I recently asked the CEO of a company what women could do differently to be taken seriously by their colleagues and superiors.
His answer surprised me. He told me that women must learn how to play the game like men do.
Men, he said, tend to respect hierarchy, and do not generally question their boss’s decisions.
They are also more likely than women to hang out with their male boss after work, a bonding ritual that helps them rise up the career ladder.
In other words, men thrive in the workplace through conformity.
Women who do not conform or who do not socialise with their bosses (because they have to rush home to take of their families) are viewed as “difficult” and a threat to the status quo. Their views are thus often dismissed, ignored or ridiculed.
Women who question why a project is being run in a certain way or who point out work-related malpractices find themselves out in the cold, shunned by both their peers and their superiors.
This is why the woman who smiles at and makes small talk with the boss, but does little work, is given a five-year contract while the one slogging quietly in the corner has to beg for a six-month extension.
In some cases, female bosses obstruct the career paths of the women below them, either because they feel threatened by them or because they have internalised the misogyny of their male peers.
Women who aspire to be columnists must also keep in mind that column-writing is not as simple as it might appear.
It is a skill, like any other, than needs to be honed. To craft a convincing argument you must know your subject well. Columnists can never miss a deadline even when they are having a “bad hair day”.
Putting yourself out there, week after week, year after year, can also be taxing and emotionally draining. But column-writing can also be immensely satisfying, which is why I continue doing it.