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When women show their power in the workplace, they are seen as bossy or, for a lack of better words, a "bitch." If women show empathy, they are seen as "incompetent."

It’s a lose-lose situation.

With a workforce made up of mostly male leaders —79.5%of senior managers at Fortune 500 companies and 93.6% of CEOs, women who attempt to fill leadership roles often face backlash. Their very presence works against a masculine normative culture that dominates institutions and industries worldwide. Masculine normative culture is NOT about individual men. It’s about structures of power and the environment or culture within an institution designed to meet the needs and privilege the interests of its (often white) male employees over others. In turn, “those with more power pass these perceptions on to those below them and those they mentor, and the industry lore remains in place.” (Lotz & Havens, 138) Due to this normative culture, “women’s inputs and voices are often stifled" (Oakley).

Further, as women are underrepresented at every level of a company, especially women of color, their needs are often not addressed, and they are not provided the same mentorship that many men benefit from when entering the workforce. Without access to opportunities, women face a cumulative disadvantage (Bielby) when it comes to rising in the workforce compared to their male peers. Specifically within media industries, executives often do not provide women and people of color leadership roles on projects, using the excuse that they can’t find any or falling back on a “risk-averse” mentality (Bielby). Without leaders being willing to work against these norms and provide opportunities for more women and people of color, this cycle of underrepresentation will continue at every level.Women will be relegated to so-called “pink ghettoes”—spheres of “feminized labor” (Mayer).

Aside from being proactive and offering opportunities, we also need to change the culture from the inside out by changing what is valued. Female characteristics are often not perceived as exemplifying leadership. In order to excel within a company, females often take on socially valued “masculine" characteristics in an effort to “blend and adapt" (Oakley).Women find themselves in a double-bind; "they must be tough and authoritative (like men) to be taken seriously, but they will be perceived as ‘bitches' if they act too aggressively” (Oakley). 

How can women be themselves in this kind of environment? How can they find a productive path to grow and lead? And how can they respond when they feel discrimination and bias in words and actions? Let’s start recognizing and calling out the way these cultures operate. Let’s question the norms.

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