Female on the Job
I never thought that it was important being a female in my line of work, because I never had a female role model. I always had great male role models and many men were so helpful to me in giving me opportunities. But then once I finally had a strong female role model, I began to see the importance and difference between the two genders. When the athletic director at Arizona State left, the president put in an interim for one year and she happened to be a woman. This was the first time I had a female boss and the first time I realized the implications of that.
Just learning how to work with co-workers who are mostly all men was a challenge so having a strong female to look up to and ask advice from really helped me to succeed in these typically male-dominated jobs.
Once, after a football game, I went down the tunnel where the team and the coaches go down and got in the elevator. As I started going up, a hand came in the elevator. And the coach got in—the head coach. We had just lost the game in the last 13 seconds, to a field goal. And I was instantly worried, having no idea what to say to the coach. Being a woman, I was unsure of what he needed or wanted to hear. It’s different when consoling a male versus a female so I had no idea how to interact with him in that moment. I wanted to just run out of there so I didn’t mess up our professional relationship by saying something he did not appreciate. After that incident, I asked the interim president what I should have done and she simply informed me that a subtle “tough one coach” with a hand to his arm would suffice. This is actually a very feminine thing to do, but it helped me to realize that it’s OK to act feminine with male co-workers. Having a same-gender role model made it easier for me to understand appropriate behavior and have someone to discuss scenarios like that with. Having role models from both genders is important, but I think having a same-gender role model in the field you are interested in is very helpful because it gives you an idea of how to model yourself.
Being female in the commonly male-dominated arena of sport and athletic administration has provided me with such great opportunity to grow. I have learned to be myself and not worry so much about the gender difference between my co-workers and myself and I have learned how to approach issues from my female perspective in a constructive way. Learning from other females in my field has taught me so much about my role in athletics and with male-coworkers, allowing me to truly succeed in this position and use my gender as a strength, not a weakness.