I am currently writing a book, Anatomy of a Blindside: The Ambitious Woman’s Essential Toolkit to Navigate Office Politics. As part of the research on the topic of women and office politics, I have conducted many interviews and these interviews offer valuable insights and lessons about the realities of the current work environment for women.
Here is Elizabeth T’s story.
“When I was pregnant with my first son, the woman who had hired me, actually, had then been re-allocated to a new job as an individual contributor and another woman came in to take over the group. This woman decided who got the really high-level corporate assignments. Well, I saw these things going to other folks. And so, I made an appointment and I walked into her office one day, and I said, “ Arden, can you help me understand why I’m not getting any of these opportunities?” And she did actually say to me, she said, “Well, I didn’t know how willing you were to travel.” And I said, “But you never asked me. You made that assumption for me.” You could see that she just never considered that I would want to do it, and it was a really good opportunity. And then, she did end up being very open about giving everybody opportunity. I mean, I could see how it really changed her approach. Because she stopped making assumptions about what people would say.”
In this situation, Elizabeth confronted the woman and asked her directly why she wasn’t getting the same high profile assignments others were offered. If she had not asked the question, she would never have known the reason she was repeatedly passed over.
There are people in your organizations that make assumptions about you because you’re a woman. It is not always obvious why we are not given the same opportunities as others. It’s critical, therefore, to clearly communicate your goals to your boss and other decision makers who have influence over your career.
How you position yourself in the company with key stakeholders is critical to overcome this type of subtle bias. Learning how to effectively articulate your career aspirations and your achievements is an important aspect of political savvy. Identifying the people who would benefit from this information is another critical component.
Have you encountered similar experiences? Have you been overlooked because of your gender? I would love to hear from you!