Women in Banking Awards Make Me Angry

I’m angry.

For those who know me, that’s hardly a surprise; for those who don’t it’s probably not either, as this simmering anger underneath a mostly pleasant façade is difficult to mask.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that we still have to talk about the special case of Women in Banking, like being a woman is an oddity, an exception to the rule, an outsider, a special class of human. Like we’re a freak in a side show at the Money Circus.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that a young woman banker looks shocked and surprised when, after telling me she had been sexually harassed by a client at an industry event, I give her a few insights into the rules of the game that dictate she not always be the strong, independent, vivacious, bright-eyed and optimistic person she is. That sometimes she has to play her woman card, that it’s not always going to be a fair hand she’s dealt, and that other, older women (myself included), have been paying the price for breaking the rules so that there are fewer and fewer rules she actually has to navigate.

I’m angry that another smart, capable, dynamic young woman has been a victim of a system that still gives sly permission — or even the perception of permission to the very few who would take advantage — to victimize the ‘weaker’ sex.

I’m angry because I viscerally remember my shock and disgust at being told the same thing by an older woman when the same thing happened to me as I first started my career. I’m angry because I do not want to see that look cross another young woman’s face again as she learns the unwritten rules of being a woman in business.

I’m angry that those rules have only changed incrementally, and that we have not yet found a way to shirk them off entirely. I am angry that women have to capitulate to an institutional framework in order to make progress, to be considered, to be respected, to be heard, to be valued.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that the noun gender has been relegated to covering only half of society. I’m angry that what once a term to describe a biological fact has now been turned into a dirty word to describe those who work to eradicate barriers, to level a playing field, to include the other half of society in the great debate, to raise awareness that actually gender is a sliding scale — a spectrum — that we all map to in one form or another. I’m angry that equality goes by the name ‘gender issue’. It’s not an issue, it’s a state of being that every single person on earth has, and yet we still talk about it like it’s a disease.

I’m angry that ‘good girls’ are punished for being assertive, but ‘bad boys’ are given gold stars for being rebels.

I’m angry that an adverb carries punitive consequences when applied to a woman: too aggressive, too independent, too loud, too domineering, too ambitious. Too angry.

No. No. I am just angry enough.

We all have the capacity to swing our pendulum in the other direction to the exact opposite degree. My capacity for anger is mirrored by my capacity for joy. Your capacity for fear is mirrored by your capacity for love. Our capacity for hate is mirrored by our capacity for kindness.

I am angry that, because I am a woman, I am not looked at as a person, a colleague, an associate, a partner who is simply a human being, with no pre-packaged limitations based on my gender, my race, my creed, my colour, my orientation.

Because, you see, we have the capacity to do just that. The degree to which we stereotype and compartmentalize and pre-judge is the degree to which we can open our perceptions, be inclusive, and offer a neutral space to let others show us who they really are, what value they bring to the table.

I am angry because we have to have a special award to recognize the contribution of an individual who works relentlessly to make the world and industry a better place. I’m angry that if the award hadn’t been created, that recognition wouldn’t even exist.

I am angry.

I am also profoundly, profoundly happy.

I am happy that women in this industry have come together. I am happy we have created a tribe, one that knows survival is too inconsequential a goal. A tribe that nurtures one another, supports one another, celebrates one another, and widens the circle to include the other who lurks on the outside because there is always room for another, irrespective of their gender, race, creed or orientation.

I am happy.

I am happy there is an international community that fosters inclusion, that extends an invitation to join in, to find friendship, to find succor and support, to find encouragement and inspiration, to find collaboration and creation.

I am happy that we can talk about Women in Banking, that there are women spearheading projects that will reshape the industry to provide services to those who’ve never had access to it before. I am happy that our numbers swell the ranks of good folk who worry about things like identity, privacy, security, access, financial health, wealth creation, and inclusion.

I am happy that there are vast numbers of women tackling the complexities of technical architecture, coding, system and process change, and delivery. I am happy there are battalions of women fighting to make this industry more accessible, more innovative, more service oriented. I am happy that there are women leading the charge as heads of global banks. I am happy there are women who fight relentlessly to leave what they have found better off for having been worked on and nurtured by these women.

I am happy there is a place where young women can go to find solace, support, guidance, and fairness when they stumble into an unwritten rule. I am happy there are fewer and fewer instances of blatant discrimination. (I am still angry that discrimination happens, blatant or not.)

I am happy that we have the opportunity to honour the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication of women in this industry. I am thrilled that this award is sponsored by a bastion organization that recognizes the highest of achievements and contributions. I am happy the time has arrived for this award.

I am happy that the work to change the composition of this industry is being led by incredible people — men and women — who are dedicated to embracing differences, celebrating diversity, practicing inclusion.

I am happy we are starting to see more women on stage presenting at industry conferences, sharing their expertise, debating and discussing business problems and solutions. I’m even happier that they’re not always the token woman, either, and that they don’t feel the need to shout out “I am Woman, hear me roar” but rather focus on the merits of the business case they lay out and blow the audience away with their deft handling of the topic nuancesrather than have to point out that they’re a woman.

Despite my dismay at how much work there is yet to do, I am happy.

I am happy, so profoundly, profoundly happy.

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