Career 18 January 2017
I am frequently asked to share advice with young women who are seeking careers or seeking to advance in careers in business. Quite often these requests for advice involve careers and businesses that have traditionally been considered “male dominated.”
I share two thoughts, the first of which is no different than that which I share with young men: work hard – work really, really hard – work as hard as you can – and when you don’t believe you can work any harder, work harder. Hard work matters.
After I share that gender neutral thought, I share this thought: stop thinking about the fact that you’re a woman.
For as long as I can remember – certainly, dating back to my teenage years – it has been my view that if a woman doesn’t want others to think about her gender, it makes no sense whatsoever for her to think about her gender. If a woman wants to be considered and treated without regard to gender, she should comport herself without regard to gender. If a woman wants her gender to be irrelevant, she shouldn’t consider it or make it relevant.
At no time during my career did I walk into any setting – not an NFL owners’ meeting, not a meeting with Raiders owners, not a football operations meeting, not a meeting with coaches, business associates or others - thinking about my gender.
It is nonsensical for me to hope and expect that those with whom I interact will interact with me without regard to gender if I am thinking about my gender.
I am also frequently asked if I believe I was tested because I was a woman. I never thought or worried about that. But let’s say I was. People are tested for different reasons. What’s the best thing one can do when one is tested? Pass the test.
I am also frequently asked if I experienced gender based resistance during my career. I certainly experienced resistance. Was some of that resistance gender based? Let’s say it was. Would I have done anything differently if I stopped to consider that it might be? No. I wouldn't have conducted myself or done anything differently. I did my job.
I comported myself without regard to gender and I didn't waste any time or expend any effort or energy worrying about my gender or whether anyone was bothered by it. If others wanted to waste their time or expend their effort or energy worrying about my gender, fine, better they than I.
Related to this, I don’t believe that women must – or should – support other women simply because they are women. To do so is not consistent with a gender blind approach. Over the course of my career, I received support from both women and men and I offered my support and to both women and men. I support women when support is warranted and I support men when support is warranted. I don’t believe it is fair for me to consider gender when interacting with others if I don’t want others to consider gender when interacting with me. If we want men to treat us without regard to gender then it is only logical and right for us to treat men without regard to gender. After all, gender blind is gender blind.
I’ve discussed these issues with a number of accomplished women for whom I have tremendous respect. I have observed that those women with whom I have discussed this who are roughly my age – certainly of my generation – agree that it is counterintuitive to think about one’s gender while hoping and expecting others will not. I have also observed that those women with whom I have discussed this who are younger than I strongly disagree with my views that women in business should conduct themselves without regard to gender.
Many of these same women also strongly disagree with my views that women in business are not obliged to support other women simply because they are women. As such, I have concluded that it may well be that my views on these topics are generational.
I don’t care that I’m a woman.
I don’t want those with whom I interact professionally to care that I’m a woman. I don’t think about the fact that I’m a woman. I don’t want anyone with whom I interact in business to think about the fact that I’m a woman. I want my gender to be irrelevant and I conduct myself as if my gender is irrelevant. That approach may not work for everyone but it worked for me.
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.