Like a Shark in Male-Dominated World

Posted in WinterOfficeFilms

Childhood

I was pretty much a tomboy growing up. Minus the few bits of being in all girls dance competitions {and thoroughly enjoying those moments}. I found myself enjoying the competitive streak that came to the playground when playing a game of tag or hide-and-seek. Growing up, I was the taller and bigger one and often was placed in the back for school pictures of recitals—obviously next to the boys. My parents brought me up in a household that no matter your gender, you didn’t have specific toys. My brother and I grew up playing with the same toys and he didn’t receive anything different from what I may receive.

There were no barriers in my primary school days, the age of innocence, and then I moved to a city where our new family friends entrenched this notion of ‘boys versus girls.’ At dinner parties, the girls were bound to a room and the boys often played near the living room. The assault of feeling cooped up would get to me and I would leave to play with the boys and unfortunately that carried on a series of scrutiny. I found that these new family friends were far more entitled than the ones I knew before I moved.

Growing up I knew I came from a background that was slightly patriarchal and though women are celebrated, it was still quite traditional. My parents did everything in their ability to keep us away form those barriers, but they knew at some point it would catch up to us and the status quo would bring upon challenges that I would use past experiences to overcome.

Like a Shark in Male-Dominated World
Like a Shark in Male-Dominated World

Academia

Fast forward to secondary school where sports played a major part in my upbringing as did my extracurricular activities of science fair and the debate team. I was lucky enough to go to a school that boys and girls were equally encouraged to grow in the fields. I think it was a blessing that I didn’t really see these activities as “boy” activities until I had a chance to look back at it and reflect on that time.

At university, I decided to specialize in Middle East politics {speaking broadly here}. My courses were full of peers on active duty or planning to join the military and 95% of them were men. My time abroad often meant classroom time with mostly male military-motivated students. For me, they never made me feel uncomfortable, and that ‘playground’ competitive environment could be applied here. We worked as a team, I brought on a different perspective, and we grew together. It was inspiring.

As I continued on in my career and then post-grad, I continued to share desk space and lecture halls with other men. Again, I wasn’t too concerned about it until I moved to London. Maybe I’m naive or maybe London is hyper-cognizant about this, but I felt my recent life has really entrenched this “us versus them” dichotomy. Race, class and ethnicity are regular topics I come across. Is it that I lived in a bubble or a secluded society?

Like a Shark in Male-Dominated World
Like a Shark in Male-Dominated World

What I Wore

dress c/o WINSER LONDON jacket c/o WINSER LONDON shoes c/o BODEN purse c/o illicia jewelry J.LAUREN sunnies ILLESTEVA lipstick AMAZING GRACE via CHARLOTTE TILBURY

Like a Shark in Male-Dominated World

‘Shark’

Today, I work in a highly male-dominated industry and the regional actors I work alongside don’t necessarily see women in a position that I hold. Instead of being put down or feeling intimidated by the other people who sit at the table with me, I use it as a personal acknowledgement that I deserve to be there. I DON’T push myself any harder, or give myself any more pressure or see myself any different than they do. My competitive streak has not changed from the days of playing tag with the boys on the playground. In my experience, the feeling of entitlement is what feeds and ensures that “gap.” Maybe I’ve been lucky enough to not have an isolated event that has made me feel threatened in my own skin. In turn, I think my natural performance has always encompassed resilience, perseverance and headstrong. I look for the results that I want rather than expected and thus am labeled as a shark, but not in the comparative nature. And actually, I’m quite fond of that.

I really think mindset helps when it comes to defending differences in the workspace, but I would love to know what you have experienced and any advice you may have for women who are struggling with differences… A personal piece on my experience swimming in a male-dominated world.