Token Girl

I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by the Phoenix Business Journal for women in commercial real estate. One of the questions asked, and it seems for the millionth time: “Is there still a glass ceiling when it comes to women in C-level positions”?

I find that question rather hilarious. A glass ceiling in what room and controlled by whom? The courtroom? The boardroom? The typical tenant improvement poorly-appointed conference room? The exam room? The bedroom? Just exactly what room?

Don’t be put off. I’m not a victim of anyone or anything. And believe me, I am not a male basher. I have been discriminated against more times than I can count. I have seen women of color doubly mistreated. And just look past our American shores if you really want to focus on injustice.

If these words cause you to squirm with a tinge of discomfort as you read my blog – good. I hope my words make you feel uneasy. It’s about time we all recognize the situation and bring it out in the open.

Let’s begin with equal pay for equal work. Why are we even having this conversation the 21st century? Nothing has changed really, not by the government anyway. We put a president in the White House every four years with promises of change and nothing happens.

Change comes from you and I. We are the change agents. In my own small world, I have been and still am a change agent. Many women of my generation have ridden and then paved the same bumpy road. I extend my deepest respect for their leadership and courage.

I am fearless in challenging any person who would block my path. Since my career landed me in a male-dominated world, I was always the only female. I challenged those who thwarted my mission as best I could with the power and intellect I had at the time.

I left those who would not play fair with me. I worked for 58 cents on the dollar doing the same job as the guys, while providing interior design services for the entire contract side of the company. I was not invited to participate in work activities with the salesmen, I received the smallest office, the crummy company car, and was told I should be grateful. I put up with the seemingly innocent bodily brushes, the dismissive behavior, the outright rude and crude comments, and blatant requests to engage in an afternoon tryst.

I’ve been told I was the smartest thing in a skirt my employer had ever seen, and another said he liked long hair on his women and short hair on his dogs. Finally, at a company I worked for in Phoenix, the general manager introduced me in a room full of men, as the token girl, and never said my name. They were presidents, owners and general managers. Leaders in their respective communities, many were married and had daughters. Of course, none of them were successful in their “romantic” advances.

Some will scoff at me, some will be fearful or insulted, some will cheer me on. Those with integrity, courage, and forethought will support and defend women in the workplace. Every generation of women gets stronger. We are moving into industries once dominated by males. I just hope the pay scale increases as the old guard changes. Things will change, they always do. Some good, some bad. We must never be silent, though, when we see injustice of any kind.

The only way a glass ceiling cannot be shattered is when we stop trying. The only way to experience busting your noggin twice on a glass ceiling is to hang around and continue to offer your expertise and talents. If you have to, take your abilities and the revenue stream elsewhere. Just ask the boy who referred to me as the “Token Girl”

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