There was a time, not too long ago, when a woman’s contribution to society was solely as a maternal figure. Today, women also run billion dollar companies, build innovative tech solutions and continue to shatter glass ceilings our grandmothers could only dream of. In Malaysia, there are more female graduates than there are male graduates, even though men outnumber women in overall population.
In spite of that, gender discrimination still exists, especially in the workplace. It can appear overtly in the form of the gender wage gap, but also presents itself in its softer, but more insidious, form of gender bias. It’s insidious because it’s hard to notice, and even harder to catch in the moment… and without being aware of it, easy to internalize.
As we strive for greater equality for all genders (yes, men too), how do we continue to thrive and navigate an environment littered with gender bias and discrimination?
The key is to do what so many successful women before us have done before: Shake it off.
Call the bias out for what it is – bias, not biology. But ultimately, do it the TayTay way – shake it off. After all, what a woman (and in fact, any person) can or can’t do, should or shouldn’t do are simply social constructs.
But even more so, whatever you choose to do – choose to do it well. Do it so well that they can’t ignore you, or have to acknowledge you.
When I was in school, I was one of the people responsible for maintaining the computer lab. Whenever someone hears this, there’s a look of amazement and disbelief. But here’s the thing, I went to an all girls’ school and there was no boy to leave the “techy stuff” to – someone just had to do it. I didn’t realize it then, but this was one of the earliest situations where I learned that technology is not exclusively for men… and that female gender expectations were more influenced by society than they were by my sex chromosomes.
So, my fellow girls and ladies – allow yourself to be angry, to be sad about the state of affairs, but also know that while it is status quo for now, it doesn’t always have to be. After all, we are not victims – we are the masters of our own fate and we get to decide what we accept or reject.
Thousands, millions of women thrive in spite of this status quo, and through their successes, manage to influence the status quo. Look around you: learn from these women, be inspired by them, and let’s continue to deliver our very best.
Gender expectations are just that – expectations.
You, and you alone, get to decide if you want to be defined by them.
This essay was originally written for CLEO magazine (now defunct) and published in print in September 2017.