Friday, February 18, 2011

A Glimpse into the Subconscious

I washed my hands in the 3rd floor public bathroom, grabbed a paper towel, and put my hand on the door handle to make my way down the hall and get back to work.

As I pushed on the handle, it went down much easier than usual. Then the door swung open, nearly hitting me in the face as an incoming woman and I nearly scared each other to death. We caught our breath, apologized repeatedly to each other and then laughed it off, going our separate ways.

I kept thinking about that incident as I walked down the hall back to work. My mind has a way of replaying embarrassing things like that frequently. One thing that stood out to me was the woman's shirt. It was a sleeveless green shirt, the kind you'd wear under a suit coat. My mind started wandering without my permission, and I wondered what her office's dress code was like. It must be pretty strict if she has to wear a suit as the receptionist.

Wait a minute. What?

Did I just assume she was the receptionist? Why would I assume that? Because she's a woman?

Instantaneously images flooded into my mind of all of the women I've crossed paths with in the hallway or the bathroom. Have I EVER assumed that any one of them was the businesses owner at the office suite where they worked? Have I ever assumed that they were a financial planner, lawyer, executive or president?

I couldn't believe it. Seriously? This has never occurred to me?!?

I was so mortified by my own self. I felt incredibly frustrated that somehow these stereotypes have taken root so deeply in me that I didn't even realize what I was doing. I'm embarrassed.

Here I go around saying that women can do whatever they want to, have whatever career they want to, and can hold their own with the best male professionals out there. However, when it comes to my subconscious, I assume that women are assistants. Women are receptionists. Women are the ones who keep their male bosses organized.

Where do I go from here? How do I rid myself of that awful stereotype? How have I limited myself by this deep-rooted, silent stereotype that after nearly 30 years has made itself known?

What other stereotypes are lingering?

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