As part of Women’s History Month, I want to celebrate the progress we’ve made, while acknowledging we have not achieved equity yet. This month, I’ll be sharing stories of the challenges women face in the workplace. Want more? See Challenge #1 here.
Challenge #2: The Burden of Proof
“Oh yeah? Prove it!”
This is the implied question that women face, often on a daily basis in the workplace.
Our skills and experience are called into question regularly. People want to see one more thing from us before they can be absolutely sure we deserve the promotion. There are often lateral moves required to demonstrate our success last time wasn’t a fluke. We see our male counterparts rise to the next (and next) level of leadership while we are told we’re not quite ready.
My clients tell me all the time about being deemed not “enough” of something. Not technical enough. Don’t know the business well enough. You haven’t been here long enough yet.
And sometimes it’s a more subtle questioning of your qualifications.
The below are actual things past co-workers have said to me.
Co-worker: “I know some of the other people that applied for the job. How’d YOU get it?” Me: My hypothesis (based on what the hiring manager told me) is that I was the most qualified candidate and they were excited to have me join the team.
Co-worker: “Wow, that’s actually a good idea!” Me: You don’t need to sound so completely surprised that I might have a good idea every once in a while. Sidebar: I do wish I had a nickel for every time I heard this one. Now THAT would actually be a good idea!
Co-worker: “I had no idea you could do this.” Me: Really? Because the basic requirement of the job included having this skill set. How would I have managed to get the job without some level of capability?
Being asked to prove it, both explicitly and implicitly, is exhausting. It’s also one of the reasons many women choose to leave male-dominated industries like technology.
If you want to be part of the solution, find one person you can advocate for at work this week so they don’t have to “prove it” one more time. Ask what would be most helpful to them in telling their career story.
Image by me.