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Be your authentic self

Jun 01, 2022

Sure. It sounds easy, but it’s not. As women, we grow up with pressure all around us to be perfect little good girls. What does that even mean? Put yourself together even when you don’t feel like it. Speak up, but only when you have something nice to say. Smile at everyone you see, no matter how much is on your mind. Care for everyone around you at the expense of your own well-being. Good manners trump honesty always. It’s all nonsense.

When I was new in my career back in the 90’s, there were a few women in higher level positions who I considered to be great at their jobs whose management style was something that I felt good about modelling, but they were not being treated as serious players and they couldn’t make it past a certain level of management. It’s a shame really, but it was the reality of the times and something I’ve had to navigate for the last 30 years. It was not yet common for women to hold senior executive roles. So, for the first decade of my career, I watched, studied and then modeled the very same behaviors and characteristics of the men who had no trouble climbing the corporate ladder. That worked for a few years, but I had to prove myself in every new role while it seemed so easy for them. They didn’t even have to be competent. All they had to do was not burn the place down and they got a secret pass onto the career elevator that lifted many of my male colleagues straight to the top.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame them. Why wouldn’t you take the promotion, the higher pay and the extra perks that come along with being in the boy’s club? I had one male friend even say to me, “Sorry, I know you were more qualified, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. Believe me, I totally get it. Take your shot when it comes to you. It was just so difficult to come to terms with at the time.

 I spent the second decade of my career trying to be the person I thought other people wanted me to be. I became the person my annual review said I needed to be to get rated an exceeds expectation employee and get the best raise. If I wasn’t going to be promoted any further up the corporate ladder, I was damn sure going to get the absolute best raise I could get when review time came around. In order to do this though, I had to pull long hours, come in early, stay late, work weekends, and give up time with my family. I was the female executive with no kids so people would say things like, “Sandy can work the holiday since she doesn’t have kids.” WTF? Are you serious? I still have a husband and a family that I’d like to see once in a while! A quick piece of advice - Don’t set a precedent of being available 24/7. It’ll come back to bite you in the ass.

Needless to say, I couldn’t keep that routine up long term. Something had to give. So, the third decade of my career was an exercise in finding out what I wanted to be known for. I became known as a champion of others, a mentor, a coach. I take great pride in seeing one of the young managers that I have mentored get promoted and blossom into a strong, confident leader. I get excited when someone comes to me and says, “I don’t think I can do it”, because I know they can. I can see their potential even when they can’t.

 And when I attended that women’s leadership conference in 2018 and my whole life changed, I knew my passion had shifted from consumer finance to making sure every woman in business knows she has a place to go to find the support she needs. I will make it my life’s mission to provide a safe space for female leaders to connect and thrive so not one other woman has to suffer in silence and feel alone in corporate America. This is unapologetically who I am. This is my authentic self. This is my passion. Love me or hate me. I don’t care. I love me and that’s all that matters. I can wake up in the morning now, smile at myself in the mirror and know I’m doing good for the women who need me.

Don’t spend another minute pretending to be someone you’re not. I wasted so many years trying to be someone I thought other people wanted me to be. You are free to be yourself here at Proximity. Drop the façade and professional persona when you enter here because we are as real and as casual as it gets. If I never have to put on another pair of high heels, I’ll be happy!

Cheers to you being you!


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