Being judged by another is an unpleasant experience. Especially if it has happened solely based on appearance. Sharon Carvalho discuss how some overcome it with aplomb
“When I had my first baby and came back to work, there was a huge assumption that I would work part time. No one thought I would have a long-term career in Management Consulting due to the act of balancing my job and being a wife and a new mum. People at work told me that something would need to be compromised and a full time job would not be sustainable in the long run. A reason that was pointed out many times was that being Muslim and of South Asian background, my husband would not be happy with me being a working mother. A little while after that, I had the opportunity to move to Dubai within the company. So, I moved here with my husband and son and continued working full time. I am now on a leadership track and have not had to compromise anything. Being driven, committed and super organized between work and personal life has been the key. And having a very supportive husband has helped too!
“This incident happened when I was climbing to the highest peak in Antartica. Before every climb, there is a briefing that takes place with all the team members. This is done to discuss various aspects of the climb, such as dangers, route etc., to prepare for it. So, dressed in teal coloured pants and a lace white shirt, I walked in to the briefing room and was greeted by the sight of 14-15 well built men who all happened to be US Marines. The stares that followed me as I took a seat at the back of the room could have burned a hole through the back of my head. The briefing was about half way through when one of the men stood up and said ‘Is no one going to address the issue?’ The person who was conducting the briefing asked him what the issue was. He responded ‘Who the heck is Barbie and what is she doing on a mountain?’ At that moment, I just had to respond so I said, ‘Don’t let my Disney Princess hair fool you!’ And that’s when I decided that I was going to give this trek my all and that it was going to be my best climb ever. As we began the climb, no one wanted to work with me because they thought I was going to be a liability. But I trudged on and did my best. As the morning of the summit climb dawned and we began the trek to the top, the men began suffering from altitude sickness. See, they’re bigger so acclimatising is a bit of a problem and that’s when being petite helps. We reached the top and began our climb back down. As we were doing so, one of the men needed to be braced because he was so sick. And with all of the men already suffering, it fell on my shoulders to help. And guess who it was that needed the assistance? It was the same man that called me Barbie! I braced him all the way to the bottom and once we got there, the men sang nothing but praises. In the end, the Disney Princess had his back.”
“This happened back in 2012 when I was pursuing my Doctorate from a University in the UK. I was 27 at the time and the youngest person in my class. The average age of the others was about 35. As a Syrian that lives in Kuwait, I wear a hijab regularly. This fact, along with my age, proved to be what everyone judged me for. No one took me seriously and made fun of me for my age. And even though I was married and had a baby of my own, no one gave me a chance to prove my worth. It took about six to eight months of sitting in the front of the class, constantly contributing, working hard and voicing smart opinions for them to change their minds about me. Towards the end of my time there, I began being teased as a nerd! My classmates came to me for advice and listened to what I had to say. It took time but through constantly voicing my thoughts and working hard, I changed their opinion of me and I now have a wide network of friends that look to me for help and suggestions.”
“When I first moved to the UAE, I worked in a hotel as a telephone operator. I was then promoted to become a secretary in the Food and Beverage Department of the same hotel. When a position became available in the General Maager’s office, I applied to be his Executive Secretary but my application was rejected. Human Resources told me that even though I was qualified, the General Manager wanted a European face for the position. It made me furious and I was very disappointed but it also made me determined to prove that I can be better. I worked so hard that after a while I was given the responsibility to handle the Banquet and Kitchen administration. Some time after that, a new General Manager arrived and he noticed my work. Based on his observations, I was asked to move to the Executive Office as his Executive Secretary, even though I did not apply for the position. After a couple of years, I met my previous General Manager. By then I was the Corporate Communications Manager for a hotel in Dubai. He told me that he heard great things about me and that he was happy for me. That experience taught me to never give up on what you want. ”
“As the wife of a pilot, please understand that I am an expert on the subject. And what subject is it? That the only thing pilots talk about is being a pilot. They can go on for hours with their pilot friends, trading stories and instances of what they did and how they saved the day. Everything from the technical nitty-gritty’s to the emotional upheaval of landing yet another plane is dissected in grave detail. So, as one of the many that do understand but don’t care anymore, I have learnt to turn selectively deaf. Because of this, when I see another pilot wife being put through the same kind of torture, I find it very difficult to stop myself from speaking up. There was one such experience that I will never forget. My husband and I were out one evening with our friends, all pilots, and their partners. One friend of ours had brought along his girlfriend to introduce her to all of us for the very first time. She was probably one of the most stunning women I had ever seen. As the night progressed, I saw her standing with the pilot bunch across the room, listening as they conversed about, you guessed it right, flying.
And like I said, I find it very difficult to stop myself. So, I walked up to them, my husband included, and told them off in my loudest voice about how they should really look for new topics of conversation before she slips into a coma due to boredom. My husband turned to me with a deadpan expression and said one thing ‘You do know she’s a pilot, right? And a captain at that! This is her favourite topic of discussion’. That shut me up right there. So much for having judged her as just another plus one.”