This week, I participated in a meeting of a working group with which I have been associated for the past 6 years or so. I have devoted a lot of time to this particular service activity, and overall I have enjoyed the work. It can be frustrating when there are lots of deadlines all at once, but mostly I feel good about making a contribution in this particular way.
I am the only woman involved in this working group of Science Professors, and I have known all along that I was asked to join the group in part because I am female. This was (and is) fine with me because I think it is important that there be a woman in this group and because I am highly qualified for the work. It's not as if I am getting a *special award* for being a woman; I am contributing my time and efforts to a service activity, and I think what I am doing is important and worthwhile. The diversity issue is a positive aspect of this work, not something to be ashamed of.
So anyway, The Guys and I got together one day this week. We don't get together as a group all that often, but we had some things to discuss that were more efficient to deal with in a meeting than through endless e-mails or a conference call.
TWICE during the first half hour of the meeting, somewhat out of context, and completely gratuitously, one of The Guys mentioned that I was only part of this group because "they had to have a woman". He hastened to say that he was totally on board with this because he recognized the realities of the world today. Diversity has been deemed to be important -- although he noted that he has seen no evidence of the discrimination that some women in our field claim to experience -- so our group should be diverse.
He's a jerk, but I've been working well in this group for too long to feel humiliated.
I don't know what the younger man added to the working group in recent years (i.e., after me) thought of all this. Did it previously occur to him that I was a Diversity Addition to the group? Does he believe that he (unlike me) was invited to join us owing to his awesome skills? Do I really want to know the answer to that question? Should I re-read my own post from yesterday?
What did I do when my esteemed colleague made his "FSP is a token" comments? I calmly changed the subject to one more relevant to the meeting, made a point that no one else had thought of, got complimented (by someone else) for having noticed something that had long been overlooked by other members of the group, and basically just moved on with the tasks at hand. I am a useful member of this committee, and I will continue to contribute for as long as it is worthwhile for me to do so.
And yet, I did briefly wish that I could do something a bit more dramatic. I don't mean that I wanted to yell or slash my colleague's leather jacket, but something a bit symbolic might have conveyed my dismay at still being considered a Token after all these years of working with this group.
For example, what if I had a special Token Hat with pink ribbons and flowers? I could bring it with me and keep it in my
But mostly of course I would be very quiet. That way, I could be in the group, the group could get its diversity creds, but the guys wouldn't actually have to listen to me. Wouldn't that be better?