Shay’s Story: Struggling to Be Taken Seriously at Work

It’s been quiet here with the holidays taking people’s attention. And I’d just about run out of 9 Ways stories to tell. Then in the “what you need is there if you can see it” mode, Shay Pausa’s story landed in my inbox. Shay has a video production company, ChiKiiTV, and in full disclosure is currently making a new speaking reel for me. Trust me, if you have video production needs, hire her. She wrote to share how her experiences and feelings as a woman in the workforce matched my findings in No Excuses. Here’s Shay’s story:

Truthfully, I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist yet as I read your book and watch your presentations, I know that I am and always have been. I struggled from the time I entered the business world at 17 years old to be taken as seriously as my male co-workers. I made attempts to be unattractive so that my superiors would see that I was a smart, assertive hard worker. I was passed over for promotions and opportunities repeatedly. I was even once was told by the hiring manager that though I was the heir apparent, the executive team could not “picture” me in the job. They hired a man with 5 years less experience from outside the company. But I did not give up and I stayed at that company until I got the promotions. At a certain point, I brought up my concern that I was not being given deserved promotions based on my sex and age. I got the next one. What they feared even more than a smart woman who can call a spade a spade was a lawsuit.

As I worked my way up the corporate ladder, I found that my success was dependent not so much on the results I produced. but in demonstrating that I could act like a man. I never took a full maternity leave because though I had the legal right, I knew it would hurt my career. I took calls and had my laptop within 3 hours of giving birth. I had to work harder than my male counterparts just to keep my job. I felt I had to sacrifice being feminine to compete. And yet through it all, I believed that if I wanted it to be different, I was going to have to make a difference. I imagined that when I was the CEO of a publicly held company, I would change the culture and the unspoken rules. The laws were not my problem. I wanted real parity, the kind not forced because of law but accepted because it is true. Women bring skill sets to the workplace that produce results. These are natural skills and talents that make a difference.

I know that my experience is not uncommon. And I know that companies are not getting the most out of their employee base if the women in those companies feel as I did. Women are keeping and getting more jobs right now because we’re cheaper labor in a tough economy. And we’ll be the ones who turn the economy around but I fear if there is not a real change in core belief that women are equally valuable in producing profit, we won’t see those board room or management statistics change in any significant way anytime soon.

Being inclusive doesn't end with simply being welcoming.

Leading inclusive conversations requires a new "language."

Get my new resource to help organizations like yours not just survive, but embrace these times of change & thrive.

FREE Language of Leadership Guide Book



  1. Serena Freewomyn on December 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Although I can’t totally relate to Shay’s story (I’ve never contemplated taking maternity leave and I never will because I don’t plan to have children), I can definitely relate to not being taken seriously by coworkers because of my age and gender. Sadly, I think that’s a universal point for everyone, regardless of the industry they work in.

    I used to be a pastry chef. Everyone who worked on the hotline was male, and the two of us on pastry were female. Pastry is the bottom of the barrel as it is – people think that if you’re on pastry you can’t cook (despite pastry requiring much more proficiency than hot line) – but when it’s the only distinctly female space in the kitchen, it magnifies that attitude. No one at the restaurant knew my name – I was just “sweety.” When I told the executive chef that I was tired of the sexual harassment (constant penis jokes and references to how someone was a “homo” if they didn’t get an order up in a specific amount of time), he told me I needed to take things less seriously. I eventually quit working at that restaurant because of a combination of many factors, but I know this restaurant’s culture is not unique – my female classmates at culinary school reported similar experiences, but no one is willing to take a stand about it. They just want to cook.

  2. Gloria Feldt on December 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

    wow, Serena, your last two sentences blow me away. “no one is willing to take a stand…they just want to cook.” Understandable but unfortunately that’s why so many of these bullying and discriminatory behaviors continue. Some of it isn’t as much sexist as it is pecking order stuff, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. Good for you for finding other employment. I hope that you still find pleasure in plying your culinary arts however!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dior Vargas. Dior Vargas said: RT @GloriaFeldt: Have you ever had this experience?… […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.