It was announced that Cheryl Strange will be the incoming Secretary of Prisons for the State of Washington as chosen by current Governor Jay Inslee. The rumors began flying instantly among inmates about what that meant. Not surprisingly, not one rumor was good or even allowed for qualified leadership coming from her.
While no incoming Secretary of Prisons is going to make everyone in prison happy, I am not okay with this incoming person being denigrated as less of a qualified leader because she is a woman. At one point, I sincerely hope she is my boss (I’d like to work for DOC as a Cultural Change Strategist) and I don’t like people, men specifically, saying women are too emotional.
Also, I am lead at my job here in prison, which means that I am in charge of a specific department and somewhat responsible for the goings on there (I say somewhat because ultimately I cannot be in charge of other inmates, but I am responsible for the resulting work). I am a woman and my leadership is constantly being questioned. When I ask for something my boss hands me a tissue. Literally. Today, I was given a directive by an officer (a directive is any statement an officer makes that is toward an inmate and is ordering some sort of action on behalf of said inmate) to get everyone from my crew to him so we can get our second round of vaccinations, stat. Yup, no problem. So I hustled to my area and asked everyone to hurriedly grab their ID’s and to go grab their vaccine cards ASAP because we needed to make movement.
This announcement elicited barrage of comments from this guy, “You need to calm down” and “I’m not following her into battle.” He was insinuating I was being too emotional, an unfit leader. Something I’ve wrestled with my entire life. As far as I understood any emotion I displayed was bad and immature. It has taken a lot of intense therapy to unf**k that distorted thinking (pardon my language).
The man who said those things to me got himself an ear full when my shot was done. He is 60 years old and his excuse for hurting my feelings was twofold:
1) “I’m too old to change now”
2) “You should know my heart and intent wasn’t to hurt you but make a joke”
Both are, in his mind, a license to say whatever and not have to change. I simply don’t, and will never, accept that. I’m pushing 40 and have reinvented myself entirely. If I can do it…well, you know the rest.
These are just 2 close to home (to me) examples of how a woman in leadership is denigrated simply because she is a woman. Chauvinism, misogynism, and hetereo patriarchy exists in both very direct and sometimes very passive ways. These are sometimes referred to as micro-aggressions.
I have learned that I never pass up on opportunity. If straight white men are the only leaders I’m looking at, how many opportunities am I passing up elsewhere? If I am a company owner or someone seeking guidance (especially as a trans woman) why would I limit who is capable of teaching me or leading my company? Innovation and change cannot come from staying the same.
That bears worth repeating: Innovation and change cannot come from staying the same. It’s simply not possible. If you want something different for your company or marraige or life in general, doesn’t it stand to reason that you have to do something different?
Maybe it’s just me.
Woman in positions of leadership means new opportunity. It does threaten the status quo, and I’m glad it does because the status quo isn’t working. I have come to embrace change and pride my ability to adapt. I like that women can be both excellent leaders and emotional and that emotion is one of the most relatable qualities and our biggest assets. Emotion (and empathy) allows us to feel what others feel and how our companies and day-to-day personal actions impact those around us. It’s that kind of thinking that allows us to shift as organizations and cultures to meet the actual needs of our clients and loved ones.
Maybe one day we won’t have to write about women in leadership because everyone already knows our value. But until then…let me remind the audience, us women…we have value.
Take notes fella’s. Keep up because times are changing.
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