The Second Pillar of Internalized Sexism: Serving Others
Andrea was a 35 year old female founder who had pioneered a software company in her living room and gone on to national acclaim. She was ready to 10x her company but time and again in rooms of funders she wouldn’t frame her achievements, she would only say she was “serving” her clients.
Michelle came to me because her important advocacy work left her feeling hollow, the immense needs of the people she served made her feel that she couldn’t leave her role. Her work was respected, and yet she was hungry for an elected, policy making role.
Tanya visited me when it was time for her manager to leave. She had been a stellar team player, serving her organization for 8 years. Now that the management position was open, it was unclear whether she would be considered. Service wasn’t enough.
Structural sexism in our society teaches that women are most prized, most valuable when we are serving others. We learn this from the culture, the society, and sometimes families and religions when we are growing up.
Framing your achievements and your desire for success as “service” is a uniquely female socialized behavior. It turns out that the “service” framework will not only diminish the public perception of your work but your personal perception as well.
What we find among adult female professionals is that those who feel stuck (at a plateau of achieving) need to reconnect for some raw truth telling about what you really want and need in this coming phase.
While of course great things can come from service, and everyone should give back in some way –in the absence of clear leadership development for girls and women, in the absence of role models and information on how to thrive and dominate in your market, the early training of valuing ourselves mostly as people who can “serve”, will take over.
Laura Close, founder of Laura Close Consulting where clients rely on her unique blend of tech start-up frameworks and undoing internalized oppression theory to get big results. Business plans and tactics can generate momentum, but without personal insights and growth, the project can weaken and grind to a halt. We do both and you get your breakthrough results.