Mar
25

You Throw Like A Girl

by  Heather Coleman-Voss  |  Self Leadership

This post originally appeared on LeadSwag and is reprinted here as part of the Lead Change Best of Blogs series.

How many of us have heard this? How many of us have said this? I remember being about eight years old and having a kid yell this at me on the playground. I remember thinking, “Of course I throw like a girl, I am a girl.” And for reasons I could not yet articulate, I felt ashamed.

Looking back, it’s so sad to me that eight year old boys of my generation were taught to say things like that, and that little girls were taught to accept it. Why was throwing like a girl a bad thing? An insult?

During my senior year of high school, I had the audacity to ask my teacher why women weren’t allowed to be leaders in the church. His response was that it wasn’t God’s will. I told him everything I had read in the Bible emphasized that we are all blessed with certain God-given talents and abilities, and it seemed to me that if God granted a woman with leadership qualities, she should indeed be a leader in the church. His response, after a moment, was that I was “erring in my faith.”

Sigh.

There are so many things I could write about here – about the sexual harassment I endured while working my way through college, about comments in my late twenties meant to be compliments, “Wow, you’ve already accomplished so much in your career – for a woman.”  I can tell you about jobs I’ve been offered with equal responsibility and less pay than my male counter-parts, about possible promotions I was considered for, the only concern being that I “might get pregnant in a few years.”

I turned forty this past summer. The things I’ve experienced as a young professional didn’t occur several generations ago – they happened within the last two decades. We have come so far, and yet we have a long way to go.

Listen to this outstanding TED talk given by Tony Porter:

Tony Porter: A Call To Men

Did you hear what he was saying? Because the thing is, men have been hurt by gender discrimination, too. While women have been discriminated against for simply being female, men have been equally hurt in the process.

I look forward to the day…

  • That a “male nurse” isn’t a title or a differentiation, or that a “male secretary” is an outdated term.
  • That fathers don’t have to fight so hard to obtain equal custody of their children.
  • That all men feel comfortable crying over a great loss – because showing genuine emotion is being a man.
  • That little boys can grow up being who they are and who they are meant to be without fear.

Always, always while we women have endured, then fought, against the absolute ignorance of gender discrimination – there were men right by our sides fighting with us. Brave, courageous, intelligent men – genuine leaders who saw how discrimination held their team, their community, their companies back. Men who would not allow discrimination to affect the potential of their daughters – and their sons.

I admire the genuine leadership of these men – men who stood up amidst the peer pressure, who saw the extraordinary abilities, intelligence and value of women when it would have been easier to do nothing at all. Men who lead with character, integrity and vision, fighting for our collective future. Fighting for our children and their children – for a world where people are accepted as people, not seen as a gender, an ethnicity, or judged by sexual orientation. Real leaders lead people.

Leadership starts in our homes, and strong male leadership is as critical as female leadership in the growth and development of our children. Any of you who know me also know how much I love my husband; he is simply the most wonderful man I know. I love his strength, his sense of humor, his insights and ideas, his intelligence, his respect for me and how well he listens. I love how he will admit his mistakes and how willing he is to forgive mine. (And, I must say, I make a few!)

My husband is a great leader, as a professional and as a father. What I love most of all is that our daughters and his son are his first priority. As a father and step-father he is a true role model: He is strong enough to cry, supports their natural talents and abilities, encourages them to express themselves, to be confident in who they are and to believe in the potential they have for their future. He shows them through our relationship what to expect for themselves. He shows them that leaders also love.

Women’s Leadership Month is dedicated to the outstanding leaders out there in every capacity: The women who have fought and continue to confidently move forward…and it is dedicated to the men who lead right alongside us.


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What People Are Saying

Joe Sewell  |  25 Mar 2011  |  Reply

Preach it, Heather!

And remember, Xena the Warrior Princess was said to “fight like a girl” in that show’s commercials. :)

Heather Coleman-Voss  |  25 Mar 2011  |  Reply

Thanks, Joe! And I like the Xena, Warrior Princess comparison!

Susan Mazza  |  29 Mar 2011  |  Reply

You and I have shared similar experiences in the workplace Heather. Yet having been a serious tomboy while growing up though and it took me a while to even be able to perceive the discrimination at play. I wasn’t looking for it or expecting it. In some ways I guess I just felt like “one of the guys”. At some point my natural tendency to be friends with men got misconstrued and years later I found out about a rumor that I had been having an affair. I was devastated to hear that the rumor existed and even more so that it had often been cited as the reason I had been getting promoted so quickly. It was so hard to come to terms with how many people believed it even though it never happened. Yet it explained a lot of how some people treated me along the way.

The big lesson for me was that I had to be a lot more awake to the social norms and belief systems in which I worked and adjust my behavior accordingly, not to be inauthentic, but to protect my identity,

My belief system didn’t match what were the norms of the times so I was essentially blind and the cost was very high. I have never shared this publicly before yet I wonder how may women like me have suffered and are still suffering in silence at being wrongly accused with no way to set the record straight because denial just feeds the rumor mill. Your post inspired me to speak up.

We can only change the stereotypes of men and women by continuing to shine a spotlight on them just as you did here. However, change will continue at it’s sometimes maddeningly slow pace so we need to be mindful, operating with our eyes wide open based on the current reality while we continue to work to bring forth a new possibility.

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