Personal Questions: Women & Work - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

Women do not need to be more like men.

  • I have been an attorney for 25 years.
  • I have advised CEOs and Directors of public companies.
  • I have been on teams that took over insolvent insurance companies for state governments, handled the investments, litigated the claims, then sold the companies.
  • I have argued appeals before state and federal courts.
  • I have tried cases involving company takeovers, million dollar fraud, complex real estate deals, and weasels of every kind.
  • I have represented a union through a strike at a multinational manufacturing plant.
  • I have closed billion dollar deals.
  • I am a law professor.
  • I am an artist.
  • I answer to Mommy boo.
  • I make killer coffee cake.
  • I have this thing for down pillows and bed linens.
  • My toenails were painted red two weeks ago.
  • Next time, I’m getting pink.

I am 15 years younger than Hilary Clinton, 2 years older than Michelle Obama, and 7 years older than Sheryl Sandberg.

I started my career in the 80’s after birth control, and before sexual harassment lawsuits. (Yes. I’ve done it on the conference room table.)

I had female assistants who didn’t want to work for me because I was a woman.

I was underestimated, underpaid, and misunderstood.

I married the wrong guy at 35 because I thought it was my last chance. I had my second child at 40.

When I had been practicing law 10 years, I gave up all my black and navy suits and bought pastels, because I finally had enough credibility to wear feminine colors.

At 15 years, I gave up pantyhose and all suits, because I hated them. Besides, men still aren’t allowed to comment on what women wear at work.

At 20 years, I gave up shoes and clothes and everything else that hurt, because I’m finally okay with how I look. Although, I wish I had stopped getting zits when I started getting wrinkles. And I will never feel comfortable in a swimsuit.

I don’t understand the competitive bullshit that men go through. Some days I wish I had a giant dildo in my briefcase that I could just pull out, slam on the table, and declare: “Mine’s bigger.” But they wouldn’t get it.

I don’t understand the competitive bullshit that women go through. Some days I wish I had a giant mirror that I could just pull out, prop on the table, and show them how beautiful they really are. Especially the ones who don’t think so. But they wouldn’t get it.

Men and women are different. This is not a problem. This is an asset.

Women do not need to be more like men. Men do not need to be more like women.

We do need to start where we are. It’s important to acknowledge the ways things get done, the rituals of business and power, and that they have been developed mostly by men. Women need to learn the language, and understand the dynamics.

But not to judge, blame, fix, fight, run, lean in, or overcome. We need to see it clearly so we can decide if it’s working for us or not. If so, carry on. If not, do it differently.

You can, you know. Do it your way. You may have to go somewhere else, or even start your own company. But no one is stopping you.

We are in the midst of incredible change — social, technical, and cultural.

It’s time to rethink our time, our work, our days, our values, and how we want to spend our lives. It’s time to design our relationships with our fears, our jobs, our families, our companies, and each other, in richer and more interesting ways. Mostly though, we have to make friends with ourselves.

Women can do it all. We always have. But we can’t always do it all at once. And we can’t do it alone.

Being a woman is a million different things, and nothing in particular. Labeling work and life questions as women’s issues is at worst, a distortion; at best, a distraction.

These are human questions. And personal questions.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

(The Summer Day by Mary Oliver)

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