My tough journey into the true realities of gender inequality.
I will be the first to admit that I used to believe that gender inequality was a hoax prototyped by a bunch of radical feminists who needed something to complain to justify their unhappiness with life. This is because I grew up in a household which held no gender boundaries.
I was told I could do anything I wanted to do, be anything I wanted to be, with gender only driving the topic of what cute teenage boy I am crushing on today.
With no boundaries, I head out into the world of completely male dominated industries with no female filter. I raced motocross against the boys, was one of the only female producers competing in the minimal techno genre on Beatport, took summer corporate finance jobs on all male trading floors at some of the largest asset management firms in Toronto. I could compete, play, interact and engage in any medium I chose with no one batting an eye to the fact that I was sometimes the only female in the room. This lead me into other rooms filled with only men; automotive, venture capital, software startups and engineering.
And often, my position as the only female was praised at a high regard. “Wow, a girl pulling the hole shot in the first race against 40 other boys, unreal!” my father still imitates to this day of others standing around the gates with him at the RJ Motorsports fall CMRC race.
A rosy picture that we all hope would be a pure reflection of society today, right? I was completely and utterly blind to the horrifying acts that were happening to the women around me, women who were closest to me, on a daily basis. And I was about to get this rude awakening myself.
It started as soon as I graduated from my Entrepreneurship and Business Masters class in University. Sure my class was only 7% women, but that 7% represented and surrounded me with these insanely talented, inspiring, motivating, well spoken, well educated and powerful women who dominated the rest of the 93% in the room time and time again.
Once again, this wonderful experience only continued to feed my cushion of female wonder and enlightenment full of feathers.
As soon as I left the classroom out into the “real world”, I instantly noticed the absence of women where ever I went. Startup weekends, business conferences, executive boardrooms or pitch competitions, there would be times were I could lock eyes with 3 women total in the room at best. But working in venture capital, I drove on, ignored status quo and started to make excuses that I no longer started to believe in. I started chanting out things like “I would not invest in a company solely because they are female based. Their company should not be determined as invest-able due to gender.” But it is statements like these that feed into a larger problem; twisting, turning and manipulating my words to drive the anti-feminist train into its never ending tunnel of darkness.
They say it only takes one bad date to ruin it for the rest of all the good guys out there. When it comes to gender inequality, sorry men, but this is true.
I stepped away from venture capital and moved into consulting for software startups. I got introduced to this tech company that was purchased by a bunch of ex-oil investors who thought it would be the cool, hip thing to do to get into software and technology. From day 1, conversations went on about hiring hookers and how useless their ex wives were to them. It should’ve been a tell tale sign of what was to come, but I ignored it and hung in there for the paycheck. To keep a long story short, I started receiving text messages from the CEO describing his private area, he would swoon me with fancy dinners that he initially called “strategy meetings” and eventually ended up into manipulating me to help him turn against his other business partners to steal the company away to take control. In the mean time, I was asked to build out a giant team of skilled and talented people who all never ended up getting paid; including myself. I not only was being sexually harassed, but my fundamental morals around how I would treat employees, conduct business and sell a product to investors and customers was being challenged on a daily basis. I walked out, alongside the team I had built, after paycheck number 2 never showed up. But more importantly, my whole solid foundation that had been built up since childhood has been cracked. And then, it was everywhere. I was called a slut at a conference while strolling along, minding my own business and wearing a suit. My “rear-end” was grabbed on the escalator on a automotive show floor. I was asked if I had a male on my team that a potential customer could talk to selling at a trade show. When I pitched my company, the judges would turn and talk to my boyfriend who was only there for moral support.
From here, I reverted inwards and reflected on what I had experienced as well as my pure ignorance I had lived every single day until this point. I had to take some quiet time to myself; to reexamine my career, my morals, values and ultimately myself and how I was living my life. Through this time, I connected with a group of women who shared their stories and openly expressed their problems with the world and themselves. I watched them deal with internal and external struggles over the course of a year and got to play a role in their enlightenment, self discovery and pursuit of happiness.
Surrounding myself with respectful, sensitive and strong women was one of the best decisions I have ever made in one of the more darker times in my life.
I not only felt empowered, but I learned to understand how the majority of people live constantly in a state of ego, which prevents progress and open-mindedness to move forward in life. I learned how to forgive, move on, stop living in the past and start laying the groundwork for my future and the people I want apart of it.
To the women who bite their tongues on a daily basis to save their jobs, to keep their families together, to save face or just to take the high road, god do I ever commend you. To the women who deal with situations 100 times worse then my little incident’s; you are so powerful and worthy of so much more. Unfortunately, I had to have “the worst” (if you can even call it that in comparison to what others deal with) happen to me before I finally got it. I now see sexist comments, actions and gestures happen all the time in my day to day life.
Just because it has not happened to you, does not mean it is not present.
I now work in a place where the large majority of the workforce is women. My desk is surrounded by hyper-intelligent, educated, outspoken and intuitive women. I have focused on a core group of girlfriends who inspire and challenge me everyday and joined support groups of women who teach me to be a better person. And it all circles back to the most influential woman of all in my life, my mother, who taught me that gender can truly have no boundaries.