I was at a conference this past week focused on Blockchain – fancy new technology that has the potential to disrupt how we send data and encrypt financial transactions. It was a conference for “Business Executives” which I was excited to have been invited to and represent my company. I’ve never been referred to as an “Executive” before. Typically you see me running around work in jeans, Chuck Taylors, sometimes with colored hair extensions, driving remote controlled flying fish, being loud and a little crazy because it makes work more fun and makes me and others laugh. Yes, I work for a discretely cool company that tolerates me and I appreciate them for it.
But back to the story – here I was feeling like a big shot, like I had finally “arrived” because here I was with these 40 VERY impressive people and we were all learning about this new technology and discussing its potential applications. And I was relatively funny (or at least my table laughed at my jokes/statements) and had good suggestions that ended up in our final recommendation set.
Cue: Girls Rule the World theme song
At the end of this conference, I did something many women do, I walked to the ladies room past the front desk at the very small hotel we were staying at. And then it happened.
“Will you run my credit card and get me an Uber now?”
“Excuse me?” I asked
“Aren’t you the assistant?”
“Um, no” I said
“Where are they then?”
“No idea but good luck” I said
Now, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t happen to me before . Ok, lots of times where I’ve been asked to get copies, coffee, make reservations, perform general logistics/assistant duties. I love assistants – nothing happens without them, they know everything and everyone and how to make it run smoothly. I sincerely appreciate the administrative support professionals that I work with – I couldn’t do my job without them.
But I had been sitting in a room with this guy for 2 days, had cocktails with him, talked about what our companies are working on, debated the choices of pilots. Sat at the table next to him at lunch, wore a jacket & heels with matching jewelry (dressed like a grown up). Granted there were a lot more men than women at this conference – but shouldn’t that have made me stand out more? Didn’t he read my nametag or listen when we introduced ourselves with our roles?
I kept asking myself – did I look like an assistant? Did I not look like an executive? Not that an assistant or executive looks like anything in other than a person. Did I do something wrong? Was there something in the way I carried myself that said “I am here to serve you, oh powerful man.”
Would he have asked one of the male participants to get him an Uber?
Maybe it was an honest mistake but why didn’t he see me? See me beyond my ability to serve him? See my contributions to our conference over the past two days?
It makes me wonder – did any of the men see the few women that were there? Did they hear our contributions? Do the men I work with actually hear me? Or do they only think about how I can serve them?
This really bothered me. Killed my confidence, made me question my contributions, question my value. I was very insecure for a few days before I knocked it off and got back to business. But why did I allow this man to make me doubt my abilities?
I still have a lot to think about as to why this bothered me so much but I can tell you this much, I am not here to serve men. I am here to serve the people I love, the people I’m responsible for and the company I work for.
You buddy, can get your own damn Uber.