That’s the first career advice I ever remember receiving. I was 13 years old working my first job. I had convinced the Tulsa Oilers, a minor league baseball team, to hire me as their first female vendor to sell peanuts, popcorn and Crackerjacks.
My pre-work routine was to go to the third base side of the stadium and watch the players warm up on the field.
A group of baseball scouts were always there too. One of the scouts realized I was obsessed with baseball so he started telling me some of his tricks of the trade.
He also asked me enough questions about my world outside of the ballpark to know I was interested in many other things too. For instance, I was proud of helping launch my junior high school’s newspaper that school year and serving as the paper’s editor.
During one of our informal chats, he shared his prescriptive advice specifically about not dating athletes and ideally giving them a wide berth.
In retrospect, this served as my most valuable career guidance – timely, relevant and personal – especially during my high school years when several of the cheerleaders got pregnant, which dramatically changed their career paths.
Over the years, his advice and my experiences with him had burrowed deep in the recesses of my brain. This fall I retrieved it after reflecting on a guest lecture I attended at a College of Charleston class on organizational behavior and change. The students were seniors and all but one were females.
The speaker, a former investment banker turned entrepreneur, gave an inspiring talk about innovation and the need to always be questioning the status quo.
He also explained that he believes women are well positioned to innovate because of their ability to build and sustain relationships and be good team members.
Research backs him up as women tend to be more socially sensitive than men. Women also are often more effective at being attuned to others, being empathetic, and putting themselves in others’ shoes. This social awareness, which also includes encouraging team members to take turns talking, contributes to greater team harmony and better team performance.
Yet, as a society, we have to face the facts that women are unequal players with men. And when I asked the guest lecturer about his point of view about the many challenges women still face in the work world, he says the #metoo movement gives him hope.
The #metoo movement as well as Time Magazine’s 2017 person of the year, The Silence Breakers are bringing needed attention to the sexual harassment primarily of women. And men are paying attention.
However, we also need movements like the new TIME’S UP. Organized by women in the entertainment industry and designed for women everywhere, TIME’S UP plans to address “the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.”
The movement is partnering with advocates to improve laws, help provide more access to the legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable, negotiate better employment agreements, add different faces to boardrooms and the executive suite, and improve organizational policies.
For instance, the policies that many organizations follow hurt women and other underrepresented groups. For example, we need to mitigate biases in job descriptions and hiring, pay equitable compensation, provide better access to reproductive health care, devote more research to women’s health issues, offer greater work flexibility and more child care options, encourage more individuals to serve as mentors, and be creative in other ways to eliminate the “war on women” that marginalizes females.
To benefit fully from the cultural shift we’re now experiencing thanks to #meetoo and new movements like TIME’S UP, all of us – especially those of us of a certain age and experience level — need to take daily actions to be more like the mentor of my youth.
That wizened old baseball scout went out of his way to engage me in conversations, encourage me to speak up, and listen to what I had to say.
He actively guided me to firmly plant my feet on the ground while reaching for the stars–not baseball stars but instead meaningful goals for me. Those goals weren’t as big as I should have made them, but they did provide a north star for me to start and stay on a solid career path.
How about agreeing that we need to treat each other with dignity and respect?
And better yet, let’s take time now to stand up, speak out and take action for equality for all.