Monday, March 24, 2014

queen bitch

I am writing this because I don't know how else to express my frustrations. My anger. My disappointment. I have been working on creating a restaurant, that is a very personal project for me, for quite a long time now and I will not let it be taken from me.

I don't understand how it is so commonplace in our culture for women to be invisible. I have worked so hard, often harder than my male counterparts, and have received little to no recognition for doing the job as well, or better, than them. I have been a leader in this industry for over twenty years and have been in charge of running some of the most prestigious restaurants in my city, and even in my country. I have led teams of 60-90 employees with sales between $6.5 and $7 million per year consistently hitting net profit margins near 11%. I have been able to balance strong working relationships with my staffs in both front and back of house while still offering guidance, growth, and discipline. I consistently garner praise from my staffs, past and present, for my leadership and sincerity.

I have done this all on my own. I have taught myself, I have followed my heart and my judgement, and I have learned from many mistakes. I give my time, my love, and my money to my communities, and I support all of those passionate souls I have been fortunate enough to meet along the way. I am a creative and an educator. I am a perfectionist with high standards for my own work and for those under my employ. I thrive in stressful situations that allow me to showcase my decisive leadership. I am so proud of all that I have accomplished thus far and plan to achieve so much more. But it is extraordinarily and unnecessarily difficult. It is demoralizing and discouraging to not be taken seriously by your peers and colleagues when you have so much to offer.

I have recently partnered with a male colleague of mine; one that I respect greatly. Meetings with brokers and contractors have been disheartening as each meeting pushes me further and further into the background. I am not a wilting wallflower. I make myself known and make it clear that I am a partner in this endeavor, but it is all for naught. I introduced myself to a GC today and he proceeded to look through me to speak to the man in the room and then completely ignored me upon leaving after shaking every other person's hand... all men. Our broker and I have been in close communication through email as my partner re-established himself in the area and today I received a calendar invitation from him. We are meeting at a potential property site tomorrow morning and the invitation simply read, "Andy." 

Why do I have to jump up and down or throw a tantrum to be seen in this culture. If I stand up for myself, I risk being labeled as crazy or bitchy. When in fact, the only thing I want is to be respected for my work, for my abilities, and for my value. I recently found a long-lost cassette tape recording of my 10-year-old self and my grandfather practicing our "radio show." Listening to it brought floods of shameful memories of being told that I could not follow my dreams and passions, because those careers I wished to pursue were a "man's job." I had locked these memories deep in my subconscious for years and have unwittingly entrenched myself in these same beliefs over and over again in my life choices. The career culture that I have chosen to participate in perpetuates a shame that has been ingrained in the female societies, especially in the south, for far too long. That we are not good enough to have a voice. That we don't have anything to offer. That we don't belong in these professional worlds. I am tired of having to fight and throw my hands up in the air to make my voice heard. I am a viable and important thread in the fabric of growth and progress and absolutely deserve the respect of my industry.