“Are you happily married or single?”. I got this question from another woman when I was trying to get a car insurance. I was so shocked that I could only respond:
“I’m happily single. Thanks”.
What kind of question was that? Do I only have these two options? Am I either happily married or s̶a̶d̶l̶y single?
I ended up not signing the insurance with that company.
Every woman has a story about a time when she experienced sexism or the pressure of the “roles you should be playing in society”. It’s everywhere in small actions and behaviors.
On International Women’s Day, I volunteered at Women’s Symposium of Southern California (WSSocal), where I had a chance to meet powerful women such as the leadership coach Silvica Rosca, the fashion stylist, speaker and trainer Lauri Blanchard, the international author Nailah Harvey and the entrepreneur and professional coach Avery Atkinson, and many others.
At the Symposium, I attended a workshop called “Balancing My Needs and My Family’s Needs”. This is a topic that had always bother me. It’s easier to see women leaving the workforce for their families than men.
Note: I’m not saying women shouldn’t chose family over career. I believe they are free to do whatever they would like to. I’m just pointing out that it’s more common to see a woman giving up her career for her family than men — when they should both be involved in the process of building a family. That being said, let’s go back to the issue I want to address here.
There are only 24 women leading Fortune 500 Companies.
This number as low as it seems actually represents the highest number of female CEOs to make the list in its 63-year history. I wonder why that’s the case.
Can you imagine all the challenges of being a female founder and also a mother, partner, daughter, aunt?
Can you imagine not getting paid the same as your male colleague in the same position?
Can you imagine not being heard in a table meeting for being a minority/women?
Can you imagine having to evaluate your outfit so your colleagues wouldn’t see your clothes as an invitation for sex?
Can you imagine having to analyze if that dinner, lunch or drink invitation after work was to socialize, talk about work or just to fuck you?
Yes. There is a LOT to digest when you are women in a workforce. Especially if you are women in a position of power.
A few minutes before the workshop began, women were chatting about gender equality in the workforce. One of the women is a lawyer. She told us that once she was sent home from the law firm she worked for because she was not wearing pants. Apparently, two decades ago, it was a mandatory dress code for lawyers to attend court.
She wasn’t wearing a mini-skirt or a short dress. It was a professional outfit — but it wasn’t pants. This lawyer, now a female founder, told us that the person who sent her home was another woman who made a very unfortunate comment in that day. She said:
“I remembered when she told me: ‘well, it happened to me too and other women in the firm. If we had to do it, why wouldn’t you?’. Her comment made me even more frustrated. She made it seem like it was part of the protocol to which every woman had to attend.”
This comment gives an opposite idea of the #MeToo movement, that wants to show the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment, especially the workforce.
The “me too” in the lawyer’s story inspire conformity. It’s complacent.
The comment leaves with less hope because it reproduces the idea that women have to prove themselves over and over again.
The comment leaves with less hope because gives the idea that women must overcome these situations with bravery but in silent.
The comment leaves with less hope because it persuades other women to not act in protest or to stand out to break the cycle.
The comment leaves with less hope that other women would find space and support of other women to finally say enough is enough.
The comment leaves with less hope, but not hopeless.
Why? Even two decades later, this lawyer shares her story. A story that frustrated and revolted her.
And that’s the power of the dialogue that #MeToo stories not only when it’s related to sexual harassment are bringing to the scene. Dialogues start when more than one has a story to share.
This pyramid gives plenty examples of behaviors that are rooted in our society. These examples opened up infinite possibilities for conversations, such as that time when Elise was blamed for sexual harassment based in what she was wearing that night or when Glen out of the blue sent a picture of his dick to Britanny.
Storytelling is actually one of the best therapy I know to overcome traumas and fears. When we empathize with someone’s story our main takeaway might differ depending on the person.
Another woman at WSSocal shared her personal battle when managing time with her friends, family and partner and her own business. Someone else in the audience related to the cause and comment that her strategy is to schedule time for her loved ones just like she does with a client’s meeting. “You gotta make time for them too”, she said.
Another woman told us about how hard it was to open a business having a lame partner by her side and how much easier things are now with her current husband. Pretty much giving the idea that you might want to choose someone who will stand by your side and understand your priorities.
Another woman shared how she got a job and eventually a promotion by inquiring in the day of the interview about the company’s policy to promote women. “I asked how many women are in a leadership position here? Is there space for that? Because I’m definitely here for that”, she said.
I listened to these women stories with a mix of feelings. I felt frustrated, sad, and for instance skeptic. But their stories also infused me with courage, self-stem, and confidence.
So I made a proposition for myself:
I will choose to spend more time with other women whenever I can.
Whenever women share or get together to talk about stories of sexism more we can support each other and brainstorm ideas for new approaches to the world’s problem.When I’m around women who shared experiences similar to mines I feel understood. It’s a good feeling — a feeling of empathy and belonging.
I believe that together we are stronger and more creative — and that include women and men.
So, when I am in a group with men and women I try to explore the male perspective of these topics too. Some of my guy friends told me they are embarrassed to calling out other guys. I got it. But time’s up and women need real help from men right now. How? The brilliant Julie DiCaro wrote:
“If men decided that there would be consequences for sexual assault and harassment, if men decided that public misogyny meant professional repercussions, if men made it clear that other men who harass and assault women would lose the support of their industry, it would end tomorrow. So, teach your sons to do better”. Extract of Save Your Apologies: Here’s What Women Need From Men Right Now.
How do you feel when you share a story with your girlfriends? Can you relate with sexual harassment story? And sexism? And discrimination? How can we change the course of these stories? Share with us & become Odara daily! See You Next Tuesday! ;-)
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