Words have power. They’ve been used for centuries to subjugate others and keep them in their place.
Words have kept people thinking small about themselves. With the flick of a switch, they’ve also helped them reshape their perceptions and step into their own power and sovereignty.
It’s why the feminist movement insisted on changing accepted language — they recognized that being called “girls” was a micro-aggression meant to infantilize women.
So, of course, I snorted in derision when I first heard the word “sidekick” being tossed around to describe those in the administrative support business.
I feel about anyone referencing me as a “sidekick” in relation to clients the same way this woman feels being referred to as Macklemore’s “sidekick.”
It’s fundamentally insulting as a full-grown, professional woman and business owner. It’s a condescending verbal pat on the head, a throwback to employment mentality that has no place in business in this day and age.
I’m as disdainful of the word “sidekick” in business as I am “assistant.”
That’s because using subservient words and terms of employment (such as “assistant”) to identify yourself keeps you in a subservient mindset, consciously and unconsciously.
It also causes clients to view you not so much as their valued and respected administrative expert and adviser, but as their minion and order-taker.
Would you call your doctor or attorney or accountant or designer your sidekick?
Do you think that would be a respectful way to identify and address them?
How do you think that would go over with them if you did?
Why then would you feel the need to call yourself an assistant or sidekick?
It’s a form of self-talk. What you call yourself has a way of seeping into your psyche. With a more respectful, business-appropriate term, you can raise yourself up to better lead your business and more positively affect how your prospects and clients approach the relationship with you.
If you think it doesn’t matter what you call yourself either way, then why not adopt a more respectful term that will lead to more respectful exchanges with clients and prospects?
If you are really working with clients who value you as much as you say they do, they will happily support you as you raise your standards around the business terminology you use.
And your new clients won’t know the difference because they’ll refer to you in whatever way you inform them to.
I don’t need to be Robin to serve my clients well and deliver my expertise to them. We can both be Batman in our respective businesses who value and respect each other as equals.
What thoughts, feelings or questions does this bring up for you? Does it spur any soul-searching? Can you think of a way in which calling yourself an assistant kept you thinking small in your business? Have you already embraced the idea that you are a business owner, not an assistant, with a valuable expertise to offer?
Until women accept that ultimately they are responsible for themselves and that they don’t have to be in a relationship or dependent upon a man, women will continue to be viewed as less than.
This is never more true than in the work world, I think.
I’m often reminded of that old story about the one person left because they didn’t stand up to the forces of evil who took all the others.
Thanks for your thoughts, Anne. Totally agree with you.
Calling ourselves “assistants” (or allowing others to refer to us as “sidekicks”) when we are running a business is one of the ways we diminish and downplay our own power, leadership and expertise.
It’s why I’m such a fierce advocate for empowering women to create businesses of strength and profitability so that they earn well no matter what the the home-life situation is, a business that can take care of a woman and her family with or without a spouse or significant other.