It's 2016, And Women Are Still Being Stereotyped In the Workplace

About two months ago, I received a job offer for my current full-time role as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of the Latino Community Foundation in California. (Cue epic music.) After a couple of (fun and exciting) contract/temp roles I did it! I found a job whose mission motivated me and where I was excited to work with my team, Board of Trustees and community partners. I began sharing my #hired news with friends and family. I gave them the general idea of what my position as assistant to the CEO entailed and the kind of philanthropy that our foundation delivers. One curious question that usually popped up about my position was, "What’s his name?"

This question not only brought forth the implicit bias that many of us share, but also brought forth another unique trait of my new workplace. Not only was the CEO a woman, but I was joining an all-women team.

When I first started my job search I crafted a checklist of certain job characteristics that were important to me in order to achieve personal and professional success. While an all-woman team was not one of the traits I was looking for, I felt it was definitely a huge draw to this position. As an undergraduate, I was a part of all-women teams, but we were always affiliated with co-ed mentors or advisers. For five years, I was so enclosed in a bubble of female empowerment that I forgot the reality of the rest of our world.

I did not feel the full force of this rarity until I started sharing my news with my friends and family. When I shared that all of my co-workers were women, the reactions were not what I expected. Few were proud or inspired by this move, though others were happy because I was happy to be part of a team that seemed to be unique in the workforce of most industries. The majority expressed concern for my "unfortunate" circumstance of being part of an all-women team.

The top three assumptions made about my potential difficulties were:

  1. The team would be too "catty."
  2. There would be little to no support in my job and professional advancement.
  3. It may be difficult to get things done because of all the emotions.

I was shocked. An all-woman team is a rare occurrence, but not a work environment to be feared.

The reactions felt like they could be snippets from a satirical adult version of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. I received this reaction enough times that I began feeling my own hesitations with my team. We often see women groups in the media portrayed as trying to tear each other apart or consistently compete against one another. "Mean Girls" or "The Devil Wears Prada," anyone?

I have been in my position for two months, and my experience has been nothing short of fantastic because of the women I work with. We are tiny but mighty, and I am astounded daily at the amount of work we are able to get done and still care about and support one another.

No one sets out to hire only women, but it turned out that way for our team and even for our executive team. Our chair Aida Alvarez and vice-chair Arabella Martinez are two influential Latina women who have made an impact on our nation through their work in the Clinton and Carter administrations, respectively. Even our newest intern is a young woman from UC Berkeley.

Although I agree that a co-ed team would give us a more diverse perspective, we need to step away from assuming that women can’t run a country or lead a business successfully. Yes, conflict, emotions and competition can exist in an all-female team, but no more or less than any other work environment.

Furthermore, in a nation whose civilian workforce is about 47 percent women, I’m surprised we don’t have more women-only teams.

No one ever questions the efficiency or strength of an all-male team. Why then should we question the success of an all-women team? 

This article by Amber Gonzales Vargas was originally posted here on Her Agenda’s website. It is reposted with the permission of the Her Agenda team.

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