How I Found My Voice as a Woman in Corporate America

Written by Sage Lefkowitz

“Are you sure you want to eat that?,” a former boss said to me as I was about to take a bite of a breakfast egg and cheese sandwich. I was 23, working in Manhattan for a large retail chain in corporate America and ten pounds heavier than I wanted to be. However, I hated my job, and that beautiful breakfast sandwich gave me comfort. So, I looked him in the eye and took a bite. That moment and metaphorical “F you” would be the start of a series of misfortunate events that I would experience in corporate America as a woman. If I were a man, I would have never been asked that question, and it felt wrong that I kept this interaction a secret until ten years later. Yet, this is what I was conditioned to do by society. I believed that if I suppressed my emotions, I could rise in the chain of command and hope to make as much as a man someday.

My Reckoning with Corporate America

Until now, it felt unacceptable to show up as myself. I was never good enough. I had emotions and feelings, and if I showed any of them, it was a sign of weakness. I watched women around me, afraid to say they were pregnant in fear of not being taken seriously, then only given two weeks of maternity leave and expected to return within three months of giving birth after time off without pay.

I am happy to see how far some corporate companies have come with attempts to provide equal pay, longer maternity leave, and acknowledging that women leaders don’t need to act like male leaders, but we still have a long way to go. It’s taken me years to realize that what is expected of me as a woman in the workplace is unreasonable and unequal.

Why should I have to behave like a man, when being a woman is far more empowering?

How I Found My Voice in Corporate America

I always resonated with Eleanor Roosevelt, and she was right, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So how come so many of us allow it?

Untrain the Mind

Untraining the mind is the hardest challenge I’ve been faced with. I find myself judging women who lead heart-first, and yet, I am one of them. My insecurities have become my judgments. A common mistake we all make as humans. It wasn’t until I started working with Joan of Sparc that I realized, I can show up how I am and not only be just as good as a man at my job but magnificent as myself. There is no better leader than one who can lead as their true authentic self regardless of gender, and I am so grateful for my founding Sparc Sisters for this realization. Their continued support in my journey of undoing the trained corporate mind encouraged me to write this blog post in hopes that even if one of you beautiful ladies resonates and makes a change, it’s worth the vulnerability.

Question Your Beliefs

Technology software has traditionally been a man’s world. A nerdy man’s world, but mostly men nonetheless. I am constantly surrounded by men, and this belief of having to prove myself, since I’m a woman, has followed me with every job I have held. Until recently, I didn’t realize that I am part of the issue. I allowed this, but it was a thought so entangled in society during my upbringing that the older I got, the harder it became to change.

Embrace Your Womanhood

“You kick like a girl. You throw like a girl.” Growing up, it was such an insult. “No, I don’t,” I would reply and practice until I could throw “like a boy.” I was fortunate enough to have parents who raised me to be independent and strong. I can only imagine who I would be if I didn’t grow up that way. Now we have inspiring ads, from Nike, for example, which empower girls to throw like a girl. “So what if I throw like a girl? I am a girl!” Now, I’m applying this to my career. I act like a woman; I think like a woman. It’s because I am a woman and there is nothing wrong with that. Slowly but surely, I am taking the power back that I so easily gave away to conform to what corporate society told me to be.

Know Your Worth

Did you know that women are four times less likely to ask for a raise than a man? Why? As a gender, we are generally less confrontational and more eager to please. Asking for more money can be an uncomfortable conversation, so we tend to shy from it, but what if we didn’t? What if we just asked? Could we raise the bar? My mother always said, “the worst thing they can say is no.” So, I asked. I had to ask several times, but I didn’t give up, and I eventually got even more than what I asked for.

A Promise From Joan of Sparc

At Joan of Sparc, we are working to change the corporate mentality, and women will always be equals. We will support one another, accept each other for how we show up, and strive to lead heart first. Our core values will remain strong as we grow, and we will acknowledge each other’s milestones and successes. We will be the change we hope to see.

Whether it’s in corporate America or everyday life, I hope that you wake up every morning knowing that you are enough just as you are – a badass woman taking it one day at a time.

You can do and become anything and anyone you wish to be. To quote the Notorious RBG, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

Sparc Sessions are designed to strengthen your relationship with yourself, so you can clearly hear your inner-voice and no longer question what your intuition is trying to tell you. You’ll build self-trust so that your decisions reflect who you really are and what you’re looking to accomplish.