Mistaken Identity: The Assumption That Women in Leadership Are Men in Email Communication
As a woman with a chemical engineering degree, I have become accustomed to the shocked looks and the comments that I receive being a woman Science, Technology, Leadership Coaching Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professional. Although, I have pursued a nontraditional STEM career path; I realize that the percentage of women in STEM careers, especially African American women is very low in comparison to men. Women are almost 46.5 percent of the workforce, but for most STEM disciplines the percentage of women in those fields are 30% or below. Those numbers get lower when it comes to career paths in the engineering disciplines. STEM is still a white male dominated field, but I hope that I’m doing my part to change that along with all the other initiatives to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers.
I don’t believe that my name is gender neutral. Tokiwa is a very feminine name; even though it is commonly used as a surname in its country of origin Japan. However since starting my business I’m amazed how often in email correspondence people are addressing me as Mr. Smith instead of Ms. Smith. I’m not certain of the source of the assumption that I’m male and not female. Statistics show that the majority of businesses in this country are women owned businesses. Does the assumption come based on the fact that in our country most positions of leadership in organizations are held by men? Does it come from the fact that although I’m a social entrepreneur since I’m interacting with STEM professionals, which is a still a male dominated field, to help me accomplish the mission of my organization?
In our society so many assumptions are made based on the fact that most positions of power are historically held by Caucasian men. However, I wonder with the changing demographics of our nation are women, especially women of color, holding more positions of power and leadership in businesses in all sectors especially entrepreneurship and nonprofits. In corporate America, the statistics for women in executive and board positions is less than 20 %. There are 10 million women owned businesses which means about almost 50% of the businesses in this nation are owned by women. Women owned businesses are growing at a rate twice of those owned by men. However, African women own an average of 16 % of all businesses in various industries.