“Educate a man, you educate a nation”. I know that’s not exactly the sentence James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (yes I had to look that up) uttered, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded a little interpretation. Here’s why.
You might remember that a few weeks ago I interviewed for a new job with a CEO who fed back, amongst other things, that she thought I would lack focus because I had children. I would love to say that I stormed into her office and gave her a piece of my mind, whilst a group of like-minded women picketed outside with chants and banners. Even, I would like to have said that my perseverance and tenacity on the subject got a new piece of legislation passed. A sort of employment law Erin Brockovich.
The truth is though, that didn’t quite happen, I’m not that bold. I’m quite good at ranting, but maybe not so great at following it though. I love and admire those people who can leave a burning trail whilst on a crusade to fight inequalities, but I’m not quite up to it. Surprisingly though, given all that, it did eat away at me and I found I couldn’t let it lie. I realised I had to say something, to someone, and that someone couldn’t just be equally outraged female friends.
I had got the interview through an old work colleague and it was him that had passed the feedback on to me. As men go I would consider him to be pretty reconstructed; sensitive to others feelings, a great manager and, to use an old fashioned term, right on. I have never heard him spout prejudice or negativity about any group of people, but even he didn’t realise that this piece of feed-back, that I would lack focus because I had children, was unacceptable. It feels a little terrifying how ingrained in our society this sort of attitude is, and that even the best kind of man didn’t understand the impact of it.
So I after a few false starts, I rang him. I don’t think I realised quite how upset I was about it until I started talking to him. My voice was shaking and I could hardly get my words out. I explained to him how appalled and insulted I was that someone could have said this about me. I said I was pretty sure she wouldn’t have said it if I was a man.
And do you know what? He listened. He was embarrassed and quite upset that he hadn’t realised the impact of those words. He apologised and said he would be much more aware of it in the future. I hung up feeling elated. I had taken back control of the situation and had won a small but significant victory.
I had educated a man and it felt great.