While the 2016 presidential election was full of controversy and many issues like Russian collusion, bribing porn stars, and a general dislike for both candidates, there was another major concern with Hillary Clinton being the first serious woman candidate for President of the United States. As a nation, we are slowly inching toward a more women-friendly society, but it’s not clear yet whether or not we are ready for a woman to be in charge. This is because women in power have to balance many delicate aspects of themselves in ways that men in power don’t have to think about.
Women in power have to attempt to find the perfect balance between compassion and strength, but it’s impossible. When men make softer decisions appealing to emotions, they are seen as compassionate. When they make decisions that are seen as tougher, they are strong. On the contrary, when women make softer decisions they are being weak and emotional, and when they make tough decisions, they are labeled as a bitch. Dean of Work Angie Morenz said, “I dislike when people say ‘Let’s not get emotional.’” She admitted that it always seemed to her that it followed a woman speaking. She continued, “We would never say that to a man because they’re showing passion, but women are showing emotion. Those are classified very differently so it’s a no-win situation for a woman because if I don’t say anything at all, I’m not being representative. If I say something that’s remotely passionate or emotion-filled, I’m being emotional, which is considered a weakness.” The balance between being softer or tougher is something that is an impossible standard for women in positions of power, and it’s hard to work around it.
Blackburn President Julie Murray-Jensen said, “If you at least try hard to keep focused on why you are doing something, that helps you let go of some of those other fears about perceptions.” The way she tries to find her balance is to ignore people’s perceptions and make her decisions based on what can help the most amount of people in the most positive ways.
Women in power also have to answer questions about their children and families that men very rarely have to answer. Murray-Jensen explained that her husband has been a stay-at-home dad for a very long time. When she was working on her doctorate she used to get questions often, particularly from women, asking if she really wanted to work and go to school and if that was really good for her girls. She remembered one time when a colleague’s wife asked her if she wanted to be a good mom, questioning her ability to have a career and be a good mother to her children.
Men rarely, if ever, get asked if they’re sure that they are being a good father to their kids while being successful in their careers. It’s an insulting double standard that shouldn’t be placed on women who have the capabilities and the right to go far professionally and still have a family. If women don’t want a family and would rather pursue a career without having children, they are seen as selfish and bad people. When they want to have children and careers, they are seen as bad mothers. When women want to stay at home with their children, they are seen as lazy. There is no winning in the eyes of the public, so the best thing to do would be minding your own business.
The fact that women also tear each other down in the professional field is another toxic part of being a woman in power. The best way to get ahead in positions of power is collaboration, not competition. Professional women have enough to worry about with mansplaining, getting cut off in meetings, not making as much money as men and dealing with harassment without other women trying to pick them apart. We need to stick together out there.
On the subject of mansplaining, Morenz said, “It comes across as a wee bit condescending and overly educational when I obviously understand the topics on the table.” She admitted to being cut off all the time. The way she handles that is by saying “If you let me finish my thought, I would have told you this, but you didn’t.” She said it might not be the most professional way to handle things, but it’s how she deals with getting cut off and mansplained. Overall, I think the unprofessional thing to do is cut someone off in a meeting. It shouldn’t be seen as unprofessional to make it clear to people that you’re at the meeting for a reason; you have a voice that deserves to be heard.
Whenever Murray-Jensen has faced condescending comments or words and actions that people may not say or do with a man, she tries to focus on where the intentions were. “The main sexism I’ve received has been more endearing,” she said, “I could have took it as minimizing, and sometimes it really was, but I tried to focus on what the positive intent of it was. I think a lot of it was a point of trying to connect.” Trying to connect with people and build relationships is a strong leadership technique and can have many advantages for someone in power. The problem comes when people use relationships to be condescending or to find weak spots in a woman’s authority. Men rarely have to connect with people in their positions of power. Often they can just make decisions without consulting people or building bonds because they are in charge, and they are commanding and strong.
Being softer or building relationships combined with a commanding presence and authority are all components of great leaders, but there shouldn’t be a double standard on what the most feminine or masculine way to behave is. We should all be able to assign personality traits to leaders as a whole, without worrying about if the boss is a man or a woman. Women are allowed to be compassionate and build relationships without looking weak, and they are allowed to actually utilize the authority they are given to make tough decisions without being labelled a bitch. They should be able to go about their professional careers without people questioning their ability to be a mother, and they should be able to get through a damn meeting without being cut off. We all have biases and preconceived notions on how different people should behave, and men and women alike need to reevaluate how we treat women in power, because they deserve more than what they currently have to go through.