Now I Know What It Is To Be Disqualified For Being A Woman
Of all the countries I’m visiting this year on my We Roam journey, Morocco definitely made the top of the list. I had dreams of exotic excursions and visions of amazing mouth watering meals. I couldn’t wait to go.
Almost immediately after arriving I found myself not only in new surroundings but unfamiliar territory. Unlike any of the other countries I had visited so far, I noticed the absence of women in the cafes and restaurants. I knew the clothing would be much different for women. What I wasn’t prepared for is how it would cause me to feel. Suddenly I became aware of my arms and how I was revealing them. Since I had only just arrived I chalked it up to simply trying to learn and understand a new, different culture. Later I would learn curly hair is considered unprofessional!
Remote working is great. It also has its challenges. One being a possible time difference. I’m learning not all countries are conducive to a remote worker like me. When I’m done for the day I like to go out for a walk or grab a bite to eat. Buenos Aires was perfect for me. Bogota was close to Eastern Time so it was never an issue. Rabat was terrible.
Leaving the workspace to see cafes and restaurants filled with only men was absolutely unappealing. At first, I thought it was because it is late. Then when I went for a walk on the weekend I realized it had nothing to do with the time. It is very frowned upon for women to be in cafes talking and speaking to other women who are not part of their family and outside the home.
It wasn’t only that the cafes were filled with men. It was the way they looked at me. I was an object, not a person. I didn’t feel welcomed in these establishments. The one word that kept coming to mind was “disqualified”.
I’ve never been disqualified for anything in my life. Or have I? I had said if the internet was bad I would leave and go to Dubai because I had the launch of my Admin to VA Summit the second week after we arrived. The internet was bad. However, there was something I was experiencing for the first time and I couldn’t ignore it. Is this what it is to be disqualified in business simply because you’re a woman?
As a Gen X’er I’m often on the cusp of what was and what is to come. I’m old enough to know how things were before for women in my profession. I know about what others like my own mother did to pioneer a new era of administrative professionals. I myself was part of the traditional administrative workforce before making the transition to the new wave of admins who are becoming virtual assistants.
Back home in the States, I was an active NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Atlanta Chapter board member. I was aware of what NAWBO has done to help women in business. Did you know 29 years ago a woman could not get a loan without a male family member co-signer? Even if that loan was signed by the woman’s 17-year-old son! Still, it was all a part of history. The history of being a woman. Nothing I had experienced firsthand.
I’m frequently the only woman in the room for board meetings or to sit on a board and I’ve never felt out of place. More importantly, no one has ever treated me differently. Was it because of my role though? As an admin, I’m part of a female-dominated field. It is largely considered a woman’s role. What would it have been like to be in those same rooms as the only woman CEO, CFO, CIO, etc.? Is this how these women feel all the time? Disqualified simply because they are women.
With this new insight, I began sharing with others in the group. Including some of my male, American Roamers who I assumed would understand. I assumed wrong. In their attempt to try and make me feel more comfortable they dismissed my feelings and findings.
I really thought they would understand. It was shocking to discover they didn’t get it. Even though they’ve never made me feel uncomfortable they were not equipped to understand my perspective. Again, I felt disqualified for having feelings as a woman in this country. Where do women turn in the States? Whom do they seek out? Do they even bother? Is there any place where a man goes where he might feel disqualified?
In another attempt to change my perspective people kept telling me, “Yeah, but that could have just as easily happened in the States”. They’re not wrong. There’s still a big difference. When you are in a place which is comfortable you are more equipped to be able challenges and adversity. It’s even recognized in sports, the home-field advantage.
I won’t remember Morocco for exciting adventure unless you count being driven by the local cab drivers. I won’t remember Morocco for the food (unless you are at a resort or in a touristy area you’re surprisingly out of luck). I will remember Morocco as the place where I became a woman who refuses to be disqualified.
Thank you, Morocco. I could have gone the rest of my life without truly knowing how important it is to serve and support other women in the workplace and as business owners. Now I don’t have to. Being a woman is not cause for disqualification, it is a reason for celebration.
Because you can’t do it all yourself….Melissa Smith, The PVA is the bestselling author of Hire the Right Virtual Assistant and host of the Admin to VA Summit. To learn more about working with a Virtual Assistant contact Melissa here.