Build Your Own Table

By Basia Alicia Powell

From as long as I can remember, I have understood the unspoken rule, that not everyone gets a seat at the table. I never accepted the rule, but I understood it, as it existed before I entered this world. I have been privileged enough during my lifetime to witness the “restricted expansion” of the table. We now have a female Vice President of the United States Of America. Such rare occurrences have introduced terms like the “only or first black, only or first asian, only or first latino, only and first woman” too achieve something or the other. It has actually become the norm to celebrate something that speaks to a large problem.

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As we celebrate “Women’s History Month”, I celebrate and tip my hat to the many women who refused to take “no” for an answer and continue to shatter the glass ceiling. Some of these women are not necessarily famous like Beyonce, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian, Meghan Markle, Oprah, Ellen and others. However, some of the most fascinating accomplished women I know, are not known to the world. They play their roles quietly as humanitarians, working single mothers or accomplished housewives holding things down, so their husbands and children can succeed at their careers. These women are some of the best financial managers and spiritual advisors (as they cover their families with daily prayers and they are masters at stretching a dollar).  They bury their hopes and dreams alive, to ensure that their family unit is cohesive and flourishes. Yet they remain unrecognised.

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For many years, women of all races were overlooked for career advancements and hirings. In cases where those women were women of color, it was three times worse, for them. If you are a woman of color, you would know that the world told you who you are before you had a chance to find out yourself. (Thankfully I did not receive it.) This is why many people and women of color in particular, were so shattered by the events associated with George Floyd’s on camera murder, and the consequent events associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. For years black women accepted what they were told about themselves and they were so busy taking care of their families, they had no choice but to accept the rhetoric It was a choice between grind or complain. They chose to grind and ignore. We all learnt, that ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

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The truth is, this is the first year I realised that there was a month dedicated to women. I am still trying to find out the purpose. Is it simply a token theme month with no real benefit for our gender? I believe we would have more to celebrate when compensation rates are equalised for positions held by both genders, and when we are appointed to positions of leadership, not as tokens, but as qualified and deserving professionals. According to Statista Research Department, women are currently outranking men as graduates of 4 and 2 year colleges. According to Statista,

In an impressive increase from years past, 36.6 percent of women in the United States had completed four years or more of college in 2019. This figure is up from 3.8 percent of women in 1940.

Statista Research Department

Percentage of U.S. population who have completed four years of college or more from 1940 to 2019, by gender –

Statista Research Department

Despite an increase in female university education and certification, women are still out-earned by men in most cases. Not to mention, men also have more access to rapid career ascension via  athletic scholarships and the “boys clubs” than women do. With these avenues they have a greater chance of graduating with a  college degree with less student loans, compared to their female counterparts.

While I commend the powers of being for identifying  “a month for women”, it would be nice if they would fill the boardrooms with us. Give us a seat at the table. We can do more than serve coffee. Men would not be here without us, as we took a decision to give birth to them. Clearly we are capable of making sound decisions.

@basiapowell

As I reflect on “Women’s History Month”, I wish to honor all women, but in particular women who created their own tables. I have had to do the same in my career. It was not easy for me to create a successful career as a graduate. I recognised a long time ago that If I need a seat at the table, I had to build my own and buy chairs to sit on.

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Sometimes the thought of having to do that consistently is exhausting, but it is sometimes the only way, when you are a woman. As women, we hear the word “no” a lot. However, when you develop “your own table mentality” , the word “no” is no longer intimidating, as we have come to expect resistance. I want to encourage all women to build tables and invite other women to take a seat. When women can effectively create the “girls club” by looking out for each other and stop being critical of other women, then the month of March would have greater significance for our gender. (You feel me?)

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