Would’ve been easy to let the odds beat me

Women in Leadership Part Six

As a Human Resource professional I realize inequalities exist.  Fortunately, I have the opportunity to use my privilege to identify imbalanced areas and address them.

Early in my career, I lived in Pittsburgh and worked as an HR Manager in the steel industry. Steel has a long standing and rich history in America. It’s also as, you might imagine, dominated by men. In 2015, only 11 percent of people employed in the steel industry were women.

Though I rarely ever ran into instances of direct gender discrimination, I knew I needed to have a well thought out, responsible plan with built in allies to ensure my ideas were adopted.  I’d often identify a person or persons who I thought might align with my agenda and build support in advance before presenting. Was this me acknowledging gender discrimination at a subconscious level? Hard to say.

I never aligned my process with a gender issue. I was raised to be independent and I felt that any job that required a decision from me demanded strength. It was going to be hard for anyone and I was young, so I adapted and acknowledged that I had to exude strength and confidence in all things.

Many years later in Seattle I worked for a start-up.  Most of the people who worked there were men and almost all of them had been friends for a long time. It was a stereotypical “boys club”. I was hired for my expertise in human resources, but I didn’t have the same bond of friendship they all shared.

When we would have meetings, I eventually volunteered as the note taker. Demeaning?  No.  It was an opportunity and I made sure everyone was held accountable.  Meetings became more productive and we could see our progress because of it.  It only happened to be that I was the only woman in the room.  The guys would go out for happy hour or gather in a colleague’s office.  I was odd man out.  It wasn’t because I was a woman, it was because they were all friends. But as we all know, inevitably work talk becomes a pillar in discussion during these gatherings and I thought I might be missing out on valuable information.

Quick side note: As a Team Advocate at Gravity, I’d encourage anyone who’s talented in their field, offers a unique perspective and is always looking for positive change, to please consider applying.  We’d love to have you as part of our team!

So I did what I always do – I used my resources. I found a friend and told them to let me know when these happy hours or gatherings would happen so I could join in. To me, it wasn’t about gender. It was a normal thing that would happen to anyone trying to connect into a group of people who’ve been friends for a long time.

I find myself fortunate to have the experiences I’ve had; they have all made me a stronger more considerate person.

I chose Gravity because of their focus on employees.  I stay at Gravity because we face issues head on.  Our weaknesses are discussed openly and we all work together without gender divide to make a better workplace.  And while the article wasn’t meant to be about Gravity, it’s important to state that when we as candidates have options to work for various employers, we choose organizations that try to first better themselves over bettering their profits!

– Jena Miller Director of Human Resources at Gravity Payments

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