"You seem stressed"

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

"That's because I am!" I admonished the contractor I was on the Zoom call with. For the past 7 years, I had been overseeing and/or performing research, infrastructure implementation, strategic planning, fundraising, and finally construction of an $6M expansion and new facility at work. Of course I do not take credit for this alone, but I am proud of being the lead and carrying the vision on this project. I created the pro-forma budgets that have fallen in line, met with hundreds of donors individually, toured similar facilities, worked with consultants on the readiness and assessment, and attended the building committee meetings every week for 2 years. The whole project spanned the pregnancy, births, nursing, and rearing of my now 2 and 5 year olds.

By the time we had this Zoom call, we had been transitioning 34 years of operations to the new building, in the middle of a global pandemic, without being able to host volunteers, or have visitors and onsite programs which were budgeted to subsidize our mission work for wildlife and the community. I learned so much over the past several years about the field of construction, and unfortunately it continued to reinforce the sad reality of women in business leadership positions. The construction world is 100% male dominated, and I was the only female at those meetings for years. Every contractor would float over me with their eyes until they landed on a male board member or our general contractor, and then begin their pitch. To their credit, our board members and general contractor would re-direct them to me, stating "Kristen is the one running the project, and manages all of the income and payments". Over time, the CFO's and project managers would finally begin calling or interacting with me directly, but it took training them and I could tell they would much rather grunt to another male instead of producing the detailed reports, updated timelines and budgets I demanded, along with regular communication.

Because we have been diminished for so long, men have not been held accountable by females in the workplace for very long. Well, hold on boys, its coming! On this particular Zoom, I was addressing a drainage issue from an incorrect design. It took 43 minutes of me talking about how it isn't working, that drainage should be planned for 100-1,000 year storms that happen every 1-5 years now due to climate change, etc. Then I got the "you seem stressed" remark. I said I was stressed because there were several systems that were not working the way they should, that is unacceptable, and my frustration is an appropriate reaction. Finally, in the last 2 minutes he admitted the system was built incorrectly, they would fix it and take care of it. I couldn't help but wonder if he would have uttered that statement if I had different anatomy, telling another male to "calm down".

I'm thinking about all of this as I process the horrer of what the women and children in Afghanistan are going through. Feeling like my voice is not as important, not being respected for my brain and expertise, or gaslighting me is nothing compared to the violence and fear they live daily. I have been making donations to the private initiatives that have been shuttling women and children (and of course men) out. And I will keep holding men accountable over here in the US, where the patriarchy is more subversive, but absolutely present. I think its important for us as women to talk about this as much as we can. Because, ya, at times I'm definitely feeling stressed. And you know what, dude? It's because of you!

Have you experienced misogyny at work or with your family? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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