I do not recognize myself as a feminist, I have never been too passionate for women rights exactly and I do not find any of the sexes to be superior to the other.
This is a story for a large international outsourcing company. The team there provides business support on different levels and consists of 88 people.
17 of them are men and 71 are women.
There are two events today, on the International Women’s day, that bothered me deeply and for first time in one year I definitely feel out of place, failing to identify with the values of the people around me.
Number one is related to the common rituals for reinforcing the inequality between men and women. When we came to the office today, there was a tulip waiting for each woman on her desk. It seems that the men from the office have organized themselves, collected money and came up with the nice gesture.
And this is very kind, showing somehow an appreciation for all the women in the workforce. However, one hour later some women colleagues initiated an answer-gesture — something, I got to know later, was happening each year. So all the women at the office happen to collect money for buying pizza lunch for the men.
Now, what is not right here is the obvious inability of a woman to receive a gesture of appreciation of men without feeling obligated to answer back immediately. The message “I do not deserve your free appreciation” and I have to nurse you (feed you, as it is in most of the masculine dominated cultures) in exchange to your kindness.
A more proper celebration would be if we all collect money and by pizza for all the office. This is what I expected and when realizing the situation a bit later it was too late to make the proposal.
The second event is related to a very nice initiative we have at the office. Each Wednesday there is half an hour in which we see a short video and then discuss about it. The attendance is free. Me and one co-worker are taking care of the event.
Today she was busy, so I took the event in my hands and decided to show this TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, about the women in leadership. As I’d like to center the topic of the meeting around women in the workforce in general, we started with a discussion about payment, maternity leave and the Uber story which Susan Fowner shared couple of weeks ago.
I was astonished how most of the people where tending to decry such stories and talks, treating them as not important enough and clearly like sort of “feminism”. (Not even sure when the last word was assigned with the meaning of something you prefer not to be associated with.) All talks of inequality are labeled as “not applicable to our situation, as we do not have inequality here”.
What is more, discussions about women salaries and their maternity leave are not only avoided, when finally discussed most of the people are in favor of the business need. Of course, mind you, the business would like to know if you are a woman and you plan to have kids soon and then choose not to hire you as it is going to be generally a loss with your maternity leave.
One week back on the same event the topic was the Sugar Baby — Sugar Daddy platforms where young men and women are engaging in relations with old men and women. Most of the people also find this to be perfectly ok, justifying it with the market need.
Never in my life I’ve met so much carelessnes about important up to date society topics and values challanged through the business perspective.
The most astonishing for me was that girls share the same opinions. Women think they should not go further in their jobs if they plan/want to have babies before 30, women think it is normal a dress code to be mostly directed towards females as they have the mystic power of exciting the other sex by showing a toe, women giggle on topics related to women rights, and women prefer to neglect them.
To sum up, if we have the right to walk alone on the streets and to drive a car, what more do we want?
Ladies, please, stand up for yourselves. Go for what you want, dress how you like, negotiate your salary and be confident.
To all the people who think they should not care because women rights are not an issue for our comfort — think about if it wasn’t issue for anybody at all and your granddaughters choose not to vote, to be underpaid and are not allowed to drive, because this is for the gentlemen and they should not bother. The directions can change very easily.