When Women Continue to be Edited out

Runner_silhouette “Women are not dropping out to have a child. They’re dropping out because they have no opportunity.”

[Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, which promotes women for leadership positions]

This is a quote from a fascinating article that profiles Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook, in The New Yorker.

I finished reading, thought about this post I wrote four years ago and had a chuckle over the heated discussion it generated online.

Guys got upset because I talked about women, some of the women who organized conferences for women at the time were all over it because they were the keepers of such lists, well established communication companies badmouthed me in their members-only sites…

It's not about quotas, it's not even about quotes.

It's about time we start looking at long-held assumptions and habits and become aware of them. I found that to be more productive. For example, who says all women want to have children? I worked at a Fortune 500 company where that was the exception, and not the rule.

Many of the business professionals I have the good fortune of calling colleagues have no children — and they have no desire or plans to have any. And it's not because they just want to have a career. Others do, and they are not holding back because of it.

There isn't one bucket where you can stick all women and call it "mom bloggers". Life is just not that simple.

Simply, women are still being edited out. There are a million reasons why this is happening. Do I have stories about names I've been called for believing in my abilities and not being afraid to step up to challenges! Why would I hold on to them, though?

They help nobody.

Certainly, it is more inspirational to follow the advice of someone who bears a high-level title at Facebook. Someone who found good sponsors and advocates and connected it with doing good work. If she says it, it must be truer, better, more real, than coming from someone in your work/life circles.

Herein lies the first problem. Why not look at success inside you? Then look around. Within your own family walls.

What's around you is the context that influences your identity and thought process first. Before society gets its hooks in you. Before others teach you their rules.

I'm having this visual from Moonstruck all of a sudden. Olympia Dukakis was amazing in that movie, so real. Just like Meryl Streep feels real in all the movies she's done. She's been my example of how to drive action without chest thumping. And Nora Ephron highly recommends having her play you.

I don't know these actors, so I have no clue what they live with/through to make it in on the big screen today. What I know is that there aren't enough of them to encourage diversity in role models.

The environments we work in are still highly political and divisive — from corporate America, to the agency world, to government, etc.

Yet, just asserting yourself is not powerful. Even doing double the work for half the pay is rarely enough to make a difference. Without a sponsor, or the means to get the word out, it rarely scales. What I said here is still true — networking is a lot more than a business strategy to advance our professional position

I suspect those are the reasons why social networks have become so popular — we do seek links between ideas, we search for like-minds, we develop friendships, and weave together networks of experience. The well-known alternative is unhelpful.

I got interested in the levers of influence, how our identity shapes us, and how we shape our world, coloring it with our own perceptions, to explore this apparent conflict between what we believe in — all created human and equal — and what we do.

After being online and building social networks for a dozen years, I'm still edited out. In subtle ways, in certain circumstances, to make it "fair" for others, because I'm not a geek, or because we need to be more inclusive of women (this gave me a chuckle on Google+ two days ago. I'm in there, talk to me!)

Buckets and lists — we have plenty of organizations and initiatives that are hard at work helping women lead and succeed. I'm interested in changing the conversation.

And you don't do that by just changing the ingredients. You need to make an entirely new recipe. It is scary, because the first real conversation you need to have is the one with your self.


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0 responses to “When Women Continue to be Edited out”

    Valeria I have had many of those conversations with myself. While it was beneficial and produced results, it will not scale as you put it until women are willing to be honest, upfront and stop bashing each other behind their backs.
    Yes we are edited out, we have been through out time. Which is why is it called History not Herstory. And for those who want to take offense to my pointing that out-if it is not a big deal or not true then there is no problem changing the word.
    There is power in our thoughts and words because they lead into our actions. So, Valeria what is the first conversation you and I can start? We will be the change we wish to see.

  2. This post resonated with my experience. I think this is why I put a lot of time into mentoring some of my brightest female students. They are dealing with the added complication of international environments. Here in France it is terribly difficult. My students tell me the first question they are asked at job interviews is “Are you married?” Second is “Are you planning on having kids”? Young, single women are not wanted – too much risk of maternity leave later. Ditto for married but childless. Then married with children (too much demand on your time). Then the minute you turn 40 you are too old. And there are plenty of “toos…” in between. Frustrating.
    I like your approach of changing the conversation…I struggled through it myself, and now I try to do so as a mentor and teacher. I can at least help my students think through their options, help them frame their presentations, and introduce them to others. I do this for male students too, of course! But I have a soft spot for the ambitious young woman, struggling to get started.

  3. Valeria, I’ve been reading your blogs for quite some time and appreciate your approach and perspective.
    I believe it’s important to understand the issues you raise here do not only apply to women and not only at Fortune 500.
    As a 40 year old male with 23 years in tech/communication and 15 specifically in web, it’s whole other issue… disenfranchisement.
    The technician is rising and they don’t like it. It’s a anti-tech thing. We’re supposed to shut-up and get off social networks and “do what we’re told”.
    Additionally, there’s a new generation of “everyday goldstar, soccer-kids” entering the workforce with an iPad in their hands whom see established communication professionals as a waste of money. They simply don’t understand how to leverage expertise & technique in lieu of shiny new apps.
    Seeking justice in our environment isn’t helpful. In my case, only starting over with my own business with two week notice is my only option professionally. I suppose, now it’s time for each of us to step-up and prove our theories and practices are better solutions.
    peace, love & barbecue,

  4. I am more of a doer… 😉 Which is also why I rarely talk about these topics. They lead to polarizing discussions and opinions based upon assumptions.
    The way I see it is there are too many ready to just pick up the crumbs, and never questioning why such low self awareness and esteem… or those who are too scared they will be found out and so they never speak up for that reason. As I said, it’s complicated. I don’t buy into the “this group” only of anything. Buckets and lists are convenient excuses…

  5. I’ve tested real motives by entering conversations declaring I had no plans to have children. Which is why I know it’s a red herring. Ditto, I am involved with mentoring students and young professionals, and have been for years. I tend to favor those who seek to learn, grow, and leave a place in a better condition than they found it – no matter where they come from. It could be Mars, for all that matters.

  6. yes, forgive me for pointing out the blindingly obvious. Because I am a woman, I’ve had to deal with that version of the issue. I’ve had to explain why I was working so hard and not seeking a “protector” (and not the pocket kind) when I was very young, and then have been expected to minimize my smarts or downgrade my ambition because the powers that be had already carved out the riches and the spoils…

  7. Changing the conversation is exactly what is needed. No more “Top 10 Women” this and that. I wrote a post on Quora today that addresses how we each are responsible for framing that conversation the right way: http://is.gd/FM5gsz

  8. Elizabeth, is it LEGAL in France to ask young (or older) women those questions?! If yes, how appalling, in this day and age.
    (Valeria, I’ve shared this post in the Canadian Women in Communications LinkedIn Group, as well as directly with many female and male friends. I remember us having this conversation when you visited Toronto; great to see you refining it and posting about it. Let’s work to move the conversations and writings forward!)

  9. Jgombita – I am honestly not sure of exact law. I assume it is illegal to some extent, but no one actually complains as they deem it fruitless/harmful to their careers (and recent events surely demonstrate the state of feminism here). That is particularly true of young 20-somethings just starting out.

  10. Just catching up on blogs I missed over the July 4 holiday and was excited to read this. I wrote about the same topic back in March (see “Can Women Have It All?” http://bit.ly/nBDGTb on my blog) in response to a blog on Harvard Business Review’s site (by Sylvia Anne Hewlett of the Center for Work-Life Policy) that asked the question, “does female ambition require sacrifice”? As I said then, as a self-described feminist, I have a hard time thinking of women as victims of their circumstances, but I also recognize that as women, we’re forced to make tough choices and often difficult trade-offs to have the lives we want. The good news is that things seem to be changing and the situation of women in the workplace has really evolved from our mothers’ generation to ours. And while I do think that there are still numerous challenges, I really hope that when my own daughter enters the workforce, the playing field will be more even than it is for us.

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