A few weeks ago, I witnessed (eavesdropped on) a conversation in the Barcelona airport that really stood out to me. Naturally, my curious (nosy) self listened and then promptly wrote a quick reflection on it. With just 3 days left in Spain, I’d rather wait to write about leaving until I’ve actually left, so stay tuned for a post this weekend about what it’s like to leave the place I’ve learned to call home and return to the place I’ve always known as home. As for this post, it’s slightly dramatic, but what else do you expect from a 20-year-old female college student about to enter the business world dominated by men?
“Women should be more outspoken”
As I stood in line at the Barcelona airport awaiting my trip to Budapest, this statement echoed loudly in my head. I was standing in front of two business professionals – both women – who had just finished some type of conference in Barcelona. One was heading back to her office in Munich, the other home to California. They spoke English to each other, but both carried accents that pointed to a lifetime spent elsewhere. Their voices differed – they weren’t of the same nationality. But what they did share – and what the 20-year-old American college student unbeknownst to them also shared – was a strong belief in women.
“Women should be more outspoken” the lady traveling to California said. She continued to talk about how women aren’t valued if they don’t speak – how they’re forgotten amongst the men. She explained how she surprises the men in the room with her confident, direct voice. The woman on her way to Munich agreed. She spoke of how “they”, meaning men, are sometimes scared of her because she unexpectedly offers differing opinions with a force that they didn’t think she had. They continued speaking as my mind drifted.
The closer I get to the real world, the closer I get to this understanding that women are not equal to men. I used to think it was an exaggeration, an excuse for people to complain. This, I can assure you, is not the case.
What I’ve also learned in the past few months is that although today’s woman is not equal to today’s man, we are on our way.
Putting political opinions aside, the recent U.S. presidential race was a great achievement for women. Despite the outcome of the election, there were moments in which the world believed that a woman could be president of the United States of America, the leader of the free world. Although the time for a woman to run the world hasn’t quite arrived, I truly believe that the perspective has shifted. The glass ceiling is cracking. I used to think a woman couldn’t ever become president, and now I wonder which woman it will be. I know that I’ll see a female president in my lifetime, the question is only a matter of when.
This week I was also given a precious gift from my professor of Spanish Romantic Literature. Professor Caballé gifted all of us with a book that she compiled titled La pluma como la espada: la vida escrita por las mujeres – “the pen as a sword: the life written by the women.” This book includes the poetry and writings of female Hispanic writers from the 18th century who broke the rules of society and began to publish their own works – something only men were permitted to do. Some of these women wrote about the lack of freedoms they had, others about their struggles. But what stood out to me most is the writings written by women against their own sex. At the time, the only literature they had studied was literature written by men and for men. Because of this, some female writers didn’t know how to write about women in any context other than in mockery of them. Fortunately, the majority didn’t write like this – but that minority that did reminds me much of today. It reminds me of why women must be more outspoken: because deep down, we feel as if we are not as qualified, smart, or capable as men. We refer to ourselves, and other women, in a derogatory manner that we’d never use when referring to men. We hide our voices within ourselves and wait until it’s our turn. Well, the majority has spoken. It’s our time.
As for the ladies on my flight, they give me hope. Hope that one day I’ll be traveling the globe for important conferences and will unknowingly inspire a young girl to do the same. Their strong belief in women and their bravery in facing a room full of men without an ounce of inferiority in their composure is why I know that we are on our way to the top.
Forget the pen and give us the sword; we’re here to make that ceiling shatter.