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I was the only woman along with 27 men at a 2-day life skills workshop, and was completely ignored all day including by faculty, until I did something unusual and in-your-face.
The back benches never seduced me, thus I have always courted the front bench.
On either side of the spacious hall, the front seats were occupied by men. Therefore, I placed myself (thashreef rakh diya) on the available almost front seat.
Rejection being the main reason for my lack of confidence, it bothered me that I was alone in my row. The late comers were left with the only option of sitting down beside me.
The lecture began. The faculty only addressed his gender which meant he avoided the only female in the hall. Every time I had a doubt and asked a question, the answer was given to all. But when a male asked a question, he looked into their eyes and answered, assuring they understood.
I thus became the invisible participant.
I was not asked any questions to know my opinion on the ongoing topic. I kept my hands raised high like Sheryl Sandberg had suggested in her book Lean In, yet my raised hands were invisible.
During tea break all the men took to networking like it was a locker room conversation. I consoled myself thinking that groups gathered together probably represented the same organization. It was my sour grapes moment to massage my low confidence, and I lingered around with my disposable cup of tea.
As I walked back at an elephant’s pace (weight of my body couldn’t carry my emotions) to the hall, insecurity clasped my hands becoming my companion and she led me to the registration counter to check out my hypothesis, where I got the information that all the other 27 men were as much of a stranger to each other as I was to them. This news hit my already flagging confidence hard.
For context – it was 2008, when I was a single mother in the making with a daughter and a spouse who had been ghosting me. I was in my 30s, had no job, and was attending a two-day workshop to enhance my life skills to get me into a profession. This thus was my make or break moment balancing my confidence.
A break out session for discussion was announced. Four circles were formed by the participants and I was ignored, unwelcome to any of the circles; the faculty didn’t recommend that they include me either.
With the remnants of the confidence I had, I dragged my chair to the nearest circle. No one acknowledged me; I was the uninvited guest. My chair continued to remain outside the LoC while I gave my inputs, which weren’t heard by anyone. I continued to be the invisible woman.
During lunch I sat alone at a crowded table. This was my first networking in a work related space, and I was desperate to listen to the current topics that ruled the professional world.
At the end of the day during feedback time, the 27 men responded in single words – “good, enjoyed, informative….” I had more to say and I kept waiting for my chance, but an invisible woman doesn’t opine.
My frustration had mounted to the level of Mount Everest, and so I decided to take on the climb. I removed my footwear, raised myself up and stood up on my chair.
Yes, in a training hall I did that.
My heart rate raised as I looked down at the thoughts that were as low. The faculty’s conclusion lecture screeched to a sudden break. All the participants turned back to look at the woman standing on the chair.
The silence now changed sides.
The invisible woman made herself visible.
I gave my feedback first, which was good but for the prominent gender bias. I looked the faculty in the eyes and told him that he should have added ‘ONLY FOR MEN’ in the advertisement calling for participants.
When I was done talking, I climbed down and gathered my belongings. As I walked away there was a standing ovation. I didn’t wish to acknowledge an accolade that I received standing on the chair and screaming for attention.
Something in me transformed that day. I learned ‘I am my VOICE.’
The next sunrise blew in a wind of change. I occupied the front seat and was an equal participant. I was vivid and visible henceforth.
For those of you who want to ask me why I was insecure and wanted to be part of the group, let me remind you I was working on my self esteem alongside trying to get some clarity on my estrangement in my personal life at the time. Rejection was my narrative script of life, and I couldn’t accept a rejection in my professional life before I began.
That day if I hadn’t climbed up and stood on that chair, I would have sat down permanently on my self-esteem.
If the world chooses to make us invisible for our gender, then we have to usher in a creative solution for change, even if that means standing on the chair.
Image source: shutterstock
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Jaseena Backer is a Psychologist. The world knows her as a Parenting Strategist and Gender
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