#ChooseToChallenge: Real Stories by Extraordinary Ordinary Women

International Women’s Day 2021 was centered around the theme #ChooseToChallenge. The campaign sought to make the world a little more aware of the gender inequality that (STILL) persists in this day and age in different walks of our lives, a significant portion of which is the workplace.
According to statistics on the gender pay gap in the latest census report, women still earn 0.82 cents for every dollar earned by men, for the same amount of work.
And unequal pay is just a part of the problem. There are multiple instances of other inequalities like underrepresentation of women in higher echelons of management, sexual harassment, and some not-so-obvious discrimination like feeling dismissed or ignored, especially in a primarily male-dominated environment. So we asked ladies to come forward, share their real stories, firsthand experiences, and views on this topic. And it didn’t come as a surprise to know that gender inequality is well and thriving, even in a modern society like ours.
From unsolicited sexual advances to subtle biases, these brave ladies have faced it all and proudly, forged their own path, and come out winners!
Read on for Femspiration!

Shari Hussenbocus, MS, RD, AIP coach @autoimmune.period.productivity “Your resume is impressive, and we’d like to have you as part of our clinical team. How does that sound?” asked the HR manager of a state-of-the-art hospital. On top of my graduate degree from Mississippi State University, I had also specialized in nutrition for hormonal health and autoimmune disease due to my own health issues. Plus, I was the only candidate who was also studying psychoneuroimmunology, or the study of how our beliefs and thoughts can impact our nervous, hormonal, and immune systems. Needless to say, I was over the moon – there was a ‘mile long’ queue of people waiting to be interviewed for the position I had applied for. And the HR manager wanted to hire me on the spot! I agreed to start the following Monday. Three weeks later, the HR manager called me to his office and barked out “I’m afraid you’ll need to review your choice of clothes if you want to keep working with us.” You see, I’m a Muslim woman, with brown skin, and I wear the hijab (head covering) and jilbab (long, loose dress) not because I HAVE to but because I WANT to. And I’m a fierce proponent of the idea that women should be allowed to wear what they want. In my darkest and loneliest days, the days when I hit lower than rock bottom, the one who was ALWAYS there for me was the Almighty. My faith changed & so did the way I dressed – I realized that I was the ONLY one who could decide which part of my body to show or not to show. As you can imagine, the mere idea of removing my headscarf feels like I would be violating my own soul. So, I replied: “Yup, not doing that. The contract you made me sign said nothing about the dress code. Also, I don’t see why this is an issue when you have male doctors wearing turbans – which clearly shows their religious beliefs … Everyone should be allowed to dress how they want as long as patients’ safety isn’t compromised.” With his upper lip curved in disdain, the HR manager snapped: “We were expecting this and have no choice but to terminate your position. You can work as an intern.” With a smile on my face, I calmly replied: “So, what you’re saying is that I can wear my headscarf if I’m an intern but not if I’m the head clinical dietitian in the ICU? Was this a ruse to cut down my salary? I know a few lawyers for women’s equality in the workplace who’ll be interested to learn about this.” But my case didn’t make it to court. I later learned that the hidden issue with my headscarf was that some white dude related somehow to one of the hospital’s shareholders was gunning for the job of head of the department of clinical dietetics. But he only had an undergraduate degree… And with my background, that position was going to be mine within a few months. Injustice disgusts me and I almost resigned but wouldn’t that be giving up? Paving the way for more inequality in the workspace for women? I decided I wasn’t going to be a part of that and shared the issue during one of my presentations for practitioners. Not to cause problems but to increase awareness about our individual duty to banish injustice in the world. Changing the world, making it a better place for others is a collective duty. And this includes us trying not to be part of the problem….unfortunately, many times, women can be as biased (if not more) than men towards other women. I now run a private practice and guess what? It’s mostly women who tend to scorn my outfits… Plus, I’ve heard various versions of comments like “If I can’t see her hair or body size, how can I trust her?” from ladies only. #ChooseToChallenge starts with each of us. It includes how we treat other women. And whether we allow them to live their life on their terms. Peace.

Beth Blacker: Entrepreneur, It’sjuststuff.co “I chose to challenge a very male-dominated company in the late 1980s when I was living in NYC and working for a food service management company.
I was working late one night before the opening of a new corporate dining facility for a big Wall Street law firm. I was the only one in the office when the phone rang around 11:30 pm. The only people that knew I was there were my husband and my regional director, so I obviously answered.
It was my regional director asking how much longer I thought I was going to be there and if anyone else was still around. I told him I had let everyone else leave around 11 and I was planning to be there for about another hour. He then proceeded to start to ask me some questions that were not business-related and I asked him if we could talk in the morning.
He also said he had been thinking about me a lot lately and wanted to know if I would have sex with him. I wasn’t even sure how to respond in the moment other than to hang up. I then called the building security and asked for someone to escort me out of the building to a car that was waiting for me to drive me to my Upper Westside apartment.
When I got home, I told my husband and he said I must have misunderstood…translation, I was overreacting.
But when I got to work around 7 am the regional director was already there waiting for me. Fortunately, many of my staff were already there as well but he asked if we could go somewhere to talk, and I said that I was not comfortable being around him after what he said the night before on the phone.
He then told me that he knew I was the one who had gotten his father fired. I had worked with his father briefly at a different facility, and when his father went on vacation for a week, I had to reconcile the money collected from the vending machines while he was away.
Suffice it to say, the inventory didn’t match the receipts and when the regional director came by later that day, I told him it didn’t make sense for it to be off by that much in one week.
He agreed and it didn’t take long for us to realize the father had been skimming money for years not only from the vending machines but from the cafeteria register as well.
I was transferred to a different unit right after the father got back from vacation and the regional director then waited a few weeks before telling the father that the client had requested a complete audit of the books.
He was fired along with a few other members of the family because they found proof implicating them in stealing from several other facilities. The son/my regional director decided to punish me for discovering the crimes his family committed and told me they were all watching me, knew where I lived, and were going to teach me not to mess with them.
But if I would have sex with him, he’d forget the whole thing. I told him that I considered what he said a threat and would be calling the police. He RAN out of the facility and my chef, who actually heard the conversation, came over and told me he would corroborate what happened.
We immediately called the head of HR, the client, and the police. The guy knew everyone was going to be looking for him and basically disappeared. I was transferred to a different facility that day and while I knew he could have still found me if he really wanted to for whatever reason I wasn’t afraid.
I stood up to a misogynist that ultimately was more embarrassed that he got called out for it than anything else.”

Monika Racakova, Mom and Entrepreneur “I choose to challenge bosses across the nation to quit acting like pregnant women have the plague and can’t do simple daily tasks around the workplace.
During my 1st pregnancy, I was told by my male employer had he known I was pregnant while interviewing he probably wouldn’t have hired me even though I ended up the GM within 14 months.”

Rebecca Binny: Mom and Entrepreneur
“Gender Inequality in everyday life”.

Odrayona Ward: Mom and Entrepreneur, Student Mother Apparel
“Neither compensation, constructive criticism, benefits, nor praise. Gender inequality should definitely not still be an issue in 2021, the fight to end the injustices continues.”

Andrea McCollough: Entrepreneur, Andrea Monique Aesthetics
For the last 12 years, I’ve worked as an esthetician and laser technician- a position that holds a strong female base clientele! For 8 of those 12 years, I managed a medispa for a male doctor, who primarily employed women as his staff, regardless of holding positions that males could fulfill (i.e. medical staff).
Not only would this doctor primarily hire women, but I quickly picked up they had to be young and attractive.
When hiring for a front desk position that had a high overturn, I suggested to higher management to maybe hire someone older that was wise and not about drama, only to be told that the doctor doesn’t like hiring older women. As a young and naïve minority woman, I continued to work in this place for a long time. I dealt with a lot of skincare and laser companies, got to meet a lot of CEOs, sales reps, and doctors of these companies, and come to find out, they’re mostly men. Go figure, an industry that caters to mostly women, ran by men! We’re talking laser hair removal, Botox, fillers, laser skin resurfacing, you name it- most of the modalities women want.
Don’t get me started on some of these sales reps- they never wanted to talk to me- the one who actually administered treatments, managed the medispa, and set up the meeting- it was always man to man- they wanted to talk to the doctor. Little do they know; I had the final say. When we had female reps show up for laser deals, you better believe I was leaning towards them. To cut this long story short, 2020 hit, as an industry we got shut down and I had a lot of time to think. I thought a lot about how women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community have made strides, but we have so far to go still.
I realized I didn’t want to work for a person who didn’t match up to my core values which are ultimately peace and equality for all. So, I left my 8-year position and started my permanent makeup business- an industry that is still backed by men but has a lot of women in charge who are true inspirations and molding the industry. Although it’s just me as an artist for my business right now, my ultimate goal is to grow and continue to service both men and women, only helping them with their confidence and keep them on their journey of feeling good.
I would love to teach one day, have my own medispa, speak at conferences, you name it. And when I do hire a team, they will be of any gender, any age, any walk of life, because the discrimination I witnessed in the workplace and aesthetics industry is wrong and it’s time to change.
Lastly, had I not gone on my own, it wouldn’t have pushed me to make other connections with other female entrepreneurs!

Nikki Thorpe: Mom & Entrepreneur
Nikki discovered “Gender disparity in the mining industry.” on a trip to an underground mine in Ghana (pictured here on her 31st Birthday)For reference, ASM (Artisanal and Small Scale) represents a critical source of income for women, who account for 90% the gold mining labor, in Ghana. Gender differences can be found at all levels of the commodity chain, from the point of production to processing in the international economy. And women tend to earn only one-quarter of what men earn in the ASM sector (source: land-link.org).

We, here at DispatchMom, are proud of these amazing women. Not only did they face the challenge head-on, but looked within deeper, turned around the situation, and played an active role in forging their own path and bringing forth this issue.We got nothing but real admiration for you ladies! YOU ARE THE STORM…

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