Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Breaking stereotypes

It’s time to start taking personal responsibility for shutting down assumptions

Recently I was asked to honour my personal needs over those of another person. This was a new request. For my entire professional life I have been asked to be flexible, to adapt my message and style to the audience, yet now I was asked to do the opposite? Really?

My needs were allowed to take a place at the front of the line….I have to admit that I was confused. This was new territory. My comfort was important.

The trouble with being asked to place myself before another is that I don’t really know how. Now to be clear this wasn’t about “put your gas mask on first” this was more of a conversation around… “actually I DO want the last brownie.”

This is a purely selfish opportunity to allow my skills to thrive and for the other person to learn that not everyone follows the same way of working.

So what do I do?

As an introvert I love being able to think (overthink even) before being asked to solve something. I collect data and run it through models in my mind to see what the variables mean. I like to sleep on ideas and come up with thoughtful solutions. When I know about an opportunity to discuss something and what the boundaries are when we get there I thrive. I LOVE meeting invites with agendas and I like them to occur with reasonable warning so that I can be a great contributor.

My conflict came because the other person likes to pop by and collaborate. ALL. THE. TIME. Without warning. Without time for me to think. Without even asking if their interruption is ok.

Historically, I have used my intuition a lot in these situations. I spend a lot of time and cognitive horsepower on figuring out what could happen. My ability to visualise different outcomes often helps me to have a bit of a foundation when I’m in these impromptu scenarios. I use my brain and style of idea processing in an advance scenario plan that makes me able to “appear” to be comfortable with these on the fly sessions.

But… I hate them. When I am tired or distracted I don’t respond well in these rooms and this is where the issue popped up. I didn’t have it in me to just jump into the scenario with the extrovert. To avoid letting my frustration out (a survival response often loaded with terse words and venomous attacks), I told them I needed time to think and would get back to them with ideas.

This did not land well.

First: the perception they took away was that I was mad at them and that my request for time was about me being a woman making decisions based on the oestrogen that runs through my physical chemistry.

Not good. Also… very wrong.

Second: the person still doesn’t get that we don’t all work the same way and that my need to reflect should not be considered unreasonable.

What next?

I discussed my challenge with a mentor and asked their thoughts on my finding ways to make the other person comfortable. This approach was unacceptable they said. Instead they suggested that I work to explain my why’s to this other person. I was asked to educate the offender on how to get the most from me instead of just customising my message to them and taking the hit.

Internet confession: I dislike being a spokesperson for my gender. I am not every woman and should not presume to speak for every woman.

Even more I dislike being a poster child for introverts. Now I needed to coach another person on dealing with an introverted female and knowing I should doesn’t resolve my desire not to. Cue growth opportunity. Ding!

I know that this sounds contradictory to my role as a champion of women in technology and leadership. I need to admit that I only act as an advocate because I feel that we can only become what we believe is possible and I want more diversity in our organisations…. alas…I digress.

I needed to explain to someone that placing me in a box that fits them isn’t cool.

Why do we have to generalise people into stereotypes? Dammit!

But… This could help me at the same time. Maybe they will actually book a meeting instead of showing up at my desk and stealing my precious moments with their unplanned chaos.

Maybe when I ask for time to think without an audience they won’t assume that I’m an angry girl throwing a tantrum. Maybe they will stop generalising and start to seek to understand.

Then again… maybe not.

Whatever the outcome, I cannot be responsible for their actions, only how I deal with what is in front of me. My process is not wrong. It is just a minority opinion.

The estimates have introverts numbering around 25% of humans, more dramatically only 2.1% are categorised as an INTJ. I am a female INTJ. Myers-Briggs says that my gender-type combination only occurs in 0.8% of the population. That is a decidedly small number.

This makes me (and those like me) adding up to a little less than 1/1000 humans. Because of this, there is a good chance that this person has never or rarely interacted with a person like me before….. I am actually a unicorn? What?

As a woman my “gender”* …those humans that the census call women… are ~51% of the planet.

A majority position. It makes sense that this person reasoned my actions as being fuelled by emotion. Sense and fairness are not the same thing. While it makes sense, in our modern world we need to start asking before we assume.

My actions are fuelled by cold hard facts. Data. Logic.

I’m freaking Jean Luc Picard not Deanna Troi. Debates have raged for years about Spock, but as a rule I believe that Vulcans are considered to be INTJ’s. Now match the image of a Vulcan with a woman in a pencil skirt… the visual doesn’t seem right. I get the conflict of stereotypes people are faced with. Also, not my problem.

I get the conflict of stereotypes people are faced with.

Also, not my problem.

I fake extroversion to do what I do. I falsify warmth, appear to speak confidently in rooms full of humans, pretend to care about surface ideas, and even invent a smile when I participate in small talk. Each of these little extroversions requires an outlay of energy I happily pay as the cost for being able to accomplish awesome things. Sadly, the personal expenditure for wearing this facade is high to me. The price is paid with a diminishing energy tank and the risk that people think it is ok to make me a stereotype or assume that I am comfortable when I’m not.

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know who I am and what I need. Now I need to take responsibility and explain it to others.

For this particular case I’m taking ownership for improving my experience. I’ve booked a meeting. With an agenda. Far enough away that I have the luxury of a weekend to prepare my thoughts.

Damn growth moments.

*Sidebar we need to start counting all gender identities in statistics it is 2017 for crying out loud gender isn’t binary anymore.