Being corporate: 2 months into project

Every week I am certain I will quit. No more. It took some sitting down and thinking about why I wanted to leave to really understand – it isn’t the job – it’s the people.

And here’s why:

  • the drinking culture: I don’t drink but that is the only way to get ahead. On nights out I have been given countless career advice and offered opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. But all the while I feel alienated and uncomfortable. Worse still, there are Muslims who drink and then I get asked why I don’t drink and have to justify my life decisions
  • casual sexism: the “dears”,”silly girl” – every single day. The jokes that are plain offensive – cheating on your partners, rating the waitress, objectifying the other women in the office – every single day. “Fingering” the hole in the table, discussing their grooming schedule … I could go on. You would think I am talking about teenagers but these are men in their early 40s, managers and senior managers. And they know what they’re doing with the “oh, be careful or we’ll get reported to HR *wink wink*”
  • 888f55672ab982642748dfaa42619d9a85faecbff2a925ae1b22dcc4ed22d466the ignorance: one of the managers said calling a white person a monkey would be racist. Context: someone (white person) was told off my a director and we couldn’t remember what the word was. Idiot? Fool? Monkey (as in lab monkey)? “Oh no, you can’t say monkey – that would be racist.” “Why would calling a white person be racist, there’s no historical context there at all.” “As a white man, I am telling you it’s racist.” Ok then, let’s ignore the person of colour who happens to have worked in liberation.
  • the homophobia: the jokes about “canal street” and being gay. The misgendering of trans people. The pride in “knowing gay couples” – like it’s some sort of competition
  • cabin fever: living in hotels and out of a suitcase – so being around the same people that you work with all week

But here’s why I stay:

  • It pays very well – like really well. And I need the money. 8ba9fd119cdf41e493e5e66bdd976588
  • The work is very interesting – I am learning so much every day and the breadth and depth of experience is super cool
  • I deserve to feel welcome in that space. I have awesome credentials and know what I’m doing. I will not be bullied out
  • With so few visibly Muslim women there, I feel like it’s important for anyone new joining that I stay and make sure they see familiarity – it’s something that would have helped me so much
  • I have the opportunity to travel all over the world and exposure to amazing projects – such a good start to my career

I will keep reminding myself of why I stay. And I will stay.

“What I love doing best is Nothing… It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” – A.A.Milne

Being ready

She wakes up ready.
Ready to take on everything she is not ready for.

As her kettle brews she brushes her hair. She irons the clothes that fit too tight and don’t fall right. She lines her eyes, applies mascara and taints her lips. She wraps her scarf around her head and pins it into place. She drinks her tea. And puts on plasters before wearing her heels. She is ready.

Ready to pretend she understands the capitalistic world she’s thrown herself in where the corporate call themselves the alternative. They pride themselves as diverse and inclusive yet she sees no one like herself and does not fit in. She pretends she does not mind that they get drunk and speak too close, spewing horrible fumes and dropping alcohol onto her beautiful gown. She pretends she does not feel offended when they assume she is against LGBT rights. She tries to laugh as the scoff at “chavs only buying clothes from Primark” whilst she is dressed in mostly Primark clothes and lives with her mum in a council house. She is patient when they ask “are you Islam?” and “so what are you doing about ISIS?”. She hides her offence at the “I volunteered in Africa (because obviously Africa is a country to them). It was weird because I was the only white person in the village”. She goes along to yet another evening of networking with the same clones and the same stench of wine.

And when all is done, she can come back home. She takes off the heels at the door, unwraps her scarf, wipes off the black around her eyes and changes into her mexi. She does not have to be ready anymore. She sighs with relief and gets ready for bed, dreading the morning ahead.

Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman. – Maya Angelou

Dear future me 

In just a few days I will enter a world I don’t know. The corporate world. And I’m terrified. Frightened of the place, the people, the money, but more so of what I could become. So here’s a reminder to future me, for the times the present me is not so familiar anymore.

Be You

You’re adaptable. You’ve been able to fit in your whole life, being in but feeling out. But you’ve found who you are now. Know the world you’re entering and know that it is not you. So when you’re trying to mix in, don’t forget how happy you felt to find your cause and faith, how much you care and how important your values are to you. Continue reading