When I was 19 years old, a friend and I were setting up the recycling programme at our university. We started with the dormitories and then expanded to academic buildings. In order to educate people at an earlier stage in life and to encourage good habits early, we visited local schools to run a programme on reducing-reusing-recycling*, as well as the general consumption of water, electricity and the like.
One afternoon, we had concluded the formal presentation to 10-year-old schoolchildren and were ready to take questions. I recall that there were about 25 pupils sitting at round tables, seating about 7 children each. The class was equally divided between girls and boys, and they were scattered around the room.
I invited them to fire questions at us. A hand shot into the air. Question answered. Another several hands. And so on. Although it was good that children were engaged, there was a problem; only the boys raised their hands! Of the questions we took, not a single one came from a girl. They had self un-selected.
If, at 10 years of age, girls are self-unselecting when they’re in the company of boys, it’s no wonder that women are still so far behind in the professional world.
A similar thing happened again recently, when I was hosting a Be Smart About Art networking event. An artist took the audience of art world professionals on a tour his photography exhibition. We then invited questions from the room of artists and curators. Of the twenty people in the room, there were three men (including the artist). Guess who asked all of the questions? The two men in the audience.
What can be done about this? Women need to take conscious action. As Sheryl Sandberg writes in her book Lean In, we ladies need to, “sit at the table.”
So please, join me to take a seat! And men, as you’re already seated, please make room and welcome us. Together, we can make this world a better, happier, healthier and more peaceful place.
*The 3 Rs: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. The order of words is important:
Step 1: Reduce what you use (choose loose vegebatles from the supermarket and carry a shopping bag with you at all times).
Step 2: Reuse what you have (use plastic food containers for freezing leftovers).
Step 3: Recycle when there is no more reusable life in the item.
Here’s a great cause to support if you’re keen on helping the environment: Global Action Plan
Also see the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD), a trade network I founded in 2010 that facilitates business and collaborations between art dealers, gallerists and consultants. On 21st May 2014, the AWAD New York City Chapter holds its Launch Gala.