After the Webinar: Lifting Each Other Up to Rise Together. Q&A with Sara Weston

Webinar presenter Sara Weston answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Call to Action: Lifting Each Other Up to Rise Together. Here are just a few of her responses.

 

Audience Question: How do you navigate when you’re being a champion but those around you are not?

Sara Weston: Ah, sucks. Yeah, that’s really hard, and that’s kind of where the rubber meets the road, right? It’s easy to champion people in a great, supportive environment. But that’s where the work comes in, is when people may not be following your lead, or you feel alone, right? So, I have a couple of suggestions, one, good for you, like don’t give up. Don’t give up, find support. And if nobody around you is supporting you, look elsewhere. I don’t know what kind of industry you’re in, but there are a couple of places you can find supportive people. Again, I talked about Facebook Group, I talked about reaching out on LinkedIn. We’re in a situation these days where we’re not limited by those people who are in our physical space. So, there are organizations that you can find. If nothing else, they’ll support you in what you’re doing. You can’t help it if people aren’t on board with this, and people want to remain where they are and be nasty. And I know that happens everywhere. But if you want to keep doing this, you’re not going to be able to keep doing it alone. So, you’ll have to recruit a support system in whatever way that is available to you. And you can e-mail me after this, I can give you some, you can give me more of your situation. I can give you some ideas. So, that e-mail address, 911derwoman@gmail.com. We can, we can talk some more, but you have to find support somewhere, or you’re going to burn yourself out. But also, you’re doing a really important thing, and don’t quit.

 

Audience Question: What is your suggestion or recommendation for navigating a situation where the leader is a woman, but she’s not championing the women under her leadership? 

Sara Weston: Yes, I’ve been here as well. So, I’ve probably done this the right way and the wrong way. It is important to talk to the other women who are likely feeling the same way as you. And there’s a thin line between discussing things for support and gossiping and tearing the leader down because it’s hard to work under a leader that you don’t respect. And then if you kind of start that trend of, “Well, no one else should respect them, or either,” they just turn into like a really toxic work environment, right? So, I would reach out to people, and other women in the organization that you trust. And kind of start grassroots from there. Not everyone is going to be a champion for you or other women and that’s them, that’s their decision. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. So, reaching out to the other women that are there and just having this conversation of, “I’m not feeling supported. Do you feel the same way? How can we support each other?” And it kind of starts there and in my experience doing it that way has kind of snowballed. So, we band together. We help each other as much as we can. We go as a result. So, you’re growing in your position without her help, which sucks, but you’re still growing. Maybe you outgrow that position. Maybe she discovers what’s going on, and then there’s a conversation that can be had, a professional conversation. I don’t know if you’ve tried to talk to her at all. I would look at your situation before you dive into that. And if it’s a conversation that you can have, I would be as professional, as humanly possible. I would prepare endlessly. I would run it by other people, “Here’s what I want to say.” And then walk into that conversation with tools, with examples, and with confidence. But sometimes that’s not possible and people won’t hear that either. So, getting support, again, it is the most important thing, and trying to carry on, without her might be your best option, but always with an eye towards the future of what will be next for me and for us. And that’s all I have to say.

 

Audience Question: I work in a center where our boss refers to us as his girls. I know he isn’t mean, but none of us know how to tell him how patronizing it sounds and how it makes us feel unempowered. So how do we coach our bosses or leaders who don’t get it?

Sara Weston: That’s a great question. So, I’ll tell a story. So, I go to conferences, and I usually have a booth at conferences, and I will get male leaders, and they will come, and they’ll say, “Hey, I want to bring some stuff back for my girls.” Don’t do this, I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I’ll look him in the eye and be like, “Your daughters?” And they’re like, “No, no, my girls, at the center.” I was like, “Are they 12?” So, this happened and it’s kind of a cultural thing I’ve heard “gals” a lot as well. And I know, it sounds, from your question that it comes from a place of love, but it doesn’t come from a place of respect. And words matter, right? So, I would get together with the other women, again, this is so important. They’ll get together with the other women who feel the same way and try to construct some language that lets him know how you’re feeling without being condescending back to him, which is kind of what I did. I don’t recommend that. Without being condescending back to him and highlighting the fact that you know he cares about you, and sometimes when we deliver hard news, we have to make the person feel comfortable. So, kind of starting with that and saying, “But when you say, ‘my girls’ this is how I feel when you say that.” Not saying, “You’re disrespecting me,” but saying, “I feel this way when you say that do you want me to feel this way? Likely no, then why don’t you refer to us in some other way?” And you might give some examples that what you think would work based on his personality. Because that makes me cringe, and I know it makes you cringe, too. And while it seems harmless, it’s not. Because it’s just kind of like, I think a lot of times as women, we get chipped away little by little, ———————,  our confidence gets torn from us and we don’t even realize that it’s happening. So, yes, I definitely would have a conversation. I would be mindful of his feelings but also know your feelings or why you’re having this conversation. So, again, prepare, practice, and come together as professionally as possible, but definitely have the conversation. I support you.

Host: In the category of cringe-worthy, I have to hear “kiddo” despite being 34, same kind of guidance?

Sara Weston: I was just going to say that Brittany, that sole point. I was going to give that example. I get called kiddo all the time, and I’m 40. Yes. And I understand. Oh, my gosh. So, I’ve been in this position. And I understand, like every time it’s been said, it’s been out of a term of endearment. But I don’t want my boss thinking I’m a child, because I want him to trust me with really important things. I wanted him to respect me, and I had to have this hard conversation. I had a really great relationship with him. So, it wasn’t so hard for me but if he’s calling you “kiddo”, again, I would give the same advice like, “Hey, when you say that I feel like a kid because literally, that’s what you’re calling me. And it just doesn’t make me feel competent, or it makes me kind of resent you,” or whatever it is in you that you’re feeling, that you feel comfortable sharing with them. It shouldn’t be a hard change.  They might slip up a little bit from time to time. But hopefully, you’re in a situation where you can have that conversation and they’ll be like, “Oh, gosh, I didn’t know. No, I’ll try to do better. I just, I didn’t know, and I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” And a lot of people will get defensive at that point, which you kind of have to be prepared for like, “Hey, no, I’m not accusing you of anything. This is how I feel. So, let’s try to use different language.” Maybe give some examples for them, or have them give some examples, or some ideas to you.

 

Audience Question: Jessica says, I’m working on moving into a leadership role where I’ll be supervising a mostly female unit. Do you have any tips about how to be successful in this new position?

Sara Weston: Yes, I do. Again, not knowing your situation, but just generally speaking. And so, there will be some women, like the story I told earlier, there will be some women when you walk into the room, they’ll be like, “Yeah!” And there’ll be some women when you walk in the room, be like, “Ugh, she doesn’t deserve this, or, I should have been there,” or whatever. So, you’re going to have a mixed bag of emotions, likely. My advice is to, at the very beginning, call a meeting. Whether it’s in person, or via Zoom, or I know in shift work, it’s hard to get everyone at a meeting at once, but meet with people in groups, or meet with people individually, and address it. Bring it out into the open, like, “Hey, I’m a woman in leadership, but I’m here, and I’m new, and I want to hear what your concerns are. And I want to hear where you’re struggling, and let’s just have an open and honest conversation as women and how I can champion you. How can I champion you? What do you need for me?”  So, kind of breaking down any kind of barrier. Show them you care about them, and show them you care about them as women and understand what they’re going through as women. And I think that can go a really long way, if someone’s kind of, on the negative side of things. Or if you walk in, and the woman who’s going, “Yay, we have a woman!” But, like, you can’t live up to her expectations, right? So, talking to that person is really helpful as well to say, “Hey, here’s where I’m at, here’s what I want to do, how can I make you part of it, how can we work together?” So, that would be having those conversations upfront as soon as possible, really helps.

 

Click Here to Watch a Recording of Call to Action: Lifting Each Other Up to Rise Together.

 

 

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