“The six people who had the biggest impact on my life were all women. Had I been sexist, my life would have been far less fulfilling.” – Zig Ziglar
In my thirty plus year working career I have had three female bosses, both very different from each other but both very effective in their own way.
I got out of college in the mid 1980’s. This was pre-word processor, voicemail, fax and email. All the department heads of the first big organization that I worked for had “a girl”, a secretary that answered their bosses phone, scheduled their appointments and typed their letters. When I started all the “bosses” were male but by the early 1990’s that had changed and so had the role and the need for “a girl” sitting at a desk guarding their bosses closed-door.
I worked in the sales department and we had three ladies that typed our letters. I would dictate my letter and within an hour or two it would appear on my desk. We burned through these ladies on a regular basis. It was a thankless job. They spent eight hours in a windowless office trying to decipher what a dozen sales rep were talking about on a headset. It would have driven me crazy and apparently, given the turnover we experienced, it drove everyone we hired crazy too.
When I started, the General Sales Manager, who was the department head, the Local Sales Manager, who was my boss and the National Sales Manager were all males. These three guys did the hiring and they had a particular “look” of lady they went for. Those of us that depended on these ladies to get our work-out realized that the “look” didn’t always translate into the “skill” of doing the job. As pretty as some of these ladies may have been to look at I remember feeling very uncomfortable about what was happening and why they were being hired.
I watched this companies culture shift because of two things, more females in positions of authority and technology. My immediate boss was fired and replaced with a lady who had risen through the sales ranks. She was a tough, no-nonsense, hard charging, cuss like a sailor lady who changed the culture of gender bias in our department almost overnight. People were hired based on skill rather than how they looked in a short skirt. More female sales reps were added which changed the “boys club” mentality and also put some of the older guys on notice, get busy or get the hell out.
In a matter of two years her influence had transformed our department into a lean and very profitable machine and corporate took notice. She was promoted to another market and replaced by another lady who continued the good things she had started.
I know that sexism and racism are still prevalent in many organizations. Honestly we don’t have to look any further than our own Presidents cabinet. But as the father of daughters and the uncle of seven nieces I hope that we will continue to make inroads and understand the brain power we have and are dismissing. I hope dinosaurs like Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly will become extinct and the next generation of males will understand and appreciate the value and perspectives that all matters of people bring to the table. At least, that is my hope.