A feminist’s fight in a boy’s club culture

The first thing I did was put in the application. As the role reported to a global lead, I didn’t need to submit the application to the local HR, and it could be logged in the system and be read by the eyes of HR in global. I figured that would put a thorn in the side of the VP and local HR. Unsurprisingly my application was accepted and I was invited to do the psychological testing and was given an interview time. Due no doubt to some behind the scenes pressure, the interview time was changed to a period when I was on annual leave. I was told that I didn’t need to worry about attending the interview by the local HR Manager.  I stated that I didn’t mind attending the interview and conveniently I was going to be on holidays in the USA, so I would be more easily able to attend the interview anyway. Ha!

During my holiday I received an email from the global manager who the role was reporting to, saying that she didn’t need to see me as I wasn’t suitable for the role after all, and that she would be happy to meet up with me and discuss what steps I could take to progress in my career in the future.  I had no doubt that the VP had orchestrated this interview cancellation.  I had no idea what he had said, but I was sure it wouldn’t have been complimentary.  I also reasoned that they were keeping me out of the interview process because the global manager would be able to see my suitability immediately if she met me and they didn’t want to take the risk that she would choose me. Otherwise, why not let the interview go ahead.

So, I got back from my holiday and I knew that the role had been filled and an offer had been made while I was closed out of the process. But I wasn’t done fighting. With no regard to the outcome, I created a video presentation in interview format and sent it to the global manager.  Within a day she had watched the video and reached out saying she would very much like to meet me.  She also sent the link to the VP who had shut me out of the process and my manager, with the word “Impressive”. The VP who had up to this point studiously ignored me, sought me out and told me that my video was very good and he was impressed how I had used a creative method to promote myself.  Maybe he was feeling sheepish, maybe he didn’t care anymore because he had got what he wanted or maybe he was trying to be magnanimous and reach out an olive branch to smooth things over for his candidate who was now going to be my boss.

Maybe.

I think the real reason for the VP’s sudden warming of attitude towards me was this. The guy who he had put into the role, my new manager, couldn’t do the job. He didn’t have the skills, didn’t understand the role and had no experience. The only way he was going to be able to manage was if I did the work for him. It became obvious that the new manager, who didn’t even know what he didn’t know, was keen to get rid of me because he saw me as a threat, but the VP, who knew his drinking buddy couldn’t do the job was hoping that I may stay and prop up his man. This theory was confirmed by my old manager, who had been in discussions about how to help the new guy survive and asked by the VP how to get me on side.

I didn’t stay.  I had been applying for roles and I got one easily, the same level and pay grade as the one the HR Manager had told me a couple of months beforehand not to apply for because I didn’t fulfil the criteria.

What happened to the guy who got the role instead of me? He couldn’t do the job. He destroyed the business nearly halving the value of the portfolio.  After less than 18 months he was told to find another job in 3 months and get out or he would be fired.  He left.  Boasting and oblivious to the last.

I still had my new role when he was exited and was succeeding.

I have met countless women with a similar story, so if you are reading this and thinking that you are the only one, you aren’t.  You will get through it and whatever happens, you will survive. I write this story calmly now, with the full benefit of hindsight and reflection, but at the time I was going through it, I was a tumultuous mess of emotions.  I was enraged with the injustice of it all.  I cried, I yelled, I made mistakes and I did not at times conduct myself with dignity.  I annoyed my friends and irritated my partner with my constant obsessing. I knew in my heart what the outcome would be, but that knowledge did not make going through it any easier or quell the random bursts of hope that snuck through and nearly gutted me. I am, like you, like everyone, human.

The fact that I succeeded in my next role was fantastic, but it was still in some ways a cold comfort.  I had wanted that promotion with all my heart and it was hard to give up on the idea of it. The fact that the guy who was given the opportunity failed miserably, while predictable was also not really a vindication either. Getting the role was what I had wanted and the loss of it left a scar. Because I am human.

But in the midst of the hurt, I was proud of myself.  I wasn’t my best self at the time but I didn’t give up.  The pressure that was applied to intimidate me into conforming was overwhelming and I had no support, but I didn’t give up.  Whatever else that was thought of me, it was obvious I had grit.  And that is something to be proud of.

It is experiences like mine told here and the stories that I hear from other women, that make me proud to call myself a feminist.  I believe in equality and equal opportunity.  I believe that humanity would be better served by female leadership.  I will keep spreading the message of feminism with clarity and pride until there is no need to push for gender equality anymore.  May that day come soon.

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