Dinner and networking at the Helsinki City Council. One woman wore red, I wore blue, and the rest wore dark. Mostly men in suits. This is what it is like to be a “woman in business”.
I work mainly with men in suits older or far older than I. Yet most of the time I am the one in a power position, because of my job. It was odd at first, especially to challenge team leads in beards and gray hair when I was barely 30 years old. Today I barely think of it. And if I do, it is to use it to my advantage: a younger woman often obtains information and influence easier, because she is perceived to not be a threat. And I seldom pay for my drinks.
But I still feel uncomfortable. In particular, in the airline lounge on a Monday morning, when I am one of the handful of women in there, and usually the only one in jeans. I gave my sister a give-away elite tier card. After her first visit to the lounge alone, on a workday morning, she looked at me with huge eyes and proclaimed she had felt like she was being exhibited. This is also what it is like to be a “woman in business”. Even here in relatively gender-equal Finland.
It is not always about the pay. It mostly is about the mundane, minor things. Because these are the subconscious, left-unseen signals that give away the conditioning of our minds.
I do not aspire to become a man – quite the contrary. I was very happy I was not wearing a dark suit at that dinner party. I only hope I will never feel that I am expected to become a man in order to get along better.
(Helsinki, Finland; March 2017)