It stands to reason that I challenge the status quo here in Australia.
Firstly, I am ethnic and young and I really shouldn’t be living in a mostly white upper middle class suburb. Secondly I drive an expensive European family car (how many times have I had disparaging looks from older Anglo folk!). Thirdly, I work in allied health and I don’t act nor look the part.
However, one particular event in my life stands out of when I really pushed the boundaries. I was twenty something and I was going to become a corporate woman. I had just met my then boyfriend who in years to come would be my husband. He was a young, white successful upstart in the management consulting industry and he put me in touch with the owner of a large recruitment agency. Not everyone had the personal details of this multi-millionaire owner of the only large recruitment firm in Sydney in the 1990s, so when Mr Wealthy received my email, he immediately thought I was referred to him by one of his important networking mates.
He organized for an interview with one of his senior recruiters for a position in their recruitment team. Boy were they disappointed. They knew I was a female but they didn’t expect me to look so young and so ethnic. Needless to say the interview lasted all of 20 minutes. But wait there’s more. I get a phone call a week later asking for me to attend an interview out at their Parramatta office for a potential role in their outsourcing department. Mr Wealthy White Man was going to make sure that I paid for wasting his time. I was interviewed for one and a half hours by some old codger who talked mostly of his time doing voluntary work in out flung places in the world. On several occasions I got up to go and was told to sit back down if I wanted the job. In the end I did end up just leaving (no I’m not slow -after 1/2 hour talking with this person I realised it was pay back). My point is that I didn’t look the part, I challenged the status quo and I am an ethnic female who is suppose to have no access to those jobs and I shouldn’t have used a boys network to get an interview. That is how we keep people like me in my place-‘ get to the back of the bus, shut up and sit down. ‘
On the other hand, stupid ambitious white men can be bolstered purely by their gender and race. I take Tony Abbott and George W Bush as examples. Due to family connection and/or the boys club these average intelligent men made it to the top job of their respective countries not on merit alone. Tony Abbott even scored a Rhodes Scholarship and I wonder about all those bright females who topped the HSC in the past years having a shot at it too. Sexism plays a huge role in Australia so I get a double whammy being racially ‘other’ and being a female.
Taking Julia Baird’s quote I now have a Mantra “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.’ I have to say it’s working.