A blonde CEO, despite having launched a successful, accomplished startup in Silicon Valley, didn’t always show her true locks: She used to dye her hair brown so the men she worked with took her more seriously, especially when it came to making more money.
“I was told for this raise [of funds], that it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs,” said Eileen Carey, the CEO of Glassbreakers.
The saddest part? Almost every woman in the working world can tell you a similar tale.
I certainly can.
When I was 18, I applied for a job at a car dealership because the ad in the paper said women were encouraged to do so, regardless of experience. The day I showed up, middle-aged men surrounded me; they’d applied for the same position. “What do you know about selling cars?” they asked me. “Very little,” I replied, “but I’m willing to learn.”
The next line (from the employer, no less) would be one of many sexist remarks I’d hear in my career: “Listen, we want to be very clear: We don’t report sexual harassment — we grade it here. Get used to it.”
I got the job but kept my mouth shut and outperformed my peers, despite sexist sabotage around every corner.
And so it goes: Women are (and have always been) at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to advancing in a career, let alone making the same salary as men. That’s just one of many fights we’ve yet to win, and I believe it’s due, largely, to the inherent and blatant sexism that plagues our system.
Still, there’s a small light at the end of this age-old tunnel, and it comes from within us: Stop listening to the sexists of the world; start listening to our hearts and our heads. It’ll drive us to places our mothers and grandmothers only dreamed of.
This is (still) a man’s world
When I was seeking VC funding to start my company, I was so fed up with men asking whether I was single or married that I bought a diamond ring to put on my left ring finger. I thought it would deter them from focusing on anything other than my numbers and my merit.
I was wrong.
My pitch, my transactions, and my operation were solid, but it didn’t matter. I was told instead to consider finding a co-founder, preferably a male. And while the feeling of defeat was instant, it was also fleeting. I knew then, more than ever, that I’d have to fight for what I wanted. And though I succeeded in the end, I shouldn’t have had to climb an arduous, male-dominated mountain to get there. No woman should.
It’s time to break the glass ceiling
While a study from McKinsey & Co. suggested that companies’ commitment to promoting gender diversity is the highest it’s ever been, there’s still so much room for improvement. Though the ratio of females to males in the workplace is actually pretty even, the rate at which one gender climbs the ranks is not.
In fact, by the time employees reach C-suite status, a staggering 81% are men, according to McKinsey.
So what do we do, ladies?
1. Don’t take “no” for an answer. I’ve been told “no” more than 100,000 times in my career. Could you imagine if I actually believed each and every rejection? I wouldn’t be writing this article and sharing my successes. Never believe the naysayers — just move on in your endless search for a solid “yes.”
2. Know your worth, and be your No. 1 cheerleader. They will try to knock you down, squash your ego and stop you in your tracks, but when you know your worth, it won’t be effective. Believe in yourself, dig deep, and find your authentic voice. Then shout it from the rooftops (even if they tell you to be quiet).
3. Practice nonattachment. This is an important mental yoga move. When you’re feeling impatient and frustrated, lean into nonattachment. Remember: We are not our feelings, nor are we the stories others say about us. We are creating our own experiences, and the less time we attach to the words and actions of others, the more time we’ll have to taste freedom!
4. Learn from every experience, whether it’s good or bad. New experiences shape our world, so choose them wisely. Through each encounter, there is opportunity to overcome doubt and grow as a result. The process of self-actualization is something no one can ever take away from you. Trust me, these lessons will eventually add up to a lot, and you’ll become an expert in your own domain as a result.
The bottom line? Stop looking to convince others of your greatness; find it in yourself, and reach for the stars. You’ll get there, despite any mansplaining that told you otherwise.
Kassandra Rose founded Rent My Way in 2014. Based in Seattle, Rent My Way serves as a rental relationship management tool for landlords, property managers, and renters that assists in matching inventory to client needs and manages their experiences with transparency for all parties.
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