Today was career day. I walked into the auditorium late and sat in the very back row. There were three people standing in the front of the room. One was a congressman. One was a judge. One was an urban planner. All of them were white. All of them were male.
I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but I didn’t hear anyone mention anything. Nobody was surprised. Nobody was discouraged. Nobody was disappointed. At least not enough to say something about it. It was neither strange nor discomforting for a group of high school students to look at a professional landscape and see only one type of person.
And that lack of recognition, to me, proves that there is something wrong. Not a single club leader, teacher, or principal planned that day and found the dearth of females even remotely weird. Even though half of my school’s population is female. Even though half of the world’s population is female. Even though there is supposed to be a modern movement that encourages girls to become professionals. No one recognized that career day reinforced the subconscious self-doubts a high school girl has about having a career.
And so after the speeches I went to the front of the auditorium to meet up with my friends and I asked if they noticed, “not a single woman is speaking, today?” And a teacher leaned her head over my shoulder. She was around thirty, and looked very nice, but her face was contorted into a forced, defensive smile and she said, “We have a female speaking during sixth period, if you would like to come down to listen.” I told her I had lunch, and I would try to make it, and thanked her for letting me know.
I realized she had planned the day. She had invited the speakers. And I had just offended her. I don’t know if I felt guilty or angry, but as I stayed for another period to listen to three more men speak about their lives as executives I felt like I wanted to get up out of my seat and really just run away. That teacher wanted me to be grateful that one single woman was speaking during one single period of the day. And she was probably trying to convince herself to be the same thing. But we both knew that I didn’t need to hear a woman speak to know that a woman can speak about being strong, smart, and successful. But some girls do. And not all of them were going to be in the auditorium during sixth period.
I think it was just a missed opportunity.