“You know a lot about sports for a woman.”
“Don’t roll your eyes Hannah”, I thought while trying to give myself a pep talk in a board room surrounded by middle-aged white men belittling my resume and undermining my accomplishments.
“Thank you,” I said, practically through my teeth.
I readjusted myself in my chair, wiped my sweaty palms on my skirt, regathered my composure, and continued the interview.
One backhanded compliment after another and ninety minutes later, I walked out feeling uneasy and anxious, until the next morning when I sleepily checked my email and shot out of bed to my surprise that I got a second interview.
Out of over 5,000 applicants, I was in the top five for my absolute dream job with one of the biggest sports companies in North America. This was surreal and something I had fantasized about since my first day of journalism school, but instead of feeling elated, I felt a bit deflated. If my resume and portfolio speak well enough to beat out 5,000 people for the job, then why did I feel like I wasn’t good enough? Then it hit me, even my accomplishments were posed as less than, simply for the fact that I am a woman.
Serena Williams said it best:
“As we know, women have to break down many barriers on the road to success. One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men as if it is a flaw. People call me one of the ‘world’s greatest female athletes.’ Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged. We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.”
Disappointed I didn’t get the job? Yeah. Maybe I just wasn’t the most experienced or qualified for the job, and that’s fine. I was more disappointed in the reality that the view from the top wasn’t what I expected, and frankly the grass is not always greener on the other side.
I’ve dealt with this since day one. From Twitter trolls to colleagues, athletes, and everything in between, but this one stung much worse. Walking into that interview I felt an enormous sense of pride; like if I got this job then I’ve made it. Like all the times I’ve dealt with inappropriate advances or gender bias would come to an end, because how could an organization as reputable as this tolerate that? Impossible, right? Wrong.
Fast forward another 3 months, the same thing happened with another outlet. Then another.
Now, as women in male-dominated industries, we know this is just kind of “how it goes”— as messed up as it is. This is not to say all men in these industries are pigs, because that is just not true, but unfortunately, there are so many women I have spoken to over the years in the sports industry and industries alike that deal with just this, and far worse. For many, this fuels the fire to push even harder. For others, it throws water on the fire and crushes hopes of being able to make a name for themselves in their given field. I haven’t given up, although I fully understand the feeling of wanting to.
Our whole lives we are taught that if we put our minds to something, then we can accomplish anything we want. Fast forward 20 years and those same people who built me up as a child are now telling me “not to bother because women have a glass ceiling in the sports industry”—then proceeded to say that I should become a nurse because “that is a woman’s job”.
*Pause for dramatic eye roll*
At the end of the day, sports and writing are my two passions— and even if that means it’s a hobby, that is what I am going to do and no one is going to tell me otherwise. It’s never been about the money, it’s about wanting to succeed and break this idea of the glass ceiling and to ultimately be able to have the access and respect of my fellow writers. There should not be this misogynistic right of passage if you will; but regardless, it exists and in many industries for that matter.
All of the strong women who I’ve looked up to growing up have faced similar struggles and worse. Hell, if Serena Williams and Lindsey Vonn deal with gender bias, then I must be doing alright.
Something that makes these women so strong is that they use their voice. They bring light to these issues and don’t back down. I see it far too often; women nervously laugh when they are being harassed or treated unfairly. If we don’t speak up for ourselves and defend ourselves, who will? There are many times I regret not speaking up for myself due to fear. On the flip side, there have also been times when standing up for myself may have “cost me”. When it is all said and done, I would rather stand up for myself and for what I believe in.
We can accomplish anything—but it may take a helluva lot of bullsh*t to get there. So ladies, build each other up. We already have to compete with so much, so why make it worse for ourselves and for each other? Lift each other up and don’t forget to let your gals know they aren’t alone.
Cheer on your fellow queens!