I have never considered myself a feminist and I don’t believe I’ve actually ever uttered the words “girl power” but I have spent years in board rooms with male CEOs, several years my senior, and have gradually made a realization which I’ve have never articulated until today: There’s a big difference between playing to win vs. playing not to lose. The infamous “Woman Card” is a disadvantageous signal represented by those who are playing not to lose. We might as well call it the inferiority card.
Earlier this week, I stumbled across this “A Woman’s Place” article in the New Yorker about Sheryl Sandberg and her journey through Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture. I scrolled upon this from Chloe Sladden’s tweet in my twitter feed. Don’t get me wrong, my celebrity clients are some of my favorite people and many have become friends but I don’t get star struck (anymore). However, when it comes to people like Chloe who have accomplished things like this, I become a fan. (And geek out a little bit.) Needless to say, I listen to her (on Twitter). Otherwise I would have never seen the piece in the New Yorker and probably wouldn’t be writing this post on a topic I’ve been thinking about for years. The article articulated something I haven’t been able to over the past several years while working in pro sports and then building my own company.
I grew up in an environment where the gender playing field actually was equal. It was never in my frame of reference to think differently so when I reached the business world and became exposed to this “Woman Card” thing, I was confused, found it disturbing and actually a little comical. As I worked my way up the ladder, it was clear many senior women truly felt they had to make up for the fact they were female in certain situations. You know, the ‘We have to stick together and defend ourselves.’ type of mentality. Defend ourselves against who about what?
If you believe you are inferior, you will be. Many women still subscribe to the idea that the playing field isn’t level and they think they’re helping the perception but in fact they’re actually substantiating the mentality.
Being a woman isn’t a handicap. At the end of the day, we’re all graded by a performance card. If you believe you have a disadvantage you will.
I write this while sitting in Frankfurt, Germany getting ready to attend the Women’s World Cup Final where the USA soccer team competes in one of world’s largest sporting events. The entire World will be watching and the day what I’m about to observe is epic. Yellow and Red cards may play a role in today’s event but I guarantee no ‘Women Card’ will be pulled. Tonight, we fly back with the team and these amazing women will only be judged on their performance.
And you don’t have to be a world cup soccer player to go big and leave the ‘Women Card’ at home. I flew over here with Nike. We go back. Way back to the 7th grade when I developed a crush on the brand. I’m sitting in Germany with a brand I love on a day I’ll never forget. The path of performance is the only path that gets you places. Nothing else.