Why Women Need to Take Up Space and Seize Opportunities: Seize the Table?


Why Women Need to Take Up Space and Seize Opportunities: Seize the Table?



The feminist movement has come a long way from Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" to Sheryl Sandberg's "Sit At The Table." But it is now up to you, me, and every other woman in the world to keep it moving forward.

We had good, top companies as clientele when I was an article assistant for a reputable audit agency. I was working from the client's office on one of those days, and I was the only member of my team present. I was therefore working by myself in the cabin that was designated for us auditors. Midday had arrived. After sending the one email I was obliged to send since I was so hungry, I estimated that my lunch would be ready in about five minutes.

A client employee who served as our point of contact knocked on my cabin door at that same moment and requested me to join him, his senior (who was a director of the company), and their other team members—all men—for lunch. He claimed that they considered asking me to join them for lunch because you are by yourself today.

I'm not sure what occurred, but the prospect of having lunch with the company director and everyone else on the client team, whom I didn't know very well, made me uncomfortable.

I told the director that I would need some time today to finish some essential work and that I wasn't yet hungry because I was worried about what I would say to the director or what if he asked me something that I didn't know and I would look stupid to him. After accepting, the worker went to have lunch. And I, like a moron, had to sit and keep working for a while after their lunches to demonstrate that I had something vital to finish.

This episode is only one illustration of how I've downplayed myself in the past. I had the ideal chance to develop a client relationship and a network, both of which are critical in business.

What did I have cause for fear? Why did I reject a good casual opportunity because I had already labelled myself as sounding stupid or silly? The client was willing to invite me to join them for lunch when I was 20 or 21 years old, so why should I have judged myself and cancelled it on my own when there was no need to?

I believed that if there had been at least one female at the luncheon, I might have felt a little more at ease and agreed. But I also understood that, whatever how much I could wish for it, this wouldn't always be the case. And I have to be honest with myself and say that I backed down and underplayed myself.

A few months after this episode, I read Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In," and when I got to the chapter called "Sit at the table," I instantly remembered the entire lunch invitation scenario. And I became aware of how many other women also have a tendency to downplay themselves. These were mental boundaries that had been instilled in us by society, and I, we all had to relearn them.

I recall that in my liberal arts college classes, practically all of the female students would begin their inquiries with, "I am not sure if this is the appropriate question," "Sorry, this may be a foolish question," etc., while the male students would just state their queries or offer their comments. One of our teachers in the lecture correctly noted that we women need to quit doing it. It is disappointing that this happened in a liberal arts programme where all of the students were at least graduates from prestigious colleges who had participated in a highly competitive selection procedure. For trans women, the situation is worse.

All these seemingly insignificant events have actually taught me a lot and assisted me in unlearning a lot of things. And with every occurrence like this, I've learned just one thing: despite all the obstacles, I must make sure to take advantage of my opportunities and forgive myself for the ones I've missed, just like any woman!

"Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it probably, without claiming it, she stands up for all women," Maya Angelou observed, and she was absolutely right. So, I came up with a personal motto: "If given the chance, speak or even just sit at the table but always make sure you at least attend to the table!" And I sincerely hope that I uphold the standards I have set for myself, as doing so would be a service to my femininity.

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