I’m going to be really honest here. Sometimes I see my male counterparts doing and saying the same things I thought I just did or said, and I wonder how I can be more articulate or assertive next time. Sometimes I see my male counterparts think and talk and brainstorm about the coolest things that lead to even cooler opportunities – and I wonder how the hell they had time to make the mental space to brainstorm and put all of the dots together. Then I wonder what’s wrong with me? I’m actually jealous of this person because of the mental space they were able to carve out in order to think and brainstorm about cool things.
I wonder what’s wrong with me for thinking these things, because to me, they sound like excuses. I was raised to value hard work – I shouldn’t make excuses. I should take stock of what I learned, use that information for the next situation I find myself in, and work even harder.
So I do that. I take what I’ve learned and I work harder. To be honest, I work harder than almost anyone I know. I look around me and see that most of my female peers work their butts off, too. But the opportunities and assertiveness and mental space continue to elude me on their way to my male counterparts. Is it me? Some of the feedback I receive says that I am good at what I do, but I need more experience. I agree – experience is great. But wait. I see my male counterparts receive the same opportunities as me who have the same or even less experience than me. Sometimes I feel crazy because I wonder how I could have said that one thing better, or why I’m not being heard. Sometimes I receive feedback that I need to be more articulate. So I incessantly work on it, and I think I’ve gotten more articulate. And yet, these interactions continue to occur.
So then, what’s the deal?
It’s been helpful to talk to other people and read a lot and realize that no, I’m not necessarily crazy. Other women that I think are amazing and successful and smart have told me that they, too, have struggled. They too, feel that they have to work twice as hard and prove themselves over and over and over again in order to be credited with success and experience. So they do it. They work twice as hard.
Trust me when I say that I struggle with this slow and burning realization every single day. I was raised to believe that every single human being is equal, and I DO NOT WANT to believe that I cannot do the same things as some people because of my gender. I choose to reject that notion for myself, which means I will work harder and harder and tell myself that I thrive in the face of challenge. I will do what I want because I am me, and I will demand recognition based on my merit, beliefs, and unique skills alone. But I also accept that I will need to work harder because I live in a society that does not treat every individual equally.
Our institutions and systems actively reject individuals for what they look like, which means that those individuals need to work twice, three times, four times, ten times as hard to fight for the opportunities that are afforded to some so easily.
My experience is only as a woman. This is what I speak from. But this experience is why I know in my bones that Black Lives Matter. We have so many unique and valuable voices in our society that are not allowed to speak either because their peers tamp down their voices, or because they are tired from working ten times as hard as some of their peers to make the same amount of money for their families.
As a society, we are better when we are diverse. I choose diversity. I choose inclusion. And in these choices, I also choose to see that not everyone has the same rights or opportunities as me. And so I will also choose to actively call out those biases and raise up those people who have to work harder for the same piece of the pie.
‘The only way to use power is to challenge dominance and supremacy.’