The Patriarchy

I am, for the record, supposed to be reviewing a document for someone, but I thought I would rant instead. I just finished a slide deck and  I made a few changes, but mostly when I got to the end of it, I sighed.

When I was in my first year of University, fresh out of a girl’s school, I had an economics textbook that used a “she” in an example. This was in 1997, as we were just starting to be a bit more conscious of gender stereotypes. I remember it because the example surprised me. I noticed the “she” and after a feminist sort of education, you wouldn’t think I would.

The reality is that I work in a male dominated industry. Most of the men I work with are great men, supportive and egalitarian. I don’t often run into the jerks. It’s still not all that uncommon that I will walk into a room filled with decision makers and they will all be men. I am, often enough, the only woman in the room. If you say “stand up and be counted” in my industry, you just aren’t going to count a lot of women. There aren’t a lot of us.

It was a good slide deck, polished, good content, but I got to the end of it, added a few comments and then sent a note back saying “could we put some photo’s of women in it?”

I do that now when I build slide decks. I look for pictures of women. I deliberately try and use he and she interchangeably. I didn’t used to think of these things. It’s a small thing, but I believe it matters. What we show in pictures is very telling. When it’s all men, we support the notion that men make decisions. To tell you the truth, I don’t think we will solve the world’s gender problems by having women in a slide deck. I don’t think we will end child brides, the pay gap, maternal morbidity or really much of anything by adding in a few more women into a sales slide deck.

Maybe though, maybe we will do what that text book did for me. It started me on the path of questioning. Wondering why there were so few women on corporate boards, so few female executives, so few women in parliament.

Wondering who it was that was telling me I had to be a secretary, a teacher, a nurse, and why the hell I was listening to them anyway?

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4 Responses to The Patriarchy

  1. a says:

    It never hurts to point these things out…

  2. Maureen says:

    I never realized my mom’s accomplishments until I was in high school/college. Before then, they were ‘just stories’ I grew up with.

    My mom went to one of the better engineering universities in the state we live in. I came across an article when I was in high school that had a picture of my mom. That year, the university graduated its 9-12th female engineers. Including the first 3 ever chemical engineers. Two of which graduated number 1 and 2 in their class (my mom was #2, her best friend a female #1).

    She was hired by a major government agency (think man on the moon). There were 4 female bathrooms on the campus (maybe over 20 buildings on the campus). 1 in each of the two cafeterias, 1 in the visitor center, and 1 in the house used for department/family parties/picnics and such. The second 2 could only be used if you were authorized to be in those buildings at the time. The women who worked there (all secretaries and similar jobs) had to walk outside to use a bathroom (our winters can be quite cold, for some the nearest bathroom was a 1/2 mile walk outside to get to). Part of my mom’s initial contract was that not only would be there be a women’s bathroom in her building, but in every building on campus (she argued you never could tell when/if she would need to go to a different building). It was easily agreed that there would be a female bathroom in the building she worked in and any other building she regularly went to. My mom did not back down about EVERY building have a female bathroom if there was a male bathroom in it. She won. I still occasionally run into a man who worked there in the 70’s who brings up this accomplishment of my mom. Now there are more women engineers there, but still a minority.

    Keep on fighting!

  3. loribeth says:

    It’s sad that this is something that still needs to be pointed out. I don’t think it’s a deliberate thing, but it’s not going to change unless someone does point it out to the men.

    This is feminism is still very much relevant and needed.

  4. loribeth says:

    Oops, I meant “WHY” in that last sentence. 😉

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