I was privy to an email the other day that referred to another female professional as “sweet and young,” and it wasn’t meant as a compliment. It irked me, like a lot. Maybe cause it hit close to home and reminded me when I was early on in my career and was often dismissed due to my age, experience, or Forever 21 wardrobe. Listen, I still have a Forever 21 jacket, that shit holds up surprisingly well.
I was told I was “rough around the edges.” Another female professional I know was told she was a “diamond in the rough.” All of us have much to learn early on in our careers, but I can’t recall a time a male professional was critiqued in the same way as many of my female colleagues.
West Michigan is where I built my business, career, and family (dogs lots of dogs). It’s also where I’ve dealt with sexism and ageism for much of my professional life. We all have hurdles to overcome and sadly this is what a lot of young female professionals face, I can’t even imagine what it is like for a woman of color. Why does age or gender even play into the equation? It isn’t news to anyone that females are not on equal footing when it comes to our health care choices (what choice?), salaries, or job perks.
If we want change, we need to call out the behavior when we see it. It isn’t comfortable to do so, but easy isn’t where progress is made. If you’re reading this blog and are what might be considered a “young professional,” speak up. Have a respectful dialogue if you feel you are being treated differently due to your age, experience, or gender. Come to the table with examples and also a solution – not that ageism has a solution, but if you show you are willing to work together, perhaps progress can actually be made.
I do think things are slowly getting better, or perhaps I’m just getting older so no one cares anymore.
If someone refers to you as “rough around the edges,” say thank you because it’s what makes you who you are and you should never apologize for how God made you. And you know what, “rough” is what makes me a good business owner and communicator, it’s why I always strive to find comfort in the uncomfortable and not back down when something is worth fighting for. I’ll take my rough over your condescension any day.
Don’t be afraid to make “good trouble,” as the great John Lewis would say.