your average employee is going to look to for guidance, wisdom, a shoulder to cry on, the nurture associated with their personal and professional development.

    so let’s not get upset about women being labeled as nurturing. it’s not a pissing match. there’s nothing wrong with being nurturing. what’s wrong is to not put the emphasis on the importance of men and women alike being nurturing. and for the everyday trench HR practitioners out there, i’d hope this is where your thoughts would be too.

  • GerryGerrcrispin, sphr

    I’m nurturing. Does that make me a drag queen?

    As someone over 50 who fought for women’s rights (and other things) I suggest that in the US at least, we’ve matured enough to call each other out individually for our failings rather than ‘group’ them.

    Generation, gender and racial stereotyping is not ‘old school’ its a basic part of our human psychology and needs to be constantly worked on…every age, every one.

    Women who fail to stand up when their ‘nurturing’ characteristics are emphasized over other characteristics encourage being seen as one-dimensional. That’s why I love this post.

    50 year olds who fail to stand up when stereotyped as ‘old school are encouraging others to see them as out of touch and irrelevant. That’s why I can'[t let it pass.

    This is one 63 year old who believes a world-class business leader is nurturing and, if not, is neither.

    Just sayin’

  • Loved your article. Got me to look up the definition of nurture: “The caring for and encouraging the growth of someone or something”. The equivalent of managing by “carrot” rather than by “stick”. Not male. Not female. Just human. And effective.

  • Heather Bussing

    Gerry I’ve seen you hold court– you’re a great queen. And I know lots of 50+ men and women who are not only relevant, but have the wisdom and experience to go with it.

    Thank you Gerry, Carol and Jessica for your comments and insights.

Page 1 of 11
Read previous post:
HRExaminer v2.13

HR is Female While HR is widely understood to be a difficult place to sell and do business, it's worth...

Close