Connecting with Women

Posted on February 3, 2011 by Carolyn Golz

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As we geared up to launch #WLsalt, Teri suggested that we reach out to our networks and solicit #WLsalt evangelists to help us grow this initiative. I immediately thought of one or two women who I knew I wanted to invite to join us, but then… I realized that I am not closely connected to many women in Student Affairs. Most of my close connections in the field are men, and it has always been that way for me. And yet, here I am, a part of this group of strong women leaders who are committed to furthering the development and advancement of women in the field.  I had to pause and reflect on where I’ve been and how I got here.

I’ve always gotten along better with boys than girls. I was a tomboy, I played in the dirt, and my competitive streak seemed to “get in the way” of friendships with girls. As I grew older and went away to college, most of my friends were male, but I did have a few very good female friends. Unfortunately, my stereotypically masculine way of communicating (direct) tended to hurt other women’s feelings. My closest female friend in college labeled me as “insensitive” – she used this term jokingly but I know she was somewhat serious about it. Thankfully, she also saw beyond the insensitive label otherwise, we wouldn’t have maintained our close friendship over the years.

My style of communicating with others still causes strife at times, and I need to be sensitive to the needs of others. I was recently told that I need to be more “touchy feely” if I want to be a Dean of Students in the future.  While I don’t necessarily agree with that gendered assertion, I understand the message that this person was trying to send. As long as others are put off by my method of communication, I will not be as effective as I could be in my role within Student Affairs. I need to continue to build the skills that make it possible to communicate across barriers, in a variety of settings.

I’ve learned, over time that women can be the best support system for other women and I need to let down my guard to develop relationships with more women. As an introvert, I wouldn’t typically have reached out to and connected with the #sachat women at #wli10, but I’m glad that twitter helped me do so in a more comfortable way.  These women are very supporting and as we move forward with our @sawomenlead and #WLsalt initiative, I look forward to getting to know them better.

How does gender affect your relationships with others? Does it? How can we continue to breakdown stereotypes about gender roles and communication styles?

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