I was surprised recently. I’ve heard so much about chauvinism and the male dominated work place but really believed as a culture we’ve made great strides in that area over the years. Yet, I found myself personally in the middle of a dynamic that could only be described as chauvinism. I even looked up what Webster had to say about it to make sure I was right. Webster says a chauvinist is, “A person who believes one gender is superior to the other”. Synonyms for chauvinism are the following: isolation, prejudice, bias, and discrimination. Webster nailed it.
It took me about fifteen minutes to realize what was happening. After walking up to the group to say hello, I was pushed aside for a male-to-male handshake from a late arrival. I was finally introduced and tried to make small talk to break the ice. My questions were either met with one-word answers, or not answered at all. I stood on the sidelines working to engage in conversation. I realized I was the only one attempting to make eye contact. I was looking at them, but no one was looking at me. I started thinking, “Am I invisible?”
I decided to endure rather than abandon and made it through the meetings with a smile. Afterwards I went back to reflect on the experience. I had so much to offer like ideas, partnerships, strategy, excitement and support. What a wasted opportunity. I also wrestled with emotions that took me back to my Ella Mae the Courageous Cheerleader story. For a few minutes it felt like the “one-up” and “one-down” social power struggle on the cheerleading squad in high school. The “one-uppers” try to hurt by isolating, intimidating and dominating. It made me wonder if chauvinism could be considered a form of bullying? In my opinion, yes it can. The intentions are the same.
Who won and who lost here? I think we all lost. I lost my feeling of dignity as a human being for a few moments. They lost an opportunity for a passionate professional ally.
I’m writing this because we all need to be reminded that we are accountable for our actions. I’m evidence that we still have a long way to go to equal out the voices and balance of power in the work place. No matter race, gender, or any other factor, all people should be treated with dignity and inclusion. Do your best to be a role model for this dynamic and others will follow.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou