Deny the expectations. Deny the bias. Be you.

Women in Leadership Part Eight

I am Rosita Faye and I don’t try to be anyone else. I can remember standing in a conference room after a very unsavory article was released about my friend and boss. The room was jam packed to the gills with my colleagues, listening intently. I remember everyone asking that person personal questions. If this happened and what might come now. All I could think was, how in the hell does this allow us to help our clients, our friends. So I asked, “Who the hell cares?” Polished? Absolutely not.

A stun hit the room for a beat and then laughter. Mission accomplished. Now we could move on. We could stop worry about how someone else felt about us and instead worry about how we felt about ourselves and how we treated those around us. We cannot judge ourselves on how others perceive us or even how we perceive ourselves. We must assess ourselves with the actions we take.

People think one way or another about you and for the most part you cannot do a single thing to change it. People get stuck in their views and I am okay with that.

As Harvard psychologist William James first wrote in The Principles of Psychology, “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and we will never soften again.”

For anyone who has heard their elderly grandparent say something soaked in bigotry and defend it with I know it’s wrong, but it’s the way I was raised, you know what I’m talking about.

So is there a gender bias? Damn straight there is and it pisses me off. There is also a huge amount of people who will never stop being bias about gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sex, disabilities, age, etc. So odds are if you are a human someone doesn’t like you or judges you for something you have absolutely no control over. I know you want to stop people from being racist or bigoted but you can’t just flip a switch and change the world. It takes time, and probably more time than you have. So instead, just live in a way that defies what they expect you do to within the framework of their bias.

I don’t try and act like anyone or anything else. My goal is to be myself, to be Rosita. You’d be wise to do the same. No, I don’t mean be Rosita, be yourself. Deny the expectation. Don’t idolize people who emulate stereotypical archetypes you can easily assimilate into. Do not be a drone. That is how you defeat biases based on anything.

Of course, this is easier said than done. For instance, in 2011 I attended a meeting at an advisory board for the largest payment processor in America. The purpose, to present new ideas, and tools we’ve used in our company. Seek out improvements we could implement and other general information. The rest of the advisory board expected our CEO who happens to be a man, to attend. Well weren’t they in for a surprise.

In advance, I prepared with my CEO. He trusted me and had all the confidence in the world that I could represent our company and our ideas with absolute clarity and expertise. However, when Rosita walked into the room and not our CEO Dan Price, the disappointment on the faces of the board was so generously strewn across their expressions I was taken back for a moment. They were expecting to see the tall charismatic, rebel dressed in skinny jeans and a sharp jacket adoring his long stringing hair. That is what they were expecting and instead they got me, a woman, who by the judgements on their faces was unanimously judged as a lower-level employee with nothing to contribute. A waste of time and a waste of space.

So there I was, the only woman in a sea of men.  The room was gloomy, lit by table lamps emitting a warm yellow that coupled perfectly with wooden tables and chairs, stained thick with a dark lacquer. It looked like a boardroom ripped out of AMC’s Mad Men. The only thing missing was pre-embargo stogies being burned between swigs of whiskey out of lowballs.

Now, you know would it have been easy for me to revert into the very stereotype those faces were begging me to personify. I could have stayed quiet and meek, and just listened trying to learn from the towering titans. Hell, they probably would have loved it! I could have just grabbed them all refills of water and left the room. No complaints. You know it would have been so easy.

But remember, I am the person who yells stuff out randomly in front of my entire company with an occasional expletive speckled in here or there. So although my first reaction was to revert and fall into their expectations, I stayed true to myself. I stepped up and spoke up. I am confident that I was more confident and executed my objectives in that meeting with more precision and power than if I had not been met with such opposition. I let the bias and the box people put me in act as fuel, fuel to defy those expectations. You’d be well advised to do the same.

Defying expectations is what we do at Gravity Payments. Through our transparent practices we’ve become a name synonymous with trust in the payments industry. It is our values and vision that allow us to bring the level of value in reduce hidden fees and eliminating pain points associated with credit card processing. If you are a business owner and want a better way to accept credit cards, let us know. We want to help you and your business.

-Rosita Faye Barlow Director of Sales at Gravity Payments

 

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