One thing I’ve learned about myself since entering the professional world has been my diffidence in meetings in which females are the minority. I didn’t used to be this way. Ask anyone, in high school I was more than happy to offer my two cents to any group- especially those dominated by males.
Yet, as I attended leadership meetings at my last job that typically consisted of 7 men and 2 of us women, I was consistently afraid to talk. It was nothing the men did to make me feel this way. I figured it was mostly stereotype threat- the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group. In other words, I would fear that if I said something stupid, they won’t think that I’m stupid, they’ll think all women are stupid.
That’s a lot of pressure.
With a lot of help and support from my supervisor, Ben Wilson, I worked through some of these issues. He was really good about challenging me and giving me opportunities to speak when we were in a meeting.
Today, I had another meeting with a new group of people. Since I knew my issues in the past of being too shy to share my thoughts, I mentally prepped for this meeting. I was determined to push myself to speak my mind. And I did a pretty good job.
I realized as I walked in the room, however, that stereotype threat wasn’t the only thing that kept me from speaking. As I stepped in the room I felt myself immediately shrink, because I felt like a distraction. I realized that when I’m with women I feel totally free to be myself and share my thoughts. When I enter a space with men I feel like my looks, my female-ness, is distracting them and that they might resent me for it.
Let me reiterate that the men in today’s meeting, nor the men at FBC where I used to work did anything to insinuate they felt this way. In fact, they were all men I trusted and felt respected by. But certain conversations (youth sessions where they talk about women being responsible for making men stumble) or high school and college experiences (comments, facial expressions, etc) did give me this feeling.
So, as I enter a room with males in it, I immediately feel this sense of being an object (I hate to use this word because it’s been so overused, or feels cliche by now, but it fits). I immediately feel insecure about what I’m wearing (even though I try to be super modest when I know I’m meeting with men), and I feel like this object that is just drawing negative attention.
I also realized as I spoke up today, however, that the more I speak, the less objectified I feel. As I interact and share my thoughts, I feel less like a poster and more like an intelligent person with good things to contribute to the conversation.
This may not make any sense or may sound crazy to you, but it’s my reality and it feels good to have some revelations.
One of the things I’ve always loved about my God is that He knows me, inside and out, and loves every part of me.
Grace today was the reminder that God loves me for who I am not what I look like.