THE DAILY MOOD
It’s a man’s man’s man’s world
Seven years ago, at a bank in India, where I had gone to restructure a loan along with my brother, the bank manager steadfastly refused to acknowledge my presence. The account was mine, the loan was mine, I asked the questions but my brother received the answers. At the end, when I said thank you, my brother was told, “You’re welcome, sir.”
Things haven’t changed much as we stand in January 2018. Men still prefer discussing facts and figures with men, or they assume that we wouldn’t want to bother our pretty little heads with boring stuff like numbers. I guess terms like depreciation or amortisation should strike terror in a woman’s heart, so why bother us with that?
If I knew how to knit, these are the times I would like to pull out my knitting needles. I remember a colleague presenting a budget where he showed a 73 per cent growth that was in reality 12.8 per cent. I am not a financial whiz but I did go to college. He finally figured out that I know how to use a calculator and concentrated on frantically reworking his budget.
Many men continue to be uncomfortable shaking hands with a woman in a business setting – and these are not ones who may have religious reasons for doing so. Even worse are the limp, apology-of-a-handshake handshakes, that make me think I should go back to my roots and greet everyone with folded hands.
Forget the bank manager, but even in business meetings here I have found men who prefer directing their questions to other men in the group, rather than the woman, even when the woman is senior to her colleagues.
I recall a meeting at an institution, where our host (a Fulbright scholar no less and we only heard about it 16 times), completely ignored me beyond the mandatory greeting. I was like the childhood invisible friend that only my colleagues could see and no one else.
I’ve never forgotten the principal of a school many years ago who was horrified that my male colleagues had ‘allowed’ me to drive them to Sohar and said so without hesitation.
I remember thinking at the time that it didn’t matter where a man comes from in the world, and he came from a far more liberal country than mine (or any from the region I live in), but obviously, they seem to share the same view of what women should be doing in the world.
Men continue to make the mistake that woman are malleable and can be flattered into favourable business deals. They do know that they are equally susceptible to flattery, so it could easily work the opposite way, right?
Networking during the tea-coffee breaks at seminars is always a pain for an unaccompanied woman. Men tend to gather in groups and somehow women are not encouraged to join in. You smile, say hello and move on. If you break the protocol, be prepared for really awkward moments, where no one, including you, will know what to say next.
At many evening gatherings, men still congregate on one side to discuss matters of importance while women gather in another to gossip (of course). And there is still an embarrassed silence if you cross over to the men’s side and an attempt is often made to discuss ‘something lighter’ that suits our delicate sensibilities.
All of this does not hold true of all men by any chance – and I know enough and more who don’t do any of these things. But there is a significant enough number who indulges in the attempt to keep us enshrined as the ‘gentler sex’.