Have you ever walked into a room and gotten a feeling of disbelonging? Just a few days ago, I experienced this very uncomfortable, and unfamiliar feeling.
In one of the business courses I am in, the class was assigned a group project. I was placed in a group of all males and only one other female. As soon as I walked into the room for our first meeting, I knew that things were going to be rough – just from the look, my team members gave me. As we got deeper into the project, I quickly realized that the opinions of me and the other ‘girl’ in the group did not matter to the rest of our team. Not only were my ideas abruptly shut down, but some of my team members also would not even look me when I was talking to them.
For example, I would say things such as, “I think this graph would represent our data the best,” … if anyone had the decency to even acknowledge what I said, it would certainly be something along the lines of, “uhh I’m not sure about that.”
Perhaps the most infuriating thing was that I would back up my reasoning with what was presented to us in our textbook, and they still would not trust me. However, as soon as one of them had the same idea I did, they would go with it.
A sad and raw truth to it all is that I do not believe any of them knew the way they were treating me was different from the way they were treating each other. That they wouldn’t blink at any solution given by another male, but as soon as I said something, they would hesitate or rebuttal my idea. As our first meeting ended, I found myself feeling an abundance of self-doubt and lack of self-confidence – a mindset that I so seldom get in.
I knew that I had to stay true to myself. I had never felt intimidated, or unsure of myself and I most certainly was not going to start now. I knew moving forward I had to change the tone. I would no longer be made to feel like this.
At the start of the second meeting, I immediately began voicing my opinion and speaking my truth. If someone had an opinion or an idea, I was sure to answer it. If I was talked over, I was quick to interrupt them back. And if I had an idea and backed it up with the book, I would ask them why they thought it was incorrect. I had to ask why they treated my ideas any different from their own. Although this back and forth dialogue between me and the rest of my group seemed a bit hostile at the start, everyone slowly eased into the fact that I too had opinions, contributions, and ideas that would strongly benefit our project.
There is no true win for me in this situation; an intelligent and qualified woman having to ‘prove’ herself time and again to be heard out by her male counterparts in 2018 is no win at all. It is a concerning and problematic epidemic that has been embedded in our culture for years.
I hope I was able to get through to some of the team members. To say I changed them is entirely too optimistic; however, I do hope will all my heart and soul that they will be aware of the way they treat the next woman they run across in their academic or professional careers.
Ladies and, even, gentlemen for that matter, when you see these injustices, please say something.