Occupational Hazards

While I love my job most days, one of the problems with being a Women’s Center director is that changing the world really is part of my job description — and some weeks I am hit with the recognition that there really hasn’t been enough change. Here’s a short list of the things that have irritated me this week:

  • A meeting in which a faculty member repeatedly used “he” as the default pronoun;
  • Attending a program at which it was stated that “behind every man is a phenomenal woman”;
  • Hearing a prominent local radio host refer to a female flight attendant as a “stewardess” (yes, seriously. I also wondered for a moment if I had been magically transported back to the 70s);
  • Getting a request to give a body image program as part of a larger program that also involves a prom dress giveaway and makeup tips (to some extent there’s nothing wrong with either of those things — but I have enough 2nd wave feminist in me to get annoyed. Why can’t the giveaway be for a gift card for books? Or a technology gadget? In other words, something that would emphasize the intellect as opposed to the appearance).

Taken one at a time, these are all little things, I know (and not nearly as traumatic as what plenty of women still deal with both in the U.S. and in other countries). Still, coming together in the span of two days, it’s the kind of stuff that makes me feel as if my entire career has been a waste of time because while lots has changed for women (mostly for the better), a lot hasn’t and I feel discouraged. This usually passes, but it puts me in quite a funk when it happens and makes me not a lot of fun to be around for a few days.

For those of you with similar job descriptions, how do you keep from getting discouraged? What do you do to perk yourself up when you do?

[Image credit: Flickr user rrho. Creative Commons license].

2 thoughts on “Occupational Hazards

  1. Brenda –

    My comparable situation came from trying to change a poor service culture in a big corporation. As frustrating as it was when apparent progress came flying back in our face, I found a couple of ways to cope:

    1) Draw boundaries around what you can really change. Challenge yourself, but be realistic about it too. You can’t control what a radio personality says (or all the cultural cues the host has received in life). You COULD contact and share your perspective with the host. That action is something you can check off as progress.

    2) Cherish small wins. It never failed that even when we felt like we were making no progress, somebody would say something to someone on the marketing team (typically my boss) that the efforts we were making were absolutely the right thing to do. One time someone in our field operation told a mutual friend that the positive messages we shared at a company meeting kept him from leaving the company. So during weeks like this, recall all the lives you have touched positively through your work!

    Those are my ideas! You’re a great person….down let it get you down!


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