Quiet or Loud – Do Something

It was time. I had been working for a couple of years and was ready to move away from home. I was super excited to start my adult life. Unfortunately, my parents had other ideas. They didn’t think a woman should be living on her own, especially one that was only 20 years old.

“Wait until you get married,” they said. Well, I was having none of that. I found a nice apartment and moved in. My parents were upset and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of weeks. We were a close family though, so I knew it wouldn’t last. Eventually they came around and everything was fine.

Around that same time, I was walking into my bank when a young man with a clipboard approached me asking if I would like to apply for a credit card. I knew I needed to establish a credit rating, so I said yes. We filled in the application together. I met all the qualifications so was surprised when it came time to sign and he told me I had to have my husband sign it. I explained that I wasn’t married, so he replied that I needed my father to sign it then. I asked him why I couldn’t sign it myself. I was working and clearly qualified.

“Sorry, that’s the rules.” he explained. He tore the application in half, handed it to me and walked away. Well, I was having none of that either. I searched out credit card companies that accepted women independently and within a couple of weeks one arrived in the mail. Ok, that was settled.

Just a few short years later I was a newlywed and looking for a first-time home to buy. I was supporting my husband as he went through University. I made good money as a computer programmer and knew I could cover the costs, especially if we bought something small. We found the perfect house in our price range. Our offer was accepted and we were assured a mortgage wouldn’t be a problem based on my income. Everything was falling into place nicely.

Except it wasn’t. Sitting in the mortgage office, we were stunned to hear that they wouldn’t give us a mortgage. The reason? I was a woman and my husband was not earning an income. They explained that I might get pregnant and quit, so we didn’t qualify. Well, I clearly was having none of that!

Fortunately, a close friend of mine was a lawyer (and a woman). I asked her advice. She immediately picked up the phone and called the mortgage company herself, explaining who she was and that this was clearly a human rights issue. We were approved that afternoon.

A few years later I had been promoted to a senior programmer position. I had two programmer trainees under me: a woman in her thirties and a young man in his early twenties. The woman was incredibly hard working and clearly had a talent for programming. The young man was lazy and spent a lot of his time at work doing personal things. When it came time for promotions, my manager called me in and asked for my input. I told him that the woman was doing really well and was ready to be promoted, but the young man needed more time to prove himself.

The next day the promotions came out. The young man had been promoted and the woman held back. I immediately went into the manager’s office asking for an explanation. He felt the young man just needed encouragement and that a promotion would help him. As for the woman, she came from a non-technical background and he wanted her to prove herself for a longer period of time, just to be sure.

I was livid but felt that there wasn’t much I could do as I was leaving the company within a couple of weeks. I approached the woman and told her that she was really talented and encouraged her to keep going. She would get that promotion soon. To the young man, I told him he was lucky this time. He just laughed at me. A year later, I ran into someone who worked for the same company and they told me she had been promoted shortly after I left and that he had been fired. Good to hear that time sorted that one out.

I experienced many of these kinds of incidences over the years but as time moved on, they became fewer and further between. We have come a long way, yet there is still so much to do, especially in developing countries.

It’s hard to believe that it was only 100 years ago that women were initially given the right to vote in parts of Canada. I am incredibly grateful to our foremothers for everything they did to make that, and so much more, happen. Their voices would not be silenced and nor should ours.

This year International Women’s Day is being celebrated on March 8 with the theme “Better the balance, better the world.”

Whether you plan to spend the day quietly contemplating ways you can improve women’s rights in your circle or going out to demonstrate for women’s rights – do something.

One step at a time, we can make a better world for women everywhere.  

#BalanceforBetter #IWD2019

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