This morning as I got ready for work I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders. Today I had to do something that pained me, yet is sometimes necessary in my industry. I had to bring my older male coworker with me to a meeting so that the client took me seriously.
Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence in my industry or other industries. In fact, I observe client’s choosing not to work with my female coworkers in lieu of their male counterpart. I have observed client’s asking the exact same question that was literally just answered to ensure that our male counterpart agrees. And day after day I see client’s waiting on a man to assure them that we, the females, have recommended or sold them the proper item.
I wouldn’t define myself as a feminist but what I witness on a daily basis is unsettling to me. Newsflash: it’s 2017.
In the customer service industry you must be careful with what you say as to not offend your client. Ironic, isn’t it? Here are a few things that I wish I could say, but I would get fired if I did.
My appearance does not define my experience. When did it become appropriate to question ones intelligence based off of their age? Ageism is defined as prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. Some companies even further define that to encompass those over a certain age and if you fall under that age bracket, it is not considered ageism.
At least once a week I find myself explaining my background to a client to defend my product knowledge, have a coworker telling me that the customer inquired if I was new, or have simply been passed up to assist a client in order to wait for someone with more experience.
I have also encountered those who prefer to wait to work with me because I am prettier to look at, which is just about the most offensive statement I’ve ever heard in my life. There is no connection between my capabilities to do my job and my appearance.
Respect should not be doled out based on ones ability to sit or stand when they pee. Respect should be earned. Sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex. You should not instantly respect my male coworker yet deny it to me or continually make me prove myself prior to deciding if I “deserve” it.
My gender does not define the limits of my intellectual capacity. It does not determine my physical ability. It does not set a standard for how I live my life or grow within my career.
Being a strong woman does not make my opinion invalid. I am not afraid to speak up for what I feel is right. I am entitled to an opinion, just as you are. It is a basic human right. Yet as a woman, it often gets written off. As a woman, I am told to stop being emotional. As a woman, I am called dramatic.
So I understand why many go unheard. I sympathize with those who withhold the weight of their concerns so they don’t feel dismissed and small. I try to stand up for those who’s voice stays quiet. I am often reminded why they choose silence as I am looking at the blank stare of the manager looking back at me. It’s almost as if I can see my words passing through him and can sense how unimportant these issues are to him.
But I still get up every morning and clock in at the same time every day. While some days are harder than others, I know on the grand scheme of life that these troubles are sand particles: some blow away, some mound up, and some dig right in. If you look at them as a whole, they seem large but each individual particle is a small part to the bigger picture.
My bigger picture is creating a beautiful, happy life for my family and that’s what I choose to focus on. When I can’t say what I feel I need to, when I have to stay quiet for the sake of stability, I hold my family a little tighter and remind myself that I have so much to be grateful for and all of the wrong washes away, even if only for a moment.