Woman, Take your Place …

At my previous job there was an elderly gentleman, who one day in a lift exclaimed ‘you know women were never meant to work, they have never been built for it. They should be at home tending after the children. This work thing isn’t for you’. At the time we were about 4 people in the lift, all female with the exception of this man. I thought this was an isolated incident, however over the course of the following three years I would run into him several more times, and each time he expressed this ‘concern’. Which led me to believe that he probably spread his ‘words of wisdom’ as freely as he could, to unsuspecting elevator companions.

This man’s way of thinking has over the years irked me, and continues to do so. In a world where the majority of the population is female, this man still believes that the man should be the one to bring home the bacon? Not to say that being a home maker is something to be shunned or taken lightly, it requires so much. I couldn’t imagine never having the opportunity to work, and develop myself from the work experiences and interactions with people around me. And moreover, having the opportunity to learn about myself and the strength I have.

However, I have noticed an alarming trend. This trend has women in senior management eating from this side plate. Women who prefer to surround themselves with male counterparts rather than have females in their units or departments.

Many women in leadership positions are often more critical of female subordinates. We are held to some higher standard – unarticulated, unimaginable and unattainable. We are also never invited into inner circle discussions out of some ridiculous fear of being labelled feminist or a girls club.

Hearing the age old sexist comments like these girls get pregnant and sometimes take long periods of time off to tend to their children – why should I be stranded with no help they ask. Jesus fix it. Aren’t these the very same women leaders the rest of us should be looking up to? The women who have come before us, who were pregnant while working at some point in their lives, tended to their sick children, raised them all whilst working.

Am I missing something here? What happened to feminism and sisterhood? This reverse sexism only leads to a wider gap in the development of female talent and leaders.  We are now being told by women who understand the hardships and the dreams of successful women that, No, I don’t want to be burdened by you. I wonder if they would treat their daughters in the same way.

Worst still, the very same females in leadership are black women. Women who should by all accounts know what it is like to struggle. Not only is your struggle based on your sex, but the added struggle of the colour of your skin. You find yourself overlooked because you are female, and further still underestimated because you are black. I feel the bile rising to my mouth in total and utter disgust when I hear my peers relay the struggles that they endure at the hands of these women in power. When will change come? When will people be willing to extend a hand to educate, and grow tomorrow’s female leaders?

To top this off you find that you have to assimilate to a Devil Wears Prada level of attitude to survive, smiles are for the feint hearted. Leave your humility at the door. The challenges for young professionals are mounting, and from the discussions I have had of late, they are being compounded by the lack of will from those we admire and look up to. They fear competition from those below them. So much so that at least two people have told me to read “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene there are many catchy laws in this book, the first one says Never Outshine the Master, Law 15 says “Crush your Enemy Totally”; and they go on giving you tips on how to manoeuvre through the workspace and other similar spaces. This space we work in has become untenable and adversarial.

There are many women out there who preach transformation and empowerment, and yet they themselves do not actively pursue it. The same structural racism which seeks through violent, though not bloody, means to keep black people “in their place” is used to ensure that once one female has reached the top, she cannot be joined by others. It’s time we actively walk the walk, and make it happen. After all, someday the young professionals of now will be the managers of tomorrow and wonder if they do not see the danger of this cycle they have borne. And their daughters will be the young professionals of tomorrow.

Writer: LDN