Of the handful of older women I’d worked with, some seemed to be resentful of me, prone to lectures about how hard they had it in the deeply sexist early days of their career. Others weren’t exactly hostile, but still kind of cold. A few clearly wanted to mentor me, but had to be home at 5 p.m. every day for their second shift. And there was also a whole swath of women aged 30 to 40 missing entirely from the workplace, due to the Mommy Gap, which may help explain the existence of twentysomething bosses in the first place.
When it came time to mapping out the best way to project authority and get the job done without becoming reviled in the workplace, I muddled through on my own. Needless to say, this was exhausting. My “fake it til you make it” approach to boss life helped me project confidence and earn respect, but my unshakeable outward composure took a toll inside. A Gchat transcript from my second week on the job catches me already revealing to a friend, “i haven’t cried since taking this job and i feel like I really need to but i can’t.” (Maybe it was the sheer exhaustion, or maybe this is getting at some deeper personal issues.) Or, a few months later, “oh i just had a tough day and was feeling some boss-lady isolation.”