I faced prejudice head on.
Straight out of college, I got a position in the sales department of a prestigious Boston hotel. Although to me it was merely an entry level position, I realized that my presence had monumental influence.
On my first day, I went to the cafeteria to get my lunch. The Asian man who was working at the food station gruffly said to me in Chinese that I should put on my uniform before eating in the employee cafeteria. I was so taken aback that I just stared at him. It wasn’t until my manager motioned me toward my seat that I realized the Asian man – whose downcast eyes were now fixed on the floor — had thought I was a housekeeper. He had wanted to help me. I felt a rush of empathy. In Chinese, I shared that I was a new employee who worked in the sales department. He quickly apologized just as his manager asked me if everything was all right. I looked from the Asian man to the table of wide-eyed housekeepers who had witnessed the conversation and nodded reassuringly that all was okay; in that moment, I felt I was representing all of those women. It occurred to me that I had cracked the glass ceiling for that group of employees.
I remember that moment so vividly because I could have easily leaned back in the wake of adversity and prejudice. Hopefully that group of housekeepers will aspire for more and know that it can be done. In the two years that I was employed at the hotel, I moved on from an entry level sales position within just a few moths to becoming the Sales and Catering Programmer, and then the Sales Manager. My final position was Conference Services Manager. Today, I am a mother, entrepreneur, writer and self-employed event planner.
After leaning in, I realized that my voice has monumental influence. We all need to start the dialogue; communication is key. One should not make assumptions about the role of another, or limit what she can do in the future.