Tuesday, June 4, 2013

If I Were a Man

I went back to work in March. With the help of a few good friends and their referral networks, I was (thankfully) quickly able to pull on a few clients and I have been freelancing from home while I work on starting my own company.

We recently committed to hiring full-time childcare (more on that soon) and with the increase in help I am able to take on more work. Last week I reached out to a few of my old colleagues and superiors and ask that they write a recommendation of my work on LinkedIn. Within a few hours I got an email alerting me to the fact that the CEO of my last company, whom I was very close with, had written me a recommendation. I eagerly clicked through to see what he had written and my heart literally dropped out of my chest.

The recommendation, by all accounts, was a good one. Except that in his efforts to compliment me and my work style he called me Type A, for all of the working world to see.

I had a friend over for brunch this weekend and we talked about this recommendation. She is one of the most career-oriented people I know. And she's damn good at what she does. She told me that she had been called Type A in recommendations too and took them down from her profile. And then she gave me a little nugget that has been eating away at me since. That this is the conundrum for women in business, especially women in technology. The way we are perceived and described. 

If I were a man, I'd be described as a go-getter, a workhorse, someone you'd kill to have on your team. Because I am a woman these qualities don't carry the same weight or meaning. 

In business, I am a ruthless editor, I expect everyone's best work and I multitask like nobody's business. These qualities served my last company well. I was a one person communications department. I wrote proposals that secured millions of dollars of funding while maintaining ten websites, rewriting textbooks, generating multiple newsletters, organizing training programs, managing our event schedule and conference logistics, and working with external teams to manage PR. I never missed a deadline and the only time I complained about our process to management was after working at 26 hour day because the software we used to generate proposals ate our document the day before it was due, and I stayed at the office to rework the entire thing and get it out on time. 

So now I am faced with this pejorative recommendation and the decision of whether to take it down or own it. Clearly I would have preferred to be described as detail-oriented, meticulous or thorough. A hustler or a self-starter. 

But Type-A? 

I guess I should just be thankful that the recommendation didn't end with "...who left to have kids..."

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