Blog Feature : FEMININITY IN THE BUSINESS WORLD || by Paola Gobina (Part 1)
Mr X happens to be a very good friend of mine. He is a very smart and intelligent young man, with a very impressive record of life experiences. He happens to be someone who has travelled a lot round the world, met a lot of people and encountered so many cultures. I am honoured to have him, not only as a mentor but as a friend too. Once, not long ago, X and I got into an instructive conversation and when we were about to close up the topic, he told me these very encouraging words “Paola, you are a very promising young lady”. I must admit, I was flattered, exclusively for the fact that it came from him. However, the “jaw-drop” effect stroke me when he added “You will certainly encounter success, I mean, look at yourself. You are beautiful!” That remark actually left me dumbstruck for a while and today, honestly, I regret my silence. He should have probably intended it to be a compliment but unfortunately for him, I did not take it from that side of the token. I was speechless to realise that my dear friend thought out loud my imminent success would be more as a result of my physiological beauty than for the fact that I could be smart, intelligent or resourceful enough for it. Nevertheless, X and I are still very good friends, my regards towards him remain unaffected and I never miss an opportunity to learn from him.
Being a woman, black or white, African or not, I always say this to my friends- out of experience, believe me –is already very tough. Being a woman in business is even more hard-hitting. I would not boast of a very loaded business career because it would not be true but I can say this, every day I push open the gates to the business world and I must confess, the ushers are not very hospitable. The first phase happens to be that of intimidation and the appeal for respect from the male counterpart, where I found myself until a week ago. The “What will I wear” dilemma which always finds itself between accepting one’s femaleness and being respected by one’s audience. Just like Chimamanda Ngozi on her very first day as a writing workshop trainer (Read “We Should All Be Feminists” by her), we end up wearing very ugly suits and letting go of our favourite glossy lipstick which we might consider very “distracting”. There is the constant fear, especially for the most ambitious, to be found just “beautiful”. The more “girly” you look, the less serious you are, no matter how “decent” your outfit looks. This almost, if not already, makes me think that to be a “woman in business”, you have to dress like a man or look “more serious” as “they” would say. Cover yourself…
(To be continued…follow blog for next write next)