Between us girls
Someone used this phrase with me, conspiratorially, the other day.
‘Between us girls,’ he said.
I don’t even remember what it was followed by. ‘So and so doesn’t have the budget to do the thing he’s talking about, don’t waste your time,’ or something equally useful. But I was momentarily distracted from being grateful by sheer, blind rage.
‘Between us girls.’
Only I am not a girl. Haven’t been one for a while. I’m turning 45 next month. Definitely not a girl.
And he, the man who said it, has never been a girl, I don’t think.
But here we are, whispering little secrets like schoolgirls are meant to be prone to doing, and it’s just a turn of phrase and why are you making such a big thing out of it.
Of course. Of course. Of all the things. Is this really the hill I will die on?
Where does it stop?
Language that is charged with imagery of flippancy, petticoats and cuteness?
This is not a rhetorical question, and I will tell you where it stops.
It stops with language laden with hormonal toxicity and anger. ‘Between us girls’ is a stone’s throw away from ‘Calm down, dear’ and ‘Are you on your period?’ and ‘You can be such a bitch at times’.
Language heavy with judgement and dismissal and front-loaded diminution. Language of implicitly understood meaning. Meaning that doesn’t feel like it entails judgement because we all know what we mean. Right?
Sugar and spice and all things nice. That’s what little girls are made of.
And their mothers?
So, since we are talking, between us girls, let me tell you that language matters.
Maybe it would matter less if we lived in a world that was fair and inclusive and… friendly… to us girls. But it is not. And I am not even going to talk about the violence and fear women and girls face in society. I am just talking about the workplace for now.
As of 2022, women represented 49.58% of the world population, 47.7% of the US labour force, 46.6% of the EU labour force and 46% of the finance sector workforce, and yet held only 15% of financial services executive roles while just under half of the highest-valued Silicon Valley companies have a round fat zero women in their management teams.
But it’s not just the numbers that are bad.
It’s the stories between the numbers. The stories of all the numbers that aren’t there and the stories of all the people that are. The micro aggressions and macro narratives. The double standards. The put downs.
It’s harder than it needs to be. It’s harder than it should be. It’s harder than is good for those making it hard, because – yes, yes, I know you know – diversity yields hard cash. Despite the WSJ op-ed suggesting that SVB was “distracted” by the diversity of its board.
Let’s assume it was cheap clickbait and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s do that.
Even though we know, we all know, that is not what was happening. An opinion voiced as tongue in cheek is always bubbling just below the surface, so let me tell you, again, and once and for all: today. Not on International Women’s Day. Not during Black History Month. Not on Intersectionality Day. Not during Pride Month. On a random day. On a normal day.
Diversity is not a concession.
You are not doing us a favour.
You are just accepting to stop doing us harm.
So, between us girls: be mindful of your language. Be mindful of your actions.
We are not a minority. We are the other half of this planet.
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
She is also a published author – her first book, Bankers Like Us: Dispatches from an Industry in Transition, is available to order here.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!