By Andrea Fernandes
I vividly remember the rage I felt when my kindergarten teacher complimented my beautiful French Braid. She told me my mother had done a lovely job. The problem was, it was my father who had braided my hair each day before school and I didn’t understand why the teacher looked absolutely puzzled at the thought of a grown man braiding his daughter’s hair. I grew up in a home with no defined gender roles. Both my parents worked full-time jobs and they split the responsibilities of taking care of the home and their children equally. I was always told I could be whatever I wanted to be with hard work and determination. As a child, being a girl never meant my opportunities were limited.
It wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand that not everyone considered women equal to men. I learned that we have to work twice as hard, to make less money, we are always expected to look our absolute best, we can speak up but not too loudly, we mustn’t show too much emotion but of course can’t be emotionless, being clingy is unattractive but so is being too independent, and we are most definitely not part of the boys club. Society expects women to be chameleons, able adapt to the different needs of men.
I’ll never forget the afternoon I walked into the office of an old job. I had the morning off so I spent a little extra time getting ready for the work day. I felt great and I looked great. Upon entering the office a male manager looked up and complimented me. I was perfectly fine with the exchange until he said “see what happens when you put in a little extra effort.” I thought I was going to hurl right there on the spot. It’s a combination of comments like this that tell a woman that she is valued first and foremost for how she looks.
As the Editor-in-Chief at urbanicity Magazine I have found it difficult to say my career title out loud. There is this insecurity inside me that tells me I am too small for the role, I can’t really be a boss, and who am I to be running a business from top to bottom? I once introduced myself as the editor to an older gentleman who chuckled and said “oh, you’re intimidating.” After all, editors are supposed to be old white men, hunched over their desk, with half rolled up sleeves, and a cigarette in hand. I am slowly learning to let myself feel accomplished, to be proud of the work that I have put in, and realizing that I have just as much power as a man. I couldn’t be happier to be making a name for myself in Hamilton as it’s a city that embraces female leadership. The female community has been nothing but supportive, leading me to discover groups like the Hamilton Fempreneurs (pg. 16) who gather monthly to encourage fellow femmes and bring their new business ideas to the table.
This magazine has given me the opportunity to share the stories of the fiery and passionate women in Hamilton who are breaking down that glass ceiling and refusing to be defined by their sex. This issue is for the women, and for all those people who support and encourage women to be whatever they want to be. Let’s continue to be a community with female leaders and strive to constantly break down those pre-determined gender roles.