May 7, 2019

You Throw Like a Girl

“You throw like a girl,” said John as the baseball released from my grip. “Of course, I do,” I yelled as John connected the bat with the ball, resulting in a sky-high pop fly. The ball disappeared from site but seconds later plummeted in a downward spiral. I aligned my glove with the ball and seconds later it landed with a loud thud. I could feel the sting through my worn, leather mitt. The sting was totally worth it. I yelled, “You’re out! Better luck next time, John.”

I spent many summers running around my neighborhood as the only female in pack of full of males. It made me stronger, it pushed me to perform at my best, and I saw no differences between myself and my male friends. We all had unique strengths and we appreciated using them in tandem to create major mischief in our “hood.”

Fast forward to middle school. Things began to change and not for the reasons you may be suspecting. I was trying out for the middle school girls’ basketball team and during the third day of try-outs, the male coach pulled me aside and said, “You are way too aggressive on the court. If you want to make the team, you need to play like a girl. This is a girls’ team not a boys team.”

His words still haunt me. That experience caused me to no longer see males and females as equals. Males were supposed to behave one way and females were supposed to behave in a separate way. Females should be soft and devoid of any aggressiveness.

I stopped playing sports, stopped being a part of the all-male pack in my neighborhood and focused only on academics.

College was similar. I played it safe. Didn’t assert myself. Tried to hide in the background. My early career years were much of the same behavior. I advocated for others but shied away from being my own advocate.

I was a victim and although I wanted to blame this on my middle school coach, I was the only person continuing to keep me in that role. I knew I needed to take a leap. One that would bridge the gap between who I was and who I wanted to become.

I leaped and it brought me to an organization with a caring and passionate leader (who happened to be a male) who created cultural conditions for me to thrive as a female. I began to test out the behaviors that I had buried down deep for so many years. I started to assert myself. Became my own advocate when I needed to. Began taking risks that led to new ideas. Challenged my male peers when it was necessary and supported my teammates regardless of gender as we focused on the success of the entire organization. If you were to ask my coach from middle school, he would say that my aggressiveness returned. I prefer to call it “my competitive nature” which I have now come to rely on to persevere through the tough times. I have been blessed with opportunity after opportunity in my current organization which recently led to a seat at the executive table. Ultimately, it took an understanding and full awareness of the behaviors that needed to change in order for me to rise.

I have a post-it note on my computer monitor that says, “To get the results you want, identify the behaviors that need to change in order to make it happen.” This message serves as continual reminder that I am in control of who I am and who I want to be. In order to change the game, you have to be willing to change. This holds true for entire organizations as they look towards the future.

During my journey, a book was recommended to me that was written for women who have walked in similar shoes, down the very same paths. Maybe it can serve as your survival guide too? Check it out here: http://www.howwomenrise.com/

If you can remember only one thing. Remember this, “Never stop throwing like a girl!” You’ve got this!

From your friends at BestDayHR