In work or at play, is gender equality possible?
As I reflect on a recent incident where someone tried to hide a sexist comment inside a not humorous joke, it reminded me of the numerous, similar encounters I had as an attorney in Corporate America before becoming an entrepreneur. One of those moments that immediately came to mind was when my opposing counsel told me that I was “pretty and all I had to do was flirt with the judge and we could get a continuance.” In addition to this remark, he went on to patronize me seemingly due to our age difference. When I think about this incident, I cannot help but wonder about the never ending discussion we unfortunately still have in America regarding the other “ism”- race.
More than racism, sexism has been a huge issue…
My experience as a Black woman, has been that more than racism, sexism has been a huge issue when it comes to being taken seriously as a professional and a human being in general. In my life, I started experiencing gender biased treatment at an early age, and it is the cancer that remains without a cure even within my racial group. Whether it is a professional setting or a personal setting, gender bias is something I have never been able to escape. Even in the above story, the male colleague was Black.
“America will elect a Black man before they will elect a woman…”
Another big moment I think about in regards to the race and gender question is the 2008 Presidential Election Race. During this time, I heard many people, some privately and some publicly, comment that “America will elect a Black man before they will elect a woman” of any racial background. Hillary Clinton subsequently went on to lose the Democratic Party’s nomination to President Barak Obama. President Obama’s merit aside, did Hillary Clinton ever really stand a chance? If she had won the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2008, would she really have gone on to be President? Was America ready for its first female Chief Executive, or would it much rather have had a man of any race in such a high leadership position over a woman?
After leaving Corporate America and establishing the Now With Nicole brand, the level of professional bias I once experienced has greatly diminished. Now, I sit here asking myself, “How many women who are entrepreneurs, or are considering becoming entrepreneurs, in part due to the high incidence of sexism in the workplace?” “How many women have had such bad experiences that they are departing to form businesses where they primarily work with other women?” Though leaving gender discrimination behind in an effort to pursue my entrepreneur calling was not the reason for my exit from the workforce, it has been a plus. I wonder, however, if sexism is one of the reasons women are exiting corporate America and choosing to be entrepreneurs, is that a good or a bad thing in terms of social improvement?
Furthermore, if sexism is an issue and continues to be one, how many women who want to remain in Corporate America are truly going to be able to have the high-powered career, family, and white house with the picket fence? In a world where gender inequality remains, how many women will break that glass ceiling and “Lean in?”