No better waste of time than human resources training, am I right?
That’s what many say. But today was different. Today it was personal.
Today we put years’ worth of my feelings into words. Words like inclusiveness, and unconscious bias, and stereotype threat, and bystander effect.
Today we were asked hard questions. Today I realized I’m an outsider in (so many) more ways than one. But I also realized in some cases I am an insider too.
All this time, it wasn’t just in my head. I wasn’t making it up. I might be paranoid, but I’m not in fact crazy!
I am a woman in a man’s world- regardless of the firm name on the door (as I’ve now cycled through several with the same results). I shouldn’t be afraid to act like one. I shouldn’t be subjected to diminutive comments, whether intentional or not. I shouldn’t be left out of high level meetings or even casual office fraternizing. I shouldn’t be told I’m too aggressive or selfish. I shouldn’t be the only one fighting for a more engaged environment.
I understand this line of dialogue may be hard to hear, hard to digest for those who are not outsiders, but rather insiders. It all seems quite ridiculous to them. But a little empathy, a little less tolerance of unacceptable behaviors can go a long way in this journey toward diversity.
Throughout the lesson, I realized all the ways in which I am and have been an outsider- not just as a woman at work, but as a working mom at home, a smart kid in high school, a “Yankee” in college, you get the point. I’ve always felt this way. You might even conclude I gravitate toward the adversity of not fitting in!
But what I failed to realize is all the ways in which I’m on the inside track. I got into the business school, I worked for the big name firms, I am a middle aged, straight, married, Caucasian person with children surrounded by people just like me every single day. What about the people who don’t fit that mold? What challenges do they face every day? I am humbled to realize I never even considered this.
This is a conversation about gender, about race, about sexual orientation. But it is also about so much more. This is a conversation about reaching beyond your comfort zone, surrounding yourself with people who aren’t clones of you from a pedigree perspective, about seeking out differentiation of ideas and values and personality traits. And we’re having it- finally! I just hope those in the audience other than me were actually listening.
I have resolved to stop playing the role of victim in my life. I am going to be part of the solution. I am going to seek out someone different and help them navigate through the difficulties of being on the perimeter looking in. And who knows? Maybe I’ll find enough misfits like me to actually start feeling like I’m on the inside track for the first time?