Saturday, November 19, 2016

EVOLUTION OF A FEMINIST, a guest blog by Leila Gough

I am not a feminist.  I have never been a feminist. Sure I have experienced harassment and discrimination in my career, but I have always just ignored it. I was hired in the investment business in 1981.  At the time there were two of us applying for the job.  A male with no college degree but sales experience (car sales) and me with a college degree and no sales experience.  I was 22 years old.

In the securities industry, when you are hired to be an advisor, you are given a desk to study for the Series 7 exam for three months.  Pass the test, move on; fail, you are let go.  The male was given the desk to study.  I was hired, but as clerical help with the proviso that I could study at night, or when things were slow and if I passed I too could get a desk.  We both passed the exam and I was given a desk.  Instead of being angry, my narrative was that because I had done some clerical work, I understood how to get things done for my clients right from the beginning.  

A few years later I was working late afternoon in the office as were others.  The manager walked by and grabbed my ass.  Yes, just grabbed my ass.  I did nothing.  I don't even think I told my husband.

Fast forward to the 1990s, I am in a conference room, full of men (it is after all, a male dominated business) waiting to hear from our new regional manager.  I was in the front of the room.  He walks in, looks at me and says, "I wonder what you had to do to get that ring."  I said, “get married.”

None of these incidents in my career has made me change my point of view about feminism.  For years I have watched the sons of business owners get handed the business on a silver platter.  Or the advisor who doesn't always have his clients’ best interests at heart get the corner office. Or the less qualified male get the managerial job over a qualified female. This is just the way the world works.

But then something happened the day after the election.  There are a dozen TVs in our office, but only one in the office of a female advisor who happens to be my business partner.  Hillary Clinton was giving her concession speech and I went in to watch. In addition to my partner, three female admins were also watching. We watched in silence as she gave her speech.  Kleenex was passed.  It was a sad and emotional moment. I got very angry at all the times I have seen the more qualified female passed over for the male with the silver spoon in his mouth.  And this AGAIN.

 I am still angry, and I am grieving deeply for this country. I am worried about much more than me and my feminism.  I am worried for my black grandson, for my friends of color, for those that serve me in the check-out line who may not be here legally.  For my gay friends who are so fearful.

I can hide for the next four years behind my white privilege; even though I am a Brazilian anchor baby, I certainly don't look the part.  But instead I hope to become an activist feminist; calling my congressional and senate offices (all women by the way); calling Paul Ryan's office; speaking up against injustice; donating to causes that work to stop discrimination and hate; and doing what I can to help those in need.

And of course, working and voting in the mid-terms for change.

Yes, I guess I am a feminist.

Leila Gough

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