Dear Professional Women
Dear, Professional Women-
Can we talk?
Over the years, I have been intrigued and saddened by these conversations because I realize they really boil down to two things: Women can’t see their (1) power and (2) beauty.
Trust me, I’m not coming to you as someone who has it all figured out. In fact, my shared observations, articles, and posts are a part of my therapy, growth and development.
I’m coming to you because WE are not (collectively) showing up for work, and people are dying as a result. I’m not talking about showing up for a job. I am talking about work…our unique purpose and calling.
The reason we are not showing up is that we think our stories, ideas, etc. don’t matter. And this, ladies, is our tragic flaw.
Recently, on Facebook, I discovered Beauty by Joyce Sherri. Beauty is a powerful short film set in Virginia1934. It features Rose, a curious young black woman with mysterious abilities, who interviews to be the housekeeper to an eccentric white widow.
Rose has dreams and aspirations, but gender, race, culture, class, and her own self-image hold them hostage without ransom. She is desperate for a job. To get it, Rose must use her super abilities in a way she didn't intend.
I am not certain of Sherri’s intention for Beauty, but I think it places a profound highlight on professional women and their inability to really see their power and beauty and use it on their own terms.
The movie begins with Rose standing in the foyer, cautiously observing the home, while waiting for the widow to arrive and begin the interview.
After the widow enters, she engages Rose in “small talk” and proceeds to give Rose an overview of the job. She says, “I’m getting married and I will need someone who can cook, clean and lead the charge in keeping this place running, which includes hiring staff and collaborating with the butler on other household needs. You think you can handle that?” Rose responds, “I can handle anything, ma’am.”
In addition, the widow reveals that she and her husband “entertain guests from time to time.” She asks Rose if she has any other talents like singing or dancing. As if the other duties weren’t enough, Rose must demonstrate that she has other talents.
Rose decides to showcase her lackluster singing ability. The widow doesn’t respond positively and asks Tolson, the butler, to show Rose to the door. Rose immediately rejects being dismissed and begs the widow for the job.
Desperate, Rose decides to reveal her superpowers. A superior ability to understand the plight of others, provide comfort, and absorb their pain. She demonstrates her abilities by healing Tolson (the butler) and Arillius, the widow’s mixed-race child.
Rose has clearly used her powers before, but she is hesitant about each occasion. To utilize her powers, she must sacrifice her own heart and spirit. Each exploitative encounter strips her of life, but she ironically makes the sacrifice because it is her survival ticket.
Although Rose addresses the widow’s needs and places her life on the line, all before getting hired, the widow places an additional condition on Rose before she can secure the job.
Beauty conjures up feelings that are difficult for me to mask and quietly tuck away. It speaks to the pain, sacrifices, and choices that many professional women make/encounter daily.
Ladies--I know you are busy, but please give me a few more minutes to elaborate.
You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know. ~Wonder Woman
In the movie, the juxtaposition of the job duties is stunning, but familiar none the less. The widow’s needs simultaneously acknowledge and disrespect the diversity and depth of Rose’s expertise. The widow is willing to recognize Rose’s abilities; however, she likely will not honor Rose with quality treatment or pay.
Women experience this contrast daily. We are asked to save the world (manage it, fix it, lead it, find it), however in doing so, we are not fully recognized for our value. (Don’t say, “amen” yet)
Sisters, we know this is true, but how can/will others fully recognize and appreciate our value if we don’t fully recognize and appreciate it ourselves?
"Here I Come to Save the Day"
When Rose is asked if she can handle all the duties, she responds, “I can handle anything, ma’am.”
How many times have we responded, to our manager, like Rose? Even though the sacrifice is too great, we allow ourselves to be bombarded with another project.
But why do we do it? Unfortunately, to make ourselves feel valuable and relevant. We have convinced ourselves that sacrifice is a form of job security.
"Let It Go"
After Rose reveals that she can “handle anything,” the window wants her to reveal more gifts and talents. When Rose’s initial demonstration is met with being shown to the door, Rose rejects the dismissal and begs the widow for the job.
Decisions made from a place of despair will always result in catastrophe. “Do not be anxious for anything…” Wait a moment, read the signs, pay attention to your gut. If it doesn’t check out stop fighting for opportunities that are not connected to your purpose and calling. LET IT GO!
"Don’t Cast your Pearls"
To save the job opportunity, Rose decides to reveal her superpowers only to have them exploited.
Every opportunity is not a good one. Yes, it pays more. Yes, it comes with a fancier title. Yes, you can move from the cubicle to an office. Yes, you’re at the table with the “important people” now. Those are wonderful things, but are you being exploited or valued?
Don’t give away your gifts, talents, and expertise only to receive trinkets and death (mentally, physically, spiritually) in the end.
“And Kryptonite will destroy” her
Rose complied with the widow’s requests because she was in a weakened state.
Unfortunately, many women are in a similar predicament. We find ourselves giving away our powers because we don’t believe other options are available…to us.
The belief that we are out of options is a woman’s Kryptonite.
I shudder when I think back to the (bad) decisions I have made in the past because I thought other options weren’t available to ME. Now I recognize that I didn’t have an availability issue; I had a visibility issue (inability to truly see myself).
So, my Dear Professional Women, can we talk?