Like a pigeon flying as fast as it can towards a future of endless possibilities, with a whack I’ve flown straight into a window. That wide, expansive future is just a mirror on the opposite wall. Ouch.
This is how I felt one Wednesday morning, walking out of the local council offices. I’d just been to see a lawyer after a work experience placement – she’d asked me for coffee to discuss starting out as a solicitor in London. With her repeating again and again that she’d worked at a top 10 firm in London, of course it didn’t take long for me to reply: Yes, yes I’ll come. Give me your wisdom, please.
Wisdom is one word for what she gave me. Sexism is another.
Maybe my expectations were too high. I was hoping for advice on how to stand out in applications and interviews. The challenges I might face and how to carry on regardless. Training Contract 101, if you will.
Unnamed Council Lady actually started off telling me that “because I’m a woman” I need to plan my career – around having children. Men have it a lot easier, you see, because they can work AND have children. All at the same time.
I also need to take a step back every two years (max) to make sure a Law career is really what I want. You have to be tough for such a career, and really willing to go after it. “I’m not saying you’re not like that but…”
This woman, knowing me all of a day, took it upon herself to tell me what I was and wasn’t cut out for. And that, mostly based upon my gender. (One shared with her, by the by). Much better, she said, to stop early and have children. Cut your losses.
Some people say you can balance family and career. But really you should just pick one.
Well, that’s not good enough for me. I know it’s a contentious issue. Many people will disagree that you can live a life with both successful career and happy family. They make compelling arguments. Just visualise that poor child, crying down the phone because parents are late home again. These people who want careers are selfish. Nanny becomes Mummy. It’s genuinely upsetting.
But I’m twenty. I have my whole life ahead of me and I’m not going to limit myself now for something that may or may not be my future. Plus, men have done career and family for God knows how many years – the fact we still have a functioning society is testament to that. Families need money and parents will always work. Why shouldn’t I do something I enjoy in a place I love AND have a family? That just makes no damn sense.
Having gone into that meeting excited, I left feeling horrible. Almost as bad as when I got my ass hit from a moving car. A van had beeped on the opposite side of the road – as outraged as me I’d thought. But no. They went out of their way to turn the van around and try the same.
Being hit while walking to town. Whacking face-first into the glass ceiling. Why does sexism always come as such a shock? And why does it always hurt so much?