It was only a few days ago that many of you visited the STEM Mom Blog to read my letter as well as the article by Manglin Pillay. It’s unusual of me to find the need to write again only a few days later, but there is so much to still be discussed; especially today.
We all waited…the. Entire. Day.
We waited patiently. I wondered how you would all convene and discuss this burning topic. Would there be tension, or would you meet like old friends and consider an amicable solution to the public outcry and perhaps even have friendly banter and a laugh with Manglin for angering all the hens out there and causing them to get emotional and cluck angrily with each other?
Whatever you said…or how the discussion went about, we’ll never really know. My army of supporters…and yes, you are all MY army – are outraged upon reading the statement released by the SAICE board. I’ve not said much across any of the social platforms yet; I needed to process this.
To the Women in STEM and the Men who support us, I share in your disbelief, I understand your frustrations. I’ve read every comment (over 300 of them and counting on Facebook alone), I’ve responded to every tweet, reshare and personal message. Thank you for your honesty, thank you for your candidness. You have all lent your voices to a discussion which is vital; not just for our field, but also for our nation. While we are a developing nation, we hear about all that developed nations are doing in order to create better working solutions to bring more women and more diversity into the field. Now it’s time for us to listen to each other…
For those who love their work -Please continue on your path, no matter what the obstacle – you have already done so much already! You are so valued! Let’s start discussing how to make things better for you. We are the innovators, the ones who create – so let us now utilize our skills to also help each other.
For those who have had enough – who need to change paths – you have so many choices! You have a set of skills that can be used to do anything! Some of you may be considering a career break (whether you are male or female), DO NOT punish yourself or feel guilty for allowing yourself this thought. You are the only ones who can step out and break the moulds, the stereotypes that have been created by the patriarchy. You are no less of a man or woman, if you choose to raise a human being. Let’s discuss together with organisations, how you could still be ambassadors to your field, even when taking a career break (for whichever reason you should choose to do so).
For those who are about to enter into industry, afraid of the perspectives that have been publicized through the said article – These are not the only perspectives out there. You also have choices. You are so wanted and you have the freedom to choose a company or space that suits you and your needs. I speak from personal experience, when I say that there are men out there who will honour the being that you are and ensure that you are guided and valued not just for your work, but for the different perspective you add to a team. You will not always encounter these men. But through my posting of my letter, I’ve found a large number of them who are so passionate about making a difference to their workspace and to the existing discussion. Let’s seek them out together, let them mentor you.
To Manglin Pillay,
Throughout this debacle, I would like you to know that I have not attacked your character or held a grudge (as many of your friends and followers have tried to insinuate). I’m sure you have done much during your time as ceo (as it has been stated by the SAICE board). I applaud you for using your platform to contribute to social development. Yet my belief, as someone who has studied several case studies about leadership, is that as a leader who has tarnished his brand; it’s usually pertinent to do a bit of introspection after such a public outcry. I’m curious to know if you feel you have really done something to offend the community or if the apology was simply made to get on with things and sweep this mess under the rug. I look forward to understand what plans you have in place when you see a decline of candidates within your talent pool. Perhaps there won’t be a decline…perhaps everything shall return to normal? But if you do ever find that perhaps you have this nagging feeling that maybe you need to find out how it is that you’ve offended the community; I would like to extend an invitation to you. My invitation to you, is to sit down and discuss your article. Let’s read, critique, discuss… Sometimes we have what is known in psychiatry, as a mental scotoma – This is a “figurative blind spot in a person’s psychological awareness, the patient being unable to gain insight into a problem”. Now I am no psychiatrist, or expert, but I think that it would be worth having an open, honest and intelligent discussion to remove the scotoma you may have towards issues around gender bias, unconscious bias and gender diversity. I leave this invitation open to other academics and members of industry who would be willing to assist. Let’s talk! Let’s understand where the blind spots are and work together.
Lastly I want to say thank you. Your rhetoric allowed me to realize what value I can add as an individual. Your article has allowed us to lift up the proverbial floorboards (of what we thought was a solid floor), only to discover termites underneath. We can always replace floorboards and rebuild the foundation. Our country has already endured the pain of racism; we are still rebuilding. But I have belief in what is right and I know we will slowly rid this space of sexism too…one floorboard at a time.
The STEM Mom