Okay, deep breath in and out. Just ignore him.
“Sorry about that sweetheart. Looks like you could use some more practice. Maybe don’t be so ambitious next time.”
As I head out of the gate, angry to the point of tears, I decide that one, I will never speak to this man ever again and two, why in the world did I pay for this?
Let me set the scene. It’s a sunny day, about mid-April and I am at a rodeo event with my friends, sorting cattle. We’re new to this, so we decided to enter the beginner category. As you just read, it doesn’t go as expected. Although this experience shook me, I realized after I got home that this event is just one of many that I have gone through being a female in a predominantly male arena. I love competing, but it’s taken a toll on me mentally dealing with the persistent negativity. It becomes easy to feel isolated and like you would be better off just giving up.
Whenever I begin to feel hopeless like this, I remember that I’m not alone in this fight and that progress is happening. While I stand up for myself by continuing to compete despite the barriers, women all around the world are fighting for their right to be included and acknowledged in male-dominated fields.
As I write this, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) has just won their class-action lawsuit calling for equal pay. This is not only a huge feat for the USWNT but for employees and athletes everywhere who are fighting for equal pay and treatment that our male counterparts often receive without suggestion. Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the biggest history markers to date: the inauguration of the first female Vice President. Regardless of politics, it is astonishing to think that since the formation of our government in 1789, we have yet to have a woman in this office until now. This is an amazing feat not only for women everywhere but a sign of hope that we are progressing as a country in reaching gender equality. We still have a long way to go, but we are making changes, and our mental health will benefit from this increase in representation and inclusivity.
Mental health may not be one of the first things to come to mind when we think of the benefits of increased representation and inclusion of women in male-dominated spaces, but it should be. Those who identify as female in leadership positions and/or male-dominated spaces often face imposter syndrome, are perceived as less likable, and can suffer from stress, low self-esteem, and a variety of mental health issues. It’s natural to feel discouraged upon hearing that. What we can do, however, is keep looking forward, making strides, and taking care of ourselves in the process.
That’s what I’ll continue to do, and I invite you to join me in small ways and large ones. Push forward where you can, and support those who are doing the work every day. Most of all, take care of yourself. It can be disheartening to be the one who feels excluded or disenfranchised but know that you are benefitting the generations to come so that they won’t have to face the same obstacles you did. I’ll keep competing, and keep uplifting my friends who do so alongside me. You can be the change: you just have to be brave enough to take the first step.