When I worked in IT I was always under the impression that this pay gap thing wasn’t happening (because you know, we’re in the 21st century and all that) until I saw that my newly hired male co-worker already earned more than I did after 3 years of employment. He was new to this role and it was a step up for him. I also thought that if a company has a set of rules they’d apply to everyone; Turns out it didn’t and the boss had a set of rules for the men and another for the women which resulted in a “verbal warning” for me but not the other guys who did similar things previously. (I also once upon a time thought that Oreos are just another cookie. LITTLE DID I KNOW! I’m a wiser woman now).
When I start a conversation with men for the first time and they ask what I do in my free time, I can almost guarantee that the answer to that is “NO WAY?! Really? But you’re a woman!” → You see, I love playing video games and while it’s no longer a gentlemens-only club it turns out that people make assumptions. Because I wear lipstick, heels and ‘breasts’ for a living I couldn’t possibly be part of the club.
So there I was, a woman in her twenties creating an empire on the side while earning the money to pay for the roof over my head and my Netflix subscription, just trying to do her thing. Biding my time, trying to stay cool and calm whenever I heard “But, you’re a girl?!”
This isn’t a rant about gender pay gaps and burning-bra-feminism by the way. I very much like the people I worked with and I have had several amazing male mentors who wouldn’t allow gender to be a factor in development; They’d have my back, like a cool gang would when you’re about to be in a bar brawl! *raises fists* I am, however, writing this to help any woman who wants to stay sane when going home after work makes you feel so tiny that working on your side hustle is a never ending “I’ll do it tomorrow!”.
I knew I wouldn’t be in the corporate world forever and I knew that in my own way, I’d change the way business feels to those who want that change; You know, the whole cubicle and overtime mentality. I’d start my own little revolution, so anyone who has the same itch can put their war paint on and join the battle cry, while still being able to do the inevitable; pay for rent and the Pizza delivery guy. (and Netflix).
If you can relate to this at all and sometimes feel lost in the fight of testosterone then I have 3 ways I made it fun for myself and so can you:
Rally the troops
Don’t think that just because ONE guy thinks breast = housewife that all of them do! I’ve had plenty of male colleagues who’d back me up when someone even so much as considered to put me down because of my gender. Make no mistake; I’m a small girl and I, yes I, need help getting “stuff” from the top shelf, but the folks I hung out with at work wouldn’t bat an eyelid at this. Find a tribe of people outside of or even within the building who you can hang out with and make them your gang! I became friends with all sorts of people, even the security guard! He had the best stories.
One of the men I worked with, who many found intimidating (you know the 6ft 7 kinda guy who hardly smiles and has a voice that can shatter glass doors) ended up being my mentor and I can’t tell you how much I learned from him! He’s part of the reason I found enough courage to call “Bullshit” when it happens! I remember crying a lot when I spoke to him at first, because he asked me uncomfortable questions that I was too scared to ask myself! He was a bit of a rogue at work and anything he set his mind to, would happen. He’s the kind of man who walks into a room full of executives who discuss how to make money and says “But I can’t see you making any money right now Russ! So how can you talk about it when all you’re doing is just that?”. Make friends with these guys because they are not only fun to be around, but they are the rebels that will shape the way business is made. And they’re great mentors!
See the difference!
I’ve seen the extreme end of “political correctness” at work and I don’t always agree with it. This one time we had an HR update meeting on how to conduct yourself at work. We were told that it is no longer acceptable to compliment women on their outfit or call anyone pet names like Luv, darling or buddy or give them a pat on the back, because someone could take offense! Here’s how I see it:
If someone walks up to you and says “You look nice today!” doesn’t automatically mean they want to take off your panties and mount you there and then! It’s a fucking compliment for Mojito’s sake! You walk around anywhere in the UK and you’re bound to be called “Luv” by at least three people wherever you are – it’s part of the culture!
I understand that in some situations this IS a problem and while I’m no expert, I suggest you mention this professionally and you’ll often find they’ll stop. If they don’t, there’s HR and in some cases you may want to turn away from the opportunity altogether. You’re at work, you see each other 8 hours or MORE even, in a day and you’re bound to make friends. I don’t believe in the saying “business is business” because in my opinion business is run by people not robots! And because people naturally want to connect there will always be people who connect more and less than others. I’ve made some of my best friends at work who are male and never once was I in any way, shape or form threatened when they complimented me, gave me pat on the back or fistbumped me! We’re friends!
Have a beer!
Most of the socializing happens in the kitchen or after work and in all the companies I worked at there was some sort of after-work gathering which usually involved a drink. Join them. Even if you don’t drink, just have some fun and get to know who the people are. Everyone has a story to tell and getting to know the human behind the work-mask is often a little mini revelation in itself because often they’re not the person we think they are. The loudmouthed guy who always jokes around might have just come out of a divorce and is trying to put on a brave face. The guy that always looks super grumpy might be an equestrian coach by night who has the silliest smile (I know a guy like this!) and the tall ex-army dude who looks super intimidating and is super direct might be the kindest and most helpful person you know! We all have a story to tell.
Don’t wait your turn!
In male environments women often hold back because they don’t want to be seen as too aggressive. That often means that their male counterparts get to speak up and without knowing that they might steal some of the thunder!
Look, I get it, you don’t wanna be THAT girl but thinking in silence won’t get you praise! Not when Ben over there just said what you were thinking and he gets the applause and laughter and you sit there in resentment thinking “That’s what I thought FIRST!”.
Girl you’re creating your own business on the side! Speak up, be heard, this is the BEST time to practice how you come off and polish those speaking skills! Your opinion matters! You matter! And there’s nothing better than seeing the others nod in silent agreement because they didn’t have the balls to say something!
Don’t ever let your head down unless it’s to admire the shoes you’re wearing girl! Because you can build an empire, work in a day job AND stay awake on date night at the same time! And if all of the above aren’t an option, remember that life on the edge can be scary, but the view is fucking amazing!
About the Author
Adina Kroll is a business coach with over 7 years of industry experience in sales for creative entrepreneurs with a side hustle, who want to quit their day job and get clients who worship the ground they walk on. She is passionate about helping people thrive while following their dreams no matter what it takes. She also loves funny cat videos, red wine, and shower karaoke (not all at the same time though).