So this weekend, let’s talk about a topic we all love to talk about – gender diversity.
Make no mistake for I choose my words very carefully – talking the talk is a million miles from walking the walk. And for this weekend, I’ll give you two true stories – and you can decide which is which.
First up, a women’s networking event where I found myself a few weeks ago.
The event was intended to help women believe that they were equal and encourage them to claim their rightful space in the world.
Now don’t get me wrong, I live to learn. In fact, my Twitter tag line has always said, ‘Learn as if you were to live forever, love as if you were to die tomorrow.’ That one line sums up my entire existence. So I’m all up for learning – but why just the women?
‘Learn as if you were to live forever, love as if you were to die tomorrow.’
You might find this controversial but I just cannot conform to the concept of being taken out of any system to be treated as a ‘special’ only to be told that I’m an ‘equal’. Let’s not even mention the free coffee and cakes because I find them downright insulting because to me they are somewhat synonymous with giving candies to the kids while the grown ups can do some serious work.
I know totally that such efforts are extremely well intentioned and cost the earth but to my simple mind, the message is so contradictory to the manner in which it is communicated that I become deaf to the words. It just doesn’t land. That’s just my take.
Anyway moving on… the event was full of women and some men joined in to support.
One of the discussions was centred around how to make women feel part of any space especially if they are outnumbered by men to which some suggested that men should avoid organising quizzes themed around topics such as football and take up more vanilla topics so that women felt included. Most people concurred and felt it was a great idea. I provoked some thought.
Again, I am very mindful and even respectful of people’s intent at a personal level and I can’t find fault in that. Yet, at a societal level, I worry that we sometimes forget to think and start to do things only because everyone else does it that way. And it is at this (excruciatingly painful) point where, we miss the trick. Feel free to convince me otherwise.
For now, let’s move to story 2.
Continuing with the football thread, last week, my son asked me to take him and his friends for a tour to Stamford Bridge Stadium in Chelsea. He loves his football and I have even found myself sitting in the middle of Helsingør in Denmark watching Arsenal v Bate Borisov at a run down pub. As for our stadium tour, the numbers just kept adding up and by the end of it all, there were nine of us – eight little boys (all aged between 9 and11) and me.
But here’s the thing. Not one of them asked for a dad to come along. One dad was kind enough to offer but the family felt so safe that they chose to leave it with me. At no point in the trip did the children make me feel like I didn’t belong. Also, at no point did they alter their conversation only to fit me in. At no point did I ask them to.
Conversation was spontaneous and not calculated or constrained. We spoke what we spoke – sometimes we found common threads and at other times, we explored.
Sometimes I told them they were downright disgusting! They showed me kits and trophies while I showed them some money management and team work instead.
Why just conversation? Let’s talk about food. They ate McDonalds while I ate fresh lychees and carried a coffee instead. It was totally okay to be together and yet be doing different things. Most didn’t even know what a lychee was but that didn’t stop me eating.
Why just gender, even with age or ethnicity, we were just one group. When I checked later, we had children from Brazil, Pakistan, India, England, Scotland and Nigeria. Here’s a five-minute vlog if you wish to see us.
So summing up my take….I guess you get my point.
I’m all for diversity and at peace with the why. In fact, the case is so obvious that I am amazed we even have to bother with trying to convince anyone anymore.
My issue though is often with the how. As a woman who fights endless battles, day after day, (on many fronts and not just one) the how is terribly painful and sometimes does a disservice. As a coach, I have lost count of growth conversations that I hear of which end with advise such as, ‘why don’t you go on a training course designed especially for talented women.’ Thanks!
There you go. You have my honest unfiltered take on gender diversity via two true stories. Now it’s over to you.
As you shape your life and those of generations to come, which story will you write? The choice is yours.
For more of my articles and videos, visit my website, vinitaramtri.com. You can also contact me for speaking, coaching and writing projects. You can reach me on +44 7817256077 or drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Vinita Ramtri. Rights Reserved.
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