Thriving in the world of men: what I tell female digital nomads when they doubt themselves
I can relate. Most of my projects now have a 95% workforce. I even have one where I am the only woman on the team. I know it can get really challenging. I also feel that they’re always against me but what you need to understand is that we are an entirely different creature from men – our cognitive responses towards each other are never the same.
As a female digital nomad working in the world of tech dominated by men, I found some ways on how to encourage myself and co-exist with men. In this post, I will share with you some of the tips I learned from that journey.
I am also a person of color so it’s sort of a double whammy for me. I am not saying I have more adversities than you do. It’s actually great to know that a white woman like you can experience the same prejudice.
I hope you’ll gain some insights and enthusiasm in this post. It’s pretty raw and I haven’t edited it but feel free to send me a message on Instagram for your insights!
Good luck! The force is always with you.
Tap yourself on the back
I was on the women’s football varsity team in all the schools I’ve been to. I even tried out to be in the national team in the Philippines but failed to agree to the number of hours I have to train and be on the field. I was a striker and I was really good. In the early years of my football career, I spent 2 months on the bench and made it to Team A right away. I did not require any residency period to be able to play with the big guns because I was that good. I was one of the 3 youngest players who made the cut. I received college scholarships left and right because of my skills. Everyone wanted me to play for their teams.
In the middle of my 3-month try-outs for my college applications, I sustained a serious knee injury from a tournament that my team won. It turned out that I had an ACL injury and will need months of therapy and rest. Meaning, I will not finish my month-long college try-outs and I will miss practice. My world fell apart and at that time, playing football was the only thing I believed I was good at, and that I can never do other things. I was 17.
Doctors and health coaches from my team gave me a therapy plan that will last for 6 months and when they presented it to me, I told them, “I do not have 6 months. I am really really really good at what I do so you need to fix this fast.” At that age, my mom was not surprised that I would say or demand something like that but she was kind of taken aback by the way I said it. “Everyone knows you are good but at least be a little humble about it?”
“Why? Coach said that if you are good, you need to tap yourself on the back because that gives you more motivation. Praising yourself does not mean you are being boastful or arrogant.” I responded.
And that stuck to me up until today, now that I am 33. I was already a feminist at the age of 10 so I don’t find praising yourself as a bad thing, especially in our culture today that it is often being frowned upon. In many workplace settings, I realized when men say, “I am awesome,” nobody will say anything but if we women do it, people take a second look. This is the reason why a lot of great women I know are not very comfortable praising themselves publicly but giving yourself positive feedback about your accomplishments will reflect on how other people look at you. It will stick. Lack of self-praise is like sending a message to yourself (and to everyone out there) that their opinions are more important than your own. If you believe that you are good, then everyone will fall in line. You are what you give to the world.
From sharing my successes in this blog, I found out that many other people out there (not just women) learned from my best practices and eventually applied them to what they do. If you are genuinely enthusiastic and positive about what you do, it will infect other people in ways you cannot imagine. It will inspire other people to share their victories and self-praises as well. It will be a domino effect! Additionally, if you already know how to give self-praise, then you do not need validation from other people and you won’t feel depressed if the work that you do is not being recognized. You will always have YOU.
A girl needs to eat
Last year, I was invited to speak at an online conference for female digital nomads. Though I always make sure to give back to the community of women (which I continue to do online), the company that invited me was asking that I give a lucrative workshop about how to become a digital nomad, at a time of COVID where it is very relevant. They were asking that I give the workshop for $25 USD instead of my $350 USD per hour rate.
There were many wars in my head when I was thinking about the offer: first, I do not need exposure anymore – I am a credible authority in this field and I can give an extensive, and very generous workshop based on my experiences. If I take this, I will be able to tap a new wave of an audience that will, over time, bring income. However, I wasn’t really focusing on having a larger tribe last year since I focused on other projects (outside of this blog).
Second, the company who was inviting me to speak is big. And I know that they have money. A girl’s got to eat, man. Gone are the days when I would exchange my services for a product or something that isn’t money. I did that a lot and it helped me grew as a female digital nomad but as my hard labor blossomed, the quality of what I do also did. The monetary value of that work also increased. We can’t stay at one level all the time so bear in mind that the harder you work, the greater your value becomes, even if it takes years. Believe me, I did not do this overnight! When I first started, there weren’t any guides on how to do this compared to today where a digital nomad crash course is easily accessible.
Third, if I don’t do this, I will not be able to help those female digital nomads who are participating so what I did was offer some free courses that were already in my blog. That way, I do not need to put extra time and effort into creating a workshop especially for an event that will mostly benefit the company and not their participants.
So I politely declined and found out I was replaced by a white woman who has way fewer credentials and authority than me. Plus, they paid her $250 USD. I did not get pissed because I already learned how to make peace that a woman and a person of color like me do not get the same treatment. More often than not, my qualifications are less amplified over a white person. It took me years to be okay with that but being okay with it does not mean I will accept anything that is below my paygrade.
If you are not aware, the gender pay gap is real and it will only stop once we amplify our voices and learn to fight for our rights. Not to mention that I am also dealing with the racial pay gap – two different subjects but I experience them every day in the workforce. I need to deal with both and that will be discussed in the next item.
Believe that what you are doing is important
In 2015, I was assigned as a Project Director for a European brand’s one-year digital marketing campaign. Of course, I was the only woman on that team. Like Rose (who wrote the message at the beginning of this blog post), I also felt [indirectly] attacked by my team members because they seem to always find a way to disagree with what I want to happen with the project.
“With or without the gender issue, I am the Project Director and you are all under me. So we do what I want us to do.” That’s what I told them (and myself) all the time. Sometimes, it was pretty discouraging and tedious for me to fight these small battles every day. It does not bring productivity to my workplace. I want a solid team that is united and can do the task assigned to them but I cannot do that if I can’t make them listen. So what got me by was the hierarchy – I am your boss. You do what I tell you. That’s how a workplace works anywhere in the world. Of course, they did not have a choice but they did talk a lot behind my back. And I am okay with that. I do not have the time to please anyone. I am here because I am fit for the job. I was hired because none of you are competitive enough to do it so in order for you to get rid of me, you need to up your game.
My intern from France – hmmm…. let’s call him Lorin. So, my intern Lorin and I were pretty close. He worked directly with me and took orders from me. We had online lunch breaks together, millions of Whatsapp chats and when he went backpacking in South America, he asked me for a lot of tips and advice. I just finished my 3.5 years backpacking spree at the time so my experiences were fresh. I happily passed all the information he needed. He had an all-access pass because he was a very young boy starting college and have an extremely adventurous sense of self. We were already working together for 2 years (on my second campaign as a Project Director) when the salary topic casually turned up in one of our conversations. We were both bitching about how the big bosses suck and how poorly they manage themselves but I was happy since I was being paid well.
In the middle of the conversation, I gaped when I found out that Lorin, an intern from France is earning $1,000 USD more than me. I did not tell him what I was being paid for the project but I immediately hung up, took a deep breath and processed how to react. I can’t be angry right away otherwise I will send e-mails I will regret after 5 minutes. The ugly thing about being a digital nomad is that your rights as a worker are not 100% protected. I couldn’t go to Human Resources (HR) because I was not signed as an official employee. I was just a third-party provider or short-term project manager so I am not registered as one of them.
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I am Filipino so it will be hard for them to hire me legally. The EU rules dictate that you can only hire someone outside of the EU if you cannot find the most qualified candidate for the job within the region. There are 30+ countries in the European Union — it is NOT impossible for them to find someone who has the same qualifications as me. And if they justify that they need to bring me in, that will cost them a lot of money and paperwork so we stayed with the freelance contract. They also did not waste time in posting the job offer in the EU because they already know they wanted me.
As I said, I cannot file a complaint with HR so what I did was I went directly to the upper upper upper boss as I also had direct contact with him. I used my cards right. I did not drop the intern salary card right away. I had a lot of cards to play. First, I discussed how one of the campaigns I did for them worked well. After all, I wouldn’t be hired to do another one of the first one failed. That was followed by, “I think it’s about time you raise my salary.” I always believed that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But guess what? It was a hard NO for him.
That’s when I decided to drop the intern card but I did not throw Lorin under the bus. We have a lot of European interns in my team so I could’ve just gotten the information from anyone. No names were dropped.
The way he responded makes me cringe up until today. Are you fcking kidding me?! He said that I am from the Philippines where the minimum wage is $11 USD per day as opposed to Europe’s minimum which ranges from €10.25 per hour. This was his justification and this was how they dealt with freelance contracts. So, I got this salary because I am from the Philippines? What about my qualifications? What about my work? What about the value I bring to your company?
This is the part where I was saying I need to deal with both the gender and the racial pay gap. As a digital nomad for over a decade, I do not believe I should be paid depending on where I am from because I AM FCKING AWESOME AT WHAT I DO. Again, I really did say fcking awesome and he knows that. He believes that too. I asked the second time (this time, nicely, without all the curse words) and he still gave me a hard NO.
That was the only project I was working on that year. I did not say yes to the others because I want to focus and give my 100% to them. I believe I am better with one focused project than 10 half-baked ones. Even if I did not have a backup job, I resigned right then and there. I walked out the door and left them in a middle of a campaign that only I know how to execute. They had to start from zero if they were moving on without me.
I know I told you a girl’s got to eat but we need to put a great value on what we do, especially if we know that we are really good at it. You have to believe that what you are doing is important because it really is. Dealing with both this gender and racial gap wage issue is fcking tiring but what can I do? If I stop fighting for it, then I am not helping the many other women of color who continue to fight for it even if they get nothing. At least not yet. The more united we are, the more our voices roar so don’t feel like your opinion does not matter. If we all unite and don’t take shit from anyone, then the world will adjust to us. They will give us what we want, believe me.
For a while there, I totally crippled them and the campaigns we were working on for months. And they know it. After a year, I got a call from the upper upper upper boss I filed a complaint from saying he wants me back.
I said I will only come back if you triple my salary. And he did.
I am the one whom they call ``too much``
You’re too friendly, too honest, too open, too sexy, too funny, too smart, too opinionated, too loud, too nice. I have lost count on how many times I’ve been told I’m “too much,” especially in the dating department.
Has anybody told you you are too much? How did you approach it? I know a lot of women who get really offended and affected by this but my response was pretty different: SO WHAT?!?!?!
Me being too much brought us to greater heights. Me being too much got us that client we’ve been courting for years. Me being too much gained your company 4,000 Instagram followers in one day. Me being too much skyrocketed our sales to $90,000 USD on Black Friday. Me being too much….. oh gosh, I can’t go on anymore because me being too much can give 100+ positive outcomes I have delivered to my clients that brought greater value to their brands.
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I am too much. SO WHAT?! I realized that the more I am at peace with who I am, the more productive I get in the workforce. A lot of people are not clear about what they want and I am. I never had a period in my life where “I am lost. What do I do?” I always know what to do when faced with difficult circumstances. You know why? I know what I want because I know and accept who I am. And if you clearly and genuinely know these things about yourself, then you’ll become an asset not just in the workforce but to your well-being.
Accept the fact that some things, you just have to let go of. You cannot work with everyone and you have to be okay with that. The more you push it, the more you will produce half-baked results. Don’t you ever push working with people who think you are “too much” just because the pay is good. You need to feel good (and comfortable) in your workplace and more importantly, do not apologize for who you are. Please, don’t you ever do that to yourself.
If you also receive this comment a lot, please remember to love the “too much woman” in you. Remember you are the one who also loves too hard, cares too genuinely, feels too deeply. You are the one who goes 100% or nothing at all. You are the one who never holds back. Embrace the woman that you are because more often than not, women who are “too much” are the ones who are truly alive. You don’t need to change. Don’t you ever take shit from anyone.
Lean on your fellow female digital nomad
I love being a woman and I feel very fortunate to be born one. In all my bios online, I always put “A storyteller and a friend to many amazing women.” I actually got that from Sheryl Sandberg who also has a lot of influence on what I am today (even if I hate who she works for). Through my job, I have met many female digital nomads who have a unique voice and are doing something different from what I do. I can’t imagine my life without the influence of many women around me who have supported my work and believed in what I can do. You need a tribe, girl! You need overwhelming love from your fellow women. You need the safety net of a fellow woman’s support.
From being independently traveling the world for 13 years now, I always believed that a woman alone has power. But I also believe that collectively, we have a greater impact. We, women, are more powerful when we empower each other. We are more courageous when we encourage each other. We are allies, not rivals. To all the women who are part of my tribe, I’ve raised my voice with you, I stood up to anything and anyone with you. I leaned on you and we accomplished amazing things.
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However, you should also understand that female energy can also backfire. I myself am not good at mingling with big women groups. What you need to understand that not all women can be your tribe. Some will like you, some won’t. Stay away from fellow female digital nomads who don’t go well with your feminine energy and stick to those who will understand it. It doesn’t matter how many women you have in your tribe. Don’t make pleasing everyone or making every single female digital nomad your friend. You just need to stick with the energy and the feeling of compatibility. Otherwise, you know how women can fight – it is very ugly.
There are lots of female digital nomad groups online and I am also planning to make one. If you are interested in joining, just send me a message on Instagram and I’ll add you to that tribe!
On feminism: lessons from men
At the beginning of COVID, I received lots of projects from Mexico-based companies run by Americans and Canadians. Since I live in Mexico, it was an opportunity for me to actually work with people in-person. I always just do online work and have not actually met the people I have worked with. This was a chance for me to see how my in-person skills are.
This was different since these companies did not find me online. It was just a word of mouth from past clients. I received an e-mail from Company A asking for a physical meeting. My name, Trisha, is a very American name. Actually, my legal name is Ana Patricia. In the Philippines, we change the Spanish names to English names because we like ‘hollywoodinizing’ our names. I grew up to be Trisha even if I am Ana Patricia in all my legal documents. I also have a decent American English accent over the phone. I also believe I write pretty damn well in English for a non-native speaker. It’s really hard to say where I am from through e-mails exchanges and phone calls.
I arrive Company A’s office and when I entered their conference room, it was filled with white men. They all looked at me like, “You’re Trisha? Oh wow, I thought we were meeting an American.” They did not say those exact words but through the look in their eyes, I felt that. Here’s the thing: when you are a woman and a person of color, you pick up these vibes easily. You know that look when you don’t get second chances so you better not fuck this up because you are not white. I get that a lot. I also don’t look super Asian and I speak Spanish fluently so they thought I was Mexican.
The meeting went on and on until they finally asked where I am from. It’s funny how people’s behavior change whenever they find out where you are from. I believe this is a conversation we should discuss in another blog post, of course, as this one is already becoming painfully long to read. Anyway, I got the gig and like my project in the EU, I was once again, surrounded by a 95% man workforce. This time, I was already well prepared. The digital marketing budget is hard to justify since it can fly to different places that you don’t have control of. In the beginning, they always said NO to my marketing budget proposals. Mexico is a little bit behind when it comes to social media/influencer/digital marketing so you have to really fight hard to get the budget.
Dr. Robert Ley of the American Institute of Cognitive Therapy says there are many factors why men don’t listen to women.
- Men view this relationship towards women (romantically or at work) as a power struggle. Like a win-lose thing. If a woman is persistent and is continually expressing her feelings, she’s winning and he’s losing.
- Some men feel they can respond to women by being sarcastic. Instead of responding as an adult, they drop sarcastic comments like, “relax. You must have your period” or other jokes related to women’s hormones even if it has nothing to do with it.
- The macho culture: if you agree to a woman and/or if you use the emotional language that women use, then it will be labeled as unmanly.
- When women are expressive, men become very dysregulated emotionally. Their hearts raise, they become very anxious while the woman endlessly talks. Hence, they choose to be quiet and just ignore the conversation.
In another research by the Indiana University School of Medicine, they emphasize how different men’s and women’s brains are. They function in different ways which suggest that those differences extend to how we listen. Men and women have significant differences in how they process verbal information. “Men, it seems, listen with the left side of our brain, which is more linear and logic-driven; women use both sides. Men also navigate differently than women. Women rely more on landmarks and context; men on the compass.”
I didn’t give up on the hard NOs easily but what I did was brilliant and it’s still working up until today. I can’t believe I am sharing this publicly. With that acquired knowledge about the behavior of men towards women (and vice-versa), in order for me to get the marketing budget that I want, what I did was to make them believe that they were the ones who thought about it. That it was their idea.
For every budget meeting, I would drop words like, “Robert, remember you suggested this?” “Hey Allan, it was your idea to invest more in ad placements.” “Justin, you are the ones you told me to do this so I am just doing what I was told.”
The truth is all of these are my ideas. And they are brilliant. I mean, who says no to brilliant ideas? No one. It’s a matter of taking credit so even if I won’t take credit for it, I am okay. I already took a lot of credit in my life. I already had the glory days of praise, magazine covers, TED talks BBC radio shows – I don’t really need more. My friend said I am crazy for making these men think it was their idea but this was the only way I can get the budget I needed. If I don’t have that amount in full, I cannot do my job the best way I know how so I need 100% of my budget ask.
With this strategy, I am not belittling myself. It’s just credit. The important thing is that things get done and that’s what people hire me for – to get shit done. As long as it is done and everyone’s happy, then I am happy. What I get in return from this is that they continue hiring me for contractual works and they passed the word to their colleagues which lead me to more clients and bigger projects. And that equates to… Cha ching!! INCOME.
My point is, it’s okay to tame the too much woman in you depending on the circumstance. You need to be clear about your goals: do you really need the credit or it will benefit you more if the job gets done?
And believe it or not, this was a lesson I learned from working with men. I did not come up with this out of thin air because I was also very painfully aware of how difficult it is to be the only woman in a team.
Being a feminist doesn't mean we hate men
This is one of the ugliest assumptions about being a feminist. It is also the one I hate the most. Why is feminism always synonymous with being a man-hater??? WHY?!?!?!
To be fair, not all men I worked with are threatened by a powerful woman. In fact, the powerful the woman is, the more they view them as an equal. I speak from experience. My colleague – hmmm, let’s call him Eduard, is an American man married to an Indian-American woman. Through this cross-cultural relationship, Eduard’s world turned around – he understands and supports the idea of gender equality and he’s all for it, believe me. Eduard and his wife are in the same industry and have the same salary range so they have a 50-50 relationship on the household share. That is now being passed on to their children, who are, at a very young age, do not label the color blue for boys only. His sons would wear pink shirts in school. His daughter will play football with her brothers. All their children do the same chores as opposed to assigning the boys to garden or assigning their daughter to wash the dishes.
Eduard knows that women’s issue is a human rights issue. He understands how important it is to stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible, and united force to achieve gender equality. He does not feel emasculated. His friends would always joke that he is afraid of his wife and that he can never talk back to her. Every time someone tells him this, he pushes back: “you have daughters too. Your mother is a woman. Your sister is a woman. Your aunts are women. Your nieces are women. When your daughter grows up, do you want her to experience gender prejudice? Do you want gender inequality to last until your 6-month old daughter, is what, 30 years old?” Men are always taken aback every time he drops this line.
Now, on our side as women, we should not always use the woman card towards men. We need to invite them to the conversation. You can use Eduard’s response as an example of how to make men understand that this isn’t a battle of genders. It should be a movement of solidarity because if we achieve gender equality, our economies and the world will change for the better. This is for everyone. If you ask me, the faster men get involved the faster we will get to the finish line. I would like to live to see the day that all men and women are created equal (literally).
Please Jesus Christ, The Universe, all the saints, Mother Mary, or whoever it is out there – I hope I will still be alive and breathing when gender equality is 100% achieved. Then I can die.
Now take your seat at the table
Taking your seat at the table is a collective effort from all the things I have enumerated above. You need to be well aware to put all these practices altogether. I can totally add more things to these but it’s going to be very long – I can publish it into a book (wishful thinking).
But in all of the things above, in order to succeed in this digital nomad terrain of men, what I find the most important is that you need to believe that what you do is important.
Because it really is.