It is curious how a series of experiences from the past can have major influence in the future. I was 16 years old when I hopped into a mosh pit at a hard rock venue for the first time in my life. There were mainly young men and doing headbanging and pogo amidst them caused me quite a few bruises. After that, I learned that I had to be a lot bolder in order to defend my space in the mosh pit.
Image: BBC World News, Glastonbury mosh pit 2017
I was reminded of this experience a few weeks ago when I attended a punk rock concert at Schokoladen Berlin, a famous punk rock venue. I did not join the mosh pit, but I saw a slender girl amidst a group of guys, and in that moment, I travelled back in time.
When I worked as a sustainability manager at a large US-American IT manufacturer, I was surrounded by men. I kicked some serious butt and, through my poised and assertive attitude, gained their respect in very short time.
This is where the mosh pit comes in: tech corporations are no different from a mosh pit. Men are aggressive and dominate “their space”. Women are rare and, God forbid, if they are good looking, they are doomed. Don’t let anything lead you astray.
What I want to say: when going on a quest in a male corporate environment, toss female empowerment into the bin. Men don’t think about being men. Neither should women. The reason I thrived in the tech industry was that I – by nature equipped with a healthy self-esteem – took my success for granted right from the get-go. Interesting enough, it was mostly women who called me a loudmouth and not being very lady-like. Why?
I objected to high-ranking executives (both male and female) when I thought they said something wrong. I never was (and still am not) shy to share my thoughts and start a lively discussion.
Throw yourself in the mosh pit, bang your head and be bold, because: who cares? You do you, always. Don’t psychologize everything, just take what is yours and don’t think about it. Enjoy making enemies, enjoy failing. Take pleasure in rising again!
Image: Casey McKee “Abuse of Process”, oil on canvas. From the series “Corporate Warfare”, 2013
Women tend to criticize themselves a lot. This, however, is amplified by the fact that often, they are being blocked by other women. Men take delight in competition and are very sure about themselves. I have made the experience that, particularly women in middle-management positions are extremely wary of other talented and ambitious women. They easily feel threatened. I always wondered why? A lot of my friends are extremely smart, young women. I could feel threatened by them, but I don’t. Why would I? I take great pleasure in sharing my knowledge with them and learning from them, without imposing my personality or knowledge upon them.
To me, female empowerment is cultivating a positive way of competition. It is like a game! If one of my female business partners is developing a great new business idea and asks for my opinion or some food for thought, I gladly share and contribute. I want other women to thrive, to be happy and accomplished. It does not threaten my work at all if I share my experience and knowledge with others.
Getting back to the mosh pit analogy: with other women, I don’t feel that I am in a mosh pit right now. I don’t pogo with my female co-workers and business partners. I waltz with them along the Blue Danube! This, amongst other things, is what makes me happy and accomplished every day. Women! Try to be friends with one another. Be friends with men as well. Our world would certainly be a better place if we put our differences behind us and just get shit done. Bottom line: we are all humans. We make humanity and if we want to tackle serious social, economic and environmental problems, we can only do this together.