6 Things That Happen When You’re A Female Leader In A Male-Dominated Field


I work part time as the student manager of my college’s TV station. I am the first female head in the station’s 4-year life. While I’m certainly no big-shot producer yet, I’m already getting a taste of what it’ll be like having a vagina in the real world of TV and film production, should I choose to go that route.

I don’t presume to speak for anyone but myself, but here’s some shit I put up with on a daily basis.

1. People not only refuse to believe I’m in charge, but also assume that my male subordinates are.

Just the other day, the (male) Student Body President was contacted by some startup looking to work with student filmmakers to put videos up on TVs around campus. The President forwarded along the email to our (male) Creative Director, who is responsible for our film equipment and general technical and aesthetic things, despite the fact that the inquiry had approximately nothing to do with the Creative Director’s job description and approximately everything to do with mine.

2. If people accept that I’m in charge, they refuse to believe I’m doing it on my own.

A (male) faculty member that I had met in years previous recently emailed me concerning some videos he wanted produced for his department. “Emma! I hear you’re co-managing [TV station name] this year!” The station has only ever had one manager at a time. That doesn’t change with genitalia.

3. My male colleagues are blissfully unaware of what I go through (bless their hearts).

This list is not meant to disparage any of my male peers, or imply that they’re stupid or evil. I work with several wonderful and talented men who make my job a million times better every day. But they have no idea – it’s never been a necessity for them to have any idea – that I am perpetually wading through a sea of misogyny just to do my job. It’s not their fault – it’s just not on their radar. The result being that they are adorably confused whenever someone assumes that they have authority over me, even though I’m their boss. “Someone from Student Senate asked me a bunch of questions about our budget…why did he think I would know about that? I’m the Marketing Coordinator.” Um, I know why. You have a dick.

4. I am called a bitch so often, it’s become a nickname.

Last year I went on a date with an insignificant dolt of a person. I started talking about some of the things I’m involved in, including the TV station. He interrupted with “Oh yeah I’ve heard you’re really ambitious.” Oh great, I thought, that’s good. Nope. “Yeah people say you’re a huge bitch. My friends told me not to hang out with you. They said you’d bite my head off.” As if I fucking castrated someone to get where I am. The concept of a woman getting paid to tell other people what to do, while also being a nice person, is somehow not in society’s conceptual framework. Especially if the people she’s bossing around are men.

5. (Almost) no one believes that the problems I face are the result of anything but my own incompetence.

This is the worst one. We as humans don’t want to believe that forces out of our control can do bad things to people. We don’t want to believe that a person can be really good at something and still fail because of a variable they couldn’t change. We ignore evidence to the contrary. Whenever I try to tell people that being a leader is harder for me because I’m a woman, I almost always get dismissed, ridiculed, or rejected. Especially (but not exclusively) by men. When I vented to a previous (male) station head about being constantly interrupted at meetings, he literally didn’t believe me, trying to find other explanations. As a person in a position of privilege and power, it was damn near impossible for him to see what was going on to those lower on the pyramid. (Again, not his fault, but society’s fault. My predecessor is an awesome individual – see #2.) It’s just not part of mainstream conditioning to acknowledge shit like this. Which leads me to…

6. I internalize messages about my incompetence.

Just kidding. This is the worst one. I struggle constantly to beat back thoughts of “maybe I just need to be more assertive,” or “maybe I’m not talented enough for this.” When you’re constantly being told at every turn that any friction you encounter is you’re own fault, it’s hard not to take that shit to heart.