“A little better all the time (It can’t get no worse)”
In a throwback to the good old days, the beloved Beatles are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. I could make a case that they never actually receded in popularity all these decades. But that is for another day.
To quote from this uplifting Fab Four song, I’ve discovered that, in some ways, things really are getting better. Specifically, I’m referring to the treatment and views from men of women in the workplace, and in particular, men of the younger generations.
I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at a recent conference of the National Print and Sign Owners Association; the topic – Women Printing Company Owners.
In an ideal world, there would be no such presentation needed because a “woman owner” wouldn’t be a thing. As things stand in 2022, I counted about 1 woman owner for every 10 male owners. This is fairly representative of the industry as a whole. The ages of the attendees at this conference skewed older, 50 and above mostly. And don’t even get me started on racial diversity, or the lack thereof.
I, along with 4 other scrappy (and younger!) women answered questions about our singular experiences as women owners in a male-dominated industry.
While I know and like just about all of the male attendees, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that our presentation appeared to be so interesting to them. It seemed like we were saying stuff they never suspected or even guessed at. The obstacles we faced, the underestimation of peers, vendors, bankers, etc. all seemed surprising to them.
This is certainly not their fault; if we, as women owners, have not mentioned it before, we can’t expect them to know it. But while they seemed surprised at some of the stories we shared, they didn’t seem “surprised.”
Let me explain.
These peers didn’t realize that we had experienced discrimination and periodic misogyny, but it didn’t blow their minds either. They came up in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. Women were still not as far along on their path to equal treatment as they are today.
While I honestly don’t believe any of my peers in this association think I am less capable of operating my company because I’m a woman, it still may be a perspective that takes them some getting used to.
Contrast that to men of the younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z’ers. These young men have grown up in the aughts and teens, and in my observation most don’t have a bias against women in the workplace, regardless of their positions. In fact, gender is more of a “non-issue”.
The men of these generations take women in the workplace as a matter of course, accept women in responsible positions, and even welcome that happenstance. In job interviews with men of this cohort, I’ve observed that they are curious and interested in working for a woman-owned business. Many of them view a woman owner as a net positive. I have not experienced any negative reactions or responses from any of these young men when they discover that women are in positions of authority at my company.
In fact, it’s like it should be, and should always have been, a complete non-issue.
As promised, things ARE getting better all the time!
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