True story – 99% of my unpublished drafts circle around what it means to be a woman in the workplace. I’ve written them out of anger, or out of a need for awareness, or sometimes even out of humor. I’ve written them in short bursts, long-form prose, and even (I promise) limericks. I think this is an important point because being a woman in the workplace is a very varied experience. Even my own views morph from day to day or interaction to interaction.
But let’s talk about the Woman Card.
Being a woman in the workplace is a challenge. And I’ve just come to realize that when someone (almost always a man) accuses a human being of using the woman card, it’s because the woman has been offered the usual courtesy and respect that they (almost always a man) has come to expect.
A man is presenting a problem or idea to a group of people. He is given total freedom to speak until he concludes. The group of people asks questions; the man answers. The man is utilizing “team work.”
A woman is presenting a problem or idea to a group of people. She is given total freedom to speak until she concludes. The group of people asks questions; the woman answers. The woman is utilizing “the woman card.”
I’ve watched this. I’ve spent years in the back of the room for meetings, team reviews, program deep-dives, proposal efforts, what have you. I’m in the back of the room by choice; I could lean in and sit at the table, but the back of the room gives me a larger scope of view. I can see more. I can watch the dynamics of the room, and that always speaks just as loud – if not more loudly – than the players in the room. I see body language, unspoken cues, and facial expressions that most miss.
The Woman Card almost always can be reduced to a woman demanding the same time, respect, and attention given to her male counterparts. And the ones quick to point the finger at the “card holder” is naturally opposed to this level of respect being automatically offered.
CAVEAT: just as there are women who are truly awful and use unfair means to gain this basic respect, there are men who offer it without question. I’ve been at this for almost 15 years now. I’ve seen good examples of both.
I could give you a laundry list of scenarios where I’ve watched women try and claim the same level of HUMANITY that their male peers are offered just because of their genitalia, and I’ve seen people accuse them of terrible untruths – they’re obviously sleeping with someone in power, they’ve got dirt on someone, or they’re playing the Woman Card.
Instead, I’m going to insist we all take a step back. If you’re a man, take a breath before you exhale about the Woman Card. Examine what’s actually happening here. And make sure that you’re not part of the reason that it’s still A Thing. If you’re a woman, keep on insisting that you’re equal. Don’t stop pushing. But look at your methodology: make sure you’re not being aggressive beyond reason or purpose. Hear the cadence of your team and match it.
My favorite quotes of all time are relevant every single day that I go to work.
Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition. – Timothy Leary
Well-behaved women rarely make history. – Eleanor Roosevelt
Got a great story to tell where you played your woman card? I’d love to hear them! No, really, I would – let me know I’m not alone. Tell me about the time when an entire meeting stopped to ask you to take minutes, or when they walk past five of your male counterparts to ask you where the coffee was. LET ME KNOW I’M NOT ALONE.