Thirteen years ago (2017), I applied to an MBA program. Now at that time, I already had 3 bachelor degrees, 1 masters degree, and 1 PhD. I was accepted without reservation, but one of the reviewers who knew my dad from a social club told him “she’ll have trouble with the math.”
You see, that reviewer, who funnily enough specialized in the leadership classes of the program, assumed that 2 bachelors degrees in music (yep, not a single digit of math there) and a PhD that was 1/3 logic (nope, no math fundaments there) couldn’t possibly include basic, much less analytical mathematics.
I’d already taken and earned As in graduate level statistics not once but twice by that point. And I was going to have trouble with the math.
I get it. He – yes, it was a he – saw the department names “English,” “Music,” Linguistics,” and “Composition and Rhetoric” and heard only the “school of humanities.” Ahhhh, the old division of arts and sciences, right? Well, I’m the one with a foot in each, successful professionally – yep, paid in both arts and sciences!
Fast forward 13 years, and I’m 9 months into being the CFO for a 3-branch real estate brokerage in a luxury-heavy market. I move millions of dollars each month. And am held accountable for it weekly and monthly through an official review processes. Had a great conversation with our CPA Friday afternoon; she loves me.
I had this moment today – Sunday, August 16, 2020 – where I had a bit of a “take that, jackass” moment. You see, a colleague had asked for help in one of our online forums with explaining a financial outcome in a way the boss would understand.
I hopped on a call, checked the math formulas, matched them up with the company policies, and viola, explanation. And among all of that made a friend, mostly because I offered to figure it out with her, not because I knew the answer.
I spent an hour talking through financials without even having a statement in front of me – mine or hers – for reference.
All of this after being the very first CFO to pass the new CFO approval process for my region – the third most profitable region in the world for my company. All because I could explain the logic behind every single number and math output of the financial statements. Where I move millions of dollars each month.
She’ll have trouble with the math.
I already had 5 degrees. I’d submitted transcripts showing 2 As in statistics already. So what’s left is “she.”
It’s not often that I pay attention to sexism against me. I’ll fight you if I see/hear you apply it to someone else, but I just don’t care enough when it’s directed at me. And then I think of what it might have cost me.
It’s not often that I pay attention to sexism in my dad’s favor. But that’s what happened. I was given a “pass” because my dad is a graduate of the same school, an all-male school when he and the reviewer attended back in the day. I was a “good risk” because I had earned credentials, and I had existing connections with the school.
Women in STEM graphic from flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/28240669948