Some years ago, after I had been promoted into a more senior role, I discovered that I was earning $20 000 less than my predecessor. Admittedly, the guy before me was about ten years my senior, but he had been squeezed out of the role because he wasn’t performing. While his extra grey hairs gave him a dignified air, they hadn’t made him any better at the job.
Instead of getting angry about my lower pay, I allowed it to reinforce my self-doubt. I took it as proof that I was promoted as an act of charity, a mistake or as a last resort. I didn’t dare raise the issue of the gender pay gap because I was too busy being grateful. I was lucky that my company was being ‘nice’ to me, especially since I was, well, a girl.
Very early in life I had internalised the message that boys were better than girls. Boys got more attention and had more fun while girls sat on the sidelines applauding and hoping to be noticed. I accepted this inequality as a fact of life because I had learned that boys were witty, extroverted, entitled and allowed to eat the extra piece of cake.
If I hadn’t been socialised to be a handmaiden of the patriarchy — a collaborator in my own oppression — perhaps I would have responded differently to the twenty grand I missed out on because I didn’t have a penis.