The Employee

Guest post by Erica Bardin

When asked to write an article for The Woman's Connection® based on my perspective of being a working woman in the corporate environment, I was horrified; I felt empty of any exciting anecdote or interesting overview of my job. I knew I should have some feeling of empowerment or a surpassing of societal expectations, but truthfully, I was more intrigued about what kind of dessert would be served at the power-networking event where I met Barrie Switzen. The result of staring at this communication cement wall you ask? - I procrastinated typing the article for practically six months. In light of that half of a year stall, I have finally found some material much more real and interesting to relate as a working female in a male dominated industry - the working world is the world. 

I'm not going to discuss the corporate incompetence embedded in female stereotypes or I'm certainly not going to beat the dead horse of double standards. I'm also not going to offer an uplifting story of how I stormed into the battle known as the conference room and conquered the dueling partners with my artillery of PowerPoint. What I will bring to the table is how the gender relations and struggles for power I have experienced in the working environment are no different than those that I have faced in my personal life. 

In combating these recycled struggles in the workplace, certain female characters we can rest assured will emerge in any company. The following are some familiar faces: the Victim, Captain Defensive, Signourney Weaver's character from Working Girl, and the Employee (all of which I have embodied at some point in my short career). Through these women we see how female challenges (much like our monthly visitors) never seem to -end. 

The Victim- While meeting with potential partners, clients, CEO's, and internal superiors, she clings to the excuse that due to the less than adequate female stereotype she won't ever be able to reach that next rung on the ladder. She is a deer in the headlights, hoping her co-worker will fill in the gaps. She flashes us back to the lone female adolescent in a student group project stunned by the lack of eye contact and acknowledgement of her male partners. She nervously sits in silence while those around her have exchanged an understanding of their strategy through high fives? "Stacey, you're taking notes, right?" Stacey originally brewed up some brilliant ideas on presenting the stages of photosynthesis with pizzazz, but is now furiously taking notes in a state of defeat.

Captain Defensive -This frustrated female finds herself immobilized by her exaggerated interpretation of the "setup to fail" association with women trying to succeed in a man's world. We all know women who, when asked by her husband if she has gotten the oil changed barks back, "I know what to do! It's not on my list to do until Wednesday!" That wasn't the question. 
Sigourney Weaver's Character from Working Girl - This vixen is - also known as the classic power-hungry woman angrily climbing the corporate ladder to prove to the masses that women can do it better than men. She loses sensitivity and assumes an overabundance of rigidity. People will listen, processes will be followed, and deals will be won. She reminds us of that nauseating high school girl who begins campaigning for that homecoming tiara freshman year. She delegates a campaign strategy for the student council that mimics Julius Caesar's acquisition tactics. In the office setting, this homecoming queen has now turned into the Sheik of micromanagement. She communicates via the Outlook task manager and has to include on her list, "Remember to ask Jerry in Accounting how his wife is doing." 

The Employee - When the roller coaster of identity fears levels out, a working woman finds herself in a position of power as she finally feels like an employee first. This position is not in disregard of the inequities of power distribution and gender relations. This position also does not fail to celebrate womanhood. This position involves the beautiful execution of excelling at your job and relinquishing the emotional effort to fight the stereotypes that one blows up to nano-proportions. She knows that despite the inadequacies of social constructs, she is fully equipped to reach her goals. Finally she finds vengeance for the little girl who wasn't allowed to play on the boys' team. She now cunningly wins accounts and closes deals in the face of a sexist competitor who mistook her for a "secretary." 

Everyday, women go head to head with workplace inadequacies. We have been facing this combat our entire lives, and, in fact, we have formal training. The work environment is the collision of all worlds: gender constructs are a gift with purchase. Work echoes of the relations we experience in our family, with our friends, with our teachers, with our boyfriends and mentors. Essentially, female success at the office is success in the world.