This is the story of why I got a tattoo. I hope you like it.
It all started in the Okanagan
Andy and I were on holiday in the Summerland celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary last summer. I had the sudden urge to do something irrational and romantic. A tattoo of his name on my body. I am that certain about this man. I know you are not supposed to do that. But I didn't care.
It seemed like the last few years had been marked by chaos, illness and loss. People struggling with impossible situations, losing the ones they love. I wanted to do something to celebrate life and how lucky I felt to have a man like Andy in my world.
I parked that whim for the time being - I'm not that spontaneous - and carried on with the summer, work and life.
And then November came and I realized something
Oh yeah, I'm a woman. I shouldn't have needed a reminder. But I did.
After 11 years in my career, I could see the double standard facing women in the workplace.
Likability and success are not correlated for women. Men are hired for potential and women are hired for experience. Women are more prone to be given impossible, short-term assignments without the position, title or compensation. Plus there is all that stuff about getting the coffee and cleaning up afterwards, which plagues so many talented women I know.
I grew up a Millenial woman, believing I could be anything and do anything. We didn't learn about feminism in school. We thought that was history. We were lucky we didn't have to worry about it. These beliefs gave me a blissful ignorance that helped me go a long way. I always sat at the table. I always said my piece regardless of who was in the room. I didn't know if I was being precocious. It served me well until a certain point - the point where the rules are different. There is still more work to do for women here in Canada and certainly around the world.
Money is an important part of the compensation package, but for me, the real compensation is being a trusted resource, the go-to for challenging assignments and the faith of a strong team.
What is soul crushing for me, is having my business insights dismissed due to gender bias. This has come in many forms. Change management problems dismissed as personality conflicts. Being treated like a kid in the principal's office at briefings. Being told my style was too pushy.
Hearing I was too pushy became such a strong narrative in my mind that it was affecting my leadership style. In a leadership assessment I did at the end of 2017, I rated myself as twice as directive as my employees rated me. I saw this of evidence of this prevailing perspective about women in leadership being bossy bitches. I was letting this social phenomena affect me and my own view of myself. And my team was looking for me to be more directive. I said, "Enough!"
I know as leaders we always have more to learn. And I know we can always communicate more and engage more closely with the people we are impacting with our work, but I knew it was time to stop letting people who don't know me shape who I am.
I started to listen to the people who who know me and care about my success. The people who believe in me and think I can do anything.
These were the people telling me I am the future of our organization. Or that I am an entrepreneur and should have my own business. That I am what leaders should be. The one who said I am her North Star.
Why do we let negative feedback influence us more than positive feedback? This feels like an important lesson for women.
I decided to be myself and stop using a small segment of feedback to influence my behaviour. Instead, I would work to see myself through the eyes of people who believed in me. I would stop worrying about fitting into a mould of a perfect employee with future CEO potential. I am what I am and I will give my energy to people who believe in that.
I drove over to Traditional Tattoo and booked in with @alyssavtattoo.
And so I did it.
It's big, beautiful and visible. Anyone bothering to pay attention can see it. It might affect who will hire me in the future but I don't mind. They have to accept me if they want my talents.
Once it was inked, I felt like it had always been there waiting for the right time to appear. It's a part of me. I claimed my body and my life force. It's mine and I won't spend it foolishly again with people who don't value my energy, commitment and drive.
This idea for a tattoo about Andy turned into a tattoo about so much more. He and I are forging the future together.
I don't know what the future holds, but right now I don't have to choose. I am a strong, capable woman. I am a hardworking employee. I am a new entrepreneur. I am a wife and a mother. I am a daughter, a sister and a friend. I am a force in this world. I have true people supporting me. I want to help women avoid what I have experienced. Let's see what happens!
If this moves you, I hope you will like or comment and share on social media.