Forty realities of what it is like to be an immigrant professional woman in a man’s world.

 I know the real truth of what it is to be an immigrant professional woman in a man’s world. Here are some: 

  1. Know that you are a woman and do not ape men to try and prove your capability.
  2. Accept that you are an immigrant
  3. Accept that you do not know everything in Modern American Medicine, even if you know most of the British and Pakistani medicine.
  4. Ask questions early and admit that you do not know the American way of doing things.
  5. Know and accept that Americans and Britishers (and Pakistanis) pronounce many words differently e.g. respiratory and laboratory. Take the patronizing attitude of your male colleagues like water off a ducks back.
  6. Do not make the same mistake twice, as an immigrant, woman of color it is almost unforgivable.
  7. Do not ask the same question twice and avoid the “blonde jokes”
  8. Be assertive, not aggressive.
  9. Write your proposals first before presenting them even if minor.

10. Give a regular report to your boss even if he does not ask for it.

11. Do not go out to the Pub with your boss even if the “boys” do it. You may be looked upon as “easy” or a “floozy”


12. Keep your eyes open for how the promotions are taking place.

13. Ask for your rights in a firm and polite manner.

14. If your rights are not being accorded while they are for others get a good lawyer.

15. Suggest to your boss that you would like him to set things right without threatening him overtly with a lawsuit but keep the business card of the lawyer visible while talking to him.

16. Keep a network of other professional women, speaking and meeting with them regularly both for mentoring, advice and troubleshooting.

17. Do not complain, or discuss your emotional states with the men you work with, they usually take action to set things right which may become uncomfortable for you.

18. Do not work overtime, it reeks of incompetence, and disorganization. It makes your boss think you don’t have a life.

19. Do not agree to be on call on all the holidays, even if you are single and have no family in the States.

20. Always visit and interview other job opportunities on a regular basis to know if the grass is truly greener on the other side.

21. Never become complacent with your position: there is always a golden haired boy lurking in the wings to claim your place.

22. If things don’t go right, don’t blame yourself, you may have outgrown the department, job, place, or University.

23. Never gossip about a colleague.

24. Never give your research ideas verbally, always have a written proposal ready with your name on it, but withhold the punch line.

25. Do not put the name of absent authors on your paper even if you want to please your boss.

26. Agree to speak on your expertise even if it is to the Rotary club knowing that the old guard will never change.

27. Eat lunch in the Doctors cafeteria, listen but do not gossip and remain professional at all times. Do not participate in jokes about women, or even laugh at them, the next thing you know you or your ethnicity or color will be the butt of their next joke.

28. Prepare every excruciating detail of a presentation or proposal before presenting it.

29. Do not apologize before or after the presentation. Remember that the audience does not know even 10% of the material you have reviewed for the presentation.

30. Never confide your personal problems or insecurities with your male colleagues, they are a minefield and can set things off in the department.

31. Never go out with one male colleague twice in a row.

32. Stay away from the wives of your male colleagues especially if you look and dress better than them.

33. Have both male and female mentors off campus.

34. Never try to be informal or intimate with your colleagues and let your hair down at work or after work.

35. Do not get involved emotionally with a married colleague who may be attracted to you.

36. Do not bring the work home; drop it off like a cape as you turn a corner to your home and do not take your home worries to work drop them off like a shawl as your turn at the last light before you arrive at work.

37. Remember your colleagues are not your pal buddy and chums. You have a professional and equal relationship with them. Do not lean on them nor cry on their shoulders, they have a way of having long memories, which are stimulated to reproduce information about you at inopportune times.

38. Know that you will always be considered a woman of color, do not let that deter you from seeking your equal rights as a worker without being nasty.

39. Be careful of the non-professional women from your birth country. They can never fathom what your day is like and why you work especially if your husband makes enough money. Don’t waste time explaining it to them.

40. Enjoy work at work and enjoy home at home. Lay aside the guilt of being in one place and wondering if you should be at the other. Know that you are special and remain acutely observant at all times as doors will open for you and glass ceilings will shatter, but if they don’t, then know that something better and more fun waits for you elsewhere.

6 thoughts on “Forty realities of what it is like to be an immigrant professional woman in a man’s world.

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