Timi Gleason

Leadership Coach

Timi Gleason | A Senior Leadership Coach in California

Timi Gleason

Timi Gleason is a Senior Leadership Coach in California. She has Fortune 200 Human Resources leadership background, is a Strategic Planner and author of books on strategic thinking. Her latest Amazon book is Becoming Strategic: Leading with Focus and Inspiration. Coach Timi’s experience crosses many diverse industries. She also creates career roadmaps for professionals using Numerology, Gallup Strengths, and the Fascination assessments, and is a regular contributor on Quora.com.

The Only Girl in the Room

The first time I experienced being the only girl in the room, I was in high school and 17 years old. I thought I wanted to be an Engineer in a radio station, so I requested to enroll in an Electronics 101 class. I had to be screened by the male teacher and recommended by my female career counselor to get in. It was 1967, and I was growing up in San Francisco. Although it was literally the Summer of Love, I didn’t feel any love as I entered the first day of class and sat down. There weren’t any welcoming looks; rather, the boys snickered at me, figuring that I had entered their class by mistake.

That was my first big step into facing down issues with Inclusion. In addition, to being able to navigate ordinary household electronics and soldering, it was empowering as I grew into womanhood.

Then, at age 25, I reached out to promote a solution to the State of California, Employment Office (EDD), right out of college. I proposed a job creation and program to the Director of Health and Welfare to solve three problems that my campus, the students, and EDD had. My bold idea attracted attention, and soon, my local administrator was being forced to interview me by the regional officer above him.

I was made to feel unwelcome. Upon being escorted into his office, he refused to shake my hand in greeting. Although shaking hands was new to me as a 25-year-old, it shouldn’t have been to him. He rebuffed my goodbye handshake at the end of our interview, too. What I didn’t know was that he’d been told to hire me, and that both EDD and my college campus had approved my proposal, and I had the full support of the California State Department of Health and Welfare. Although I felt like giving up, a much nicer man circles back with me within two days offered me a career job of my own making.

Through the network I developed working for the State of California, I was later recruited for a coveted Human Resources job when I was 35. I had transferable skills and no HR Director or industry experience. Then, seven years into that position, the infamous Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill court case went public. Until the sexual harassment laws changed, I spent seven years educating and forgiving my fellow managers and too many men in the company for their dumb remarks.

I worked in the male-dominated daily newspaper business, which was a rough industry even for incoming males. I had my hands full with my career and being a wife and mother. I set a goal to have my peers learn to value the foundational role of my department.  

As the years went on, my initially resistant peers would make heartfelt calls from their new jobs to thank me for helping them be more promotable. Then, they would apologize for not listening and admit they had not realized the power of support I had been providing. Now, that they didn’t have it, it was lonely at the top.

You may be thinking: Yes, but what about YOU? You DESERVED promotions and recognition too.” I have to say that it came later. Where I benefitted was in honing my ability to win over my male peers. In those days, that was a skill. I gained in influence and credibility. I was becoming powerful in my intuitive and change management skills which supported our profitability. And my rewards would come later, often by huge leaps and bounds instead of the gradual financial gain of annual pay reviews and promotions within the same company each year. I would be recruited away; I was needed to help in other industries.

All this “awakening” was happening before the concepts of “politically correct” or “corporate culture” were introduced. It was during the initiation of drug testing and when desktop computers were new and we had to constantly train people to correctly behave when using security cards to enter buildings.

My belief is that bad behavior is always stressful behavior. When you can see the stress, which might be fear of change, you have a chance to turn around the bad behavior by reducing the stress first.

And these days, when I find people STILL being sexist or demeaning to any one, I say, “Gosh, don’t you know anything about the Me TOO Movement? How much longer do you think you can keep saying such things and not get into trouble?

“I don’t want any trouble” is usually the answer. Generally, people lack ideas for how to change. Most of the time, being the only woman in the room is a place of honor, if they are looking for insight or a different spin on things. Approach it like a pioneer: high discovery: no judgment.

Change is incremental.

I learned this from Randolph “Dennis” Kennedy in a seminar he gave on the various eras of the Civil Rights Movement. I learned this from the Tuskegee Black Pilots, Martin Luther King, and 21st century teenager and LGBT rights activist Jazz Jennings. At the heart of Leadership is inspiration. As outsiders, we have the opportunity to up-level social standards. The more against the odds our position is, the more potentially powerful your eventual success will be. And when you are willing to give others some time to adjust, and because when you believe in yourself and in the process, others will come to celebrate you. But I won’t lie, success comes to those who are willing to do the right thing, with or without visible support.

Please feel free to connect to me at www.linkedIn.com/in/timigleason/ or to send me your questions and suggestions for future articles.