Last week I had to call RACV for some help with my car. The man that arrived was very polite and friendly, excellent customer service. We got chatting, as you do in those situations. Just small talk. He asked what I did. I said I was a teacher. Oh, his wife was a teacher- instant connection. He seemed quite happy sharing small talk about what a great job it is, keeps you busy, again still very polite. He asked what year level I taught…this lead me to explain I was a leading teacher so didn’t have my own class and that I have been relieving as an Assistant Principal for the last couple of months. With that he looked up at me, paused, went back to doing something to my car, looked up again and asked “so what do all the senior teachers think of a young girl like yourself being in that job?”.
Does it matter what they think? Does it matter what he thought? I must admit I was quite taken aback. At this point I just wished he would stop talking, hurry up and just finish his job. Lucky he was almost done, I basically just laughed the comment off and now am wishing I had of said something.
The worst part of this experience was feeling like I owed him an explanation. Like I had to explain to the stranger in front of me why I am a young, successful, ambitious person. Like I had to prove myself.
It’s not the first time this has happened to me. In my job I have been mistaken for an administration officer and an education support staff member by parents and visiting teachers of both genders. Sometimes others are shocked to hear the range of accomplishments that I have achieved in a relatively short time span. Yeah, I’ve done a bit, but so what, so have many others.
Is it so shocking that a thirty year old female is in such a position of leadership? Is it so shocking that I have been driven, committed and hard working? Is it so shocking that I may have something to offer…even though I’m young…and a woman?
It is ridiculous that comments like these are still heard. We often talk about how far society has come in regards to gender equality but it’s obvious we haven’t come far enough.
So…Dear Mr RACV, the answer to your question is that I’m not too sure what they think, but I do know that we treat each other with respect, we work alongside each other, we share advice and feedback and we make the world that little bit better by caring about the education for the students in our care. I’m pretty sure that’s all that matters.