I was in two minds as to whether or not, to speak about what we will discuss today. In fact when I thought about it, I felt knots in my stomach. It is a topic that is bound to cause friction between people.
I definitely don’t want to rub my amazing readers the wrong way. I do however, feel like it is my responsibility to do so. This is a platform I have been given and as such, I can’t be preaching wine while drinking water. I cannot write tales of bravery yet I am a chicken through and through. I cannot be that person who doesn’t step up to the plate when it really counts. Let us talk about Equality in the work place.
I happen to work in a terrific and very progressive work place. There are all kinds of people and our goal is to truly integrate into this amazing culture. However, every so often the monster that is male chauvinism rears its ugly head. I work in a team where I am the only lady. This means very often, I will be the only lady in many situations. We work well, we divide tasks equally and more often than not, we ask one another for help.
I do not slack because I am lady. When the rest of the team is showing up and kicking it out of the park, I also show up and do so too. When they attend parties, of course my male colleagues are bound to make get closer but I also show up and integrate into the team. However, I noticed with exasperation their snide comments in regards to other girls in the work place. Off course at this point, they wouldn’t dare say a negative thing about me to my face. I am one of them, as they say, I am one of the boys. The other girls, well they have to be regarded with suspicion. In other words, they are guilty until proven innocent.
Case in point, a few weeks ago we were notified that we would be receiving a new batch of mentees. This is always great news. However, as we were all reveling in this great news, someone commented they would rather not have a female apprentice. I probed further to find out why and they explained to me that they thought women are generally more stubborn and slower at catching on.
Let’s pause and think about the gravity of this situation. First of all, here is this person who clearly lacks emotional intelligence but has the audacity to say things with disregard to their impact. Second, look at how misguided their opinion is. When I asked him to point out a situation where a girl had been a pain, he could not. Whenever gender bias is brought up, most people are quick to brush it aside. Personally, I have been a culprit. Six months ago, I was not sensitive to these scenarios. However, with time, I have come to tune my radar to pick them out from a mile away. The thing is, gender bias is real. It is in our workplaces. We expect women to sit down and look pretty. We want them to be at the reception decorating our offices. When they want to dive in and get their feet dirty, we warn them it might mess with their make up. We teach them to be aggressive but never too much lest they become undesirable. We have made them believe they cannot be the lead characters but have to sink back into supporting roles.
We teach women to sensor their feelings. When they let these out and are uncensored, we ask them if it’s that time of the month. We imagine a woman’s logic has to be tainted by their biology. If a woman is fatigued, maybe she is pregnant. I know some male readers may be reading this and thinking that I am being too dramatic. I mean it’s 2017. However, I challenge you to open your eyes and look around. You will see what it is like to be a woman in a male dominated industry. Look at my situation, for me to be respected, I had to be one of the boys. However, why shouldn’t they respect me and hold me in the same regard as the other people in their circle while still allowing me to retain my identity as a woman? I really appreciate what the team has done for me. I am however writing this article for other women who couldn’t penetrate their circles. I am not talking about social circles. I am speaking about the work place. I feel that as it is, we all struggle with so much. To have to struggle with not being accepted is too much for one person to handle.
I have heard complaints about how executive women are toxic and ready to pick fights. I will agree with some of these observations. I will however retaliate by painting you a word picture. Imagine if you had to fight every day? If you had to fight for your place every single day. If people were always underestimating you. Not because you are incompetent but because of something about yourself that you cannot change. You will get so used to fighting that your claws will always be out even when there are no battles to be fought. When a situation requires gentleness, you will scratch with your claws that are always out. The thing is, women consist of more than half the population. We cannot afford to ignore them. If you are going to build products that will revolutionise the world, then you cannot do so without half the consumers being on that board. Women don’t want affirmative action, they want to be heard, recognized as being as good;;just a level playing field. No more, no less. We will truly have won when these kinds of conversations will not be had in murmurs. When we will ask everyone on the team if they feel marginalized for any reason. When we won’t have to hold meetings on female empowerment but will just hold ,meetings on people empowerment. To read more posts by Angela, click HERE