The easiest way to frustrate a woman is to ask her if her “time of the month” has come around the moment a change in her attitude is sensed. In my career, I have been asked this annoying question multiple times, and each time I promise it took everything in me to refrain from saying something that HR wouldn’t approve of.
Although women are making tremendous strides in the workplace (think Valeisha Butterfield, Nzinga Shaw, and Ericka Pittman) we are still dealing with sexist ideals and stereotypes. Unconsciously and consciously, the world has labeled women in the workplace a certain way. The moment we take a leap outside of those labels, we are criticized. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her infamous Ted Talk, “We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man.’”
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Chimamanda is right. As girls, we are taught this, and this horrible lesson continues into our adulthood through school, family, friends, products, pop culture, and in the workplace. When it shows in the workplace, it has the potential to affect our work ethic, personal brand, and the way we are seen through the eyes of others.
Here are 8 struggles that only working women will understand.
1. The hair issue
As a woman, especially a Black woman, my hair means everything. As women, we sometimes question ourselves and are concerned about the impression that our hairstyle of choice may bring. Is it too big? Is it too sexy? Is the color and cut professional? Does it look neat?
I don’t know one guy that has these same thoughts and I envy that.
For the longest, I would ask myself those same questions. Once I learned how to truly love myself (including my hair), I became confident in my own skin and hairstyles. Now at work, you can easily catch me with my afro puff, extensions, or press/blowout. *cues India Arie’s ‘I am not my hair’*
2. Does this skirt make my butt look big?
Growing up I was super skinny with no curves whatsoever. Now that I have grown up and have been blessed with feminine curves and assets, I love wearing my heels, skirts, and dresses everywhere, including work.
On the same note, I still catch myself questioning my appearance, wondering if what I am wearing and how I look is appropriate. Is my new lipstick too much? Should I wear a red lip that is not so bold? Is my heel too high? Are my eyebrows on fleek? Do I look too fleeky like I tried too hard to look good? Does my butt look too big in this skirt? *tries on another skirt.* Does my butt look too big in this skirt? Dammit. *looks for skirt that makes my butt look smaller.*
I have learned that no matter what size I am, I need to embrace my body. Even when I’m bloated and my not-so-favorite bra bulge is visible, I still love every inch of me and I refuse to hide it at work. As long as the length of my clothing is appropriate and fits my company’s standards, I can wear as many dresses and high heels that I want. Wearing clothing that celebrates my femininity and curves is a must for me. Hey, when you look good you feel good, right?
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3. Emotion = Drama
When a man becomes angry at work and expresses it through his body language, tone, or choice of words, he is being passionate. When a woman does it, she is hit with being a drama queen or wearing her feelings on her sleeve. Or even more disrespectful, people assume it must be her time of the month.
If you are accused of being too emotional, still continue on being yourself no matter what. Stand your ground, and stand up for what you believe in.
4. People will be surprised to see you in a position of power
I have an undeniably feminine name. My name is Brittani (Brittany, but with an ‘i’), but yet, people still mistaken me for a man when communicating with me through email. I can’t count on one hand how many times I’ve been called “Mr” via email just thisyear. Even more so, I have been mistaken as the secretary or assistant by customers, and once I explain how I am the person in charge, I receive surprised looks. The most annoying thing about this all is that these looks are not only from men, but also from women.
[Tweet "Girlboss struggle #4: People are annoyingly surprised to see a woman in charge."]
Even though it is annoying, I still put on my biggest smile and keep my head held high when I am approached by people that are surprised to see me in a position of power. For me, it is motivation to keep pushing hard, and to keep striving for more - for better.
5. Your skills and abilities will be questioned
Women are sometimes perceived as being inferior and not strong enough to lead when compared to their male counterparts. This makes it hard for women to compete in leadership positions that are male dominated (think career fields like engineering, tech, construction, etc.).
Just a few months ago, I received a promotion overseeing all of the operations at my property. With this new responsibility of being the HBIC (head boss in charge) for literally everything, that also came with learning new skills. Because I knew people would question my ability to lead this type of operation, I made sure to do my homework ahead of time by completing online trainings, taking online courses, and shadowing influencers and experts. Also, I made it a note to work twice as hard and to stand firm in my position so that I would demonstrate that I not only mean business, but I am the plug that keeps the business running.
6. You have to work twice as hard, but still get paid less
Because often a woman’s work abilities are questioned, we receive more scrutiny from jobs. When workers receive extra scrutiny, this can lead to poorer performance reviews, lower wages and even job loss in some cases. Speaking of lower wages, we all know the gender pay gap still exists. Even when we achieve higher in our education, the pay gap rarely decreases.
Since there is a noticeably pay gap between men and women, I recommend for women to understand their worth and to not be intimidated to negotiate or ask for a raise.
Bonus tip: Ask for your raise before the new budget for the fiscal year is created so that your pay request can be added in the budget.
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7. Your directness will be confused with bitchiness
When men are direct and are to the point, they are viewed as strong leaders. When women are direct, they are accused of being bitchy. This can in return turn employees and employers off and can cloud their judgment about us.
Despite that, own your attitude, values, and working style. Also, identify your working language and the working languages of those around you. Never change who you are, but try to learn how to adapt to others while still being true to yourself.
8. When you are nice and caring, people assume you are weak
Too often, people associate having empathy and a caring attitude as weakness. When we come off as too caring and warm, people assume that we cannot handle stress and are not strong leaders.
[Tweet "Girlboss struggle #8: People think we are weak when we are too nice."]
If at work you are thought of as weak because you show empathy, don’t change who you are. Think about it. Your caring and empathetic attitude is probably what helped you get how far you have gone, and that is probably your superhero power that makes you stand out. Yes people will talk, but money talks louder. Don’t mind those that are not paying you or your bills.
Although women are still dealing with these everyday struggles, the success that we obtain are proof that we know how to come out on top despite all of the things that try to hold us back. Yes, as women we have to overcome more stereotypes than our male counterparts, but the thing that I love most about being a woman is that we don't let it affect who we are and the goals that we are trying to meet. What I find that we do best is shine at every opportunity and prove the doubters that women can and will still continue to run things in the workplace.
What everyday struggles do you deal with as a woman and how do you cope with it/them? Share below and let us know.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo by Christopher Marrs
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
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Feature image by Christopher Marrs