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Overcoming obstacles

Women of Riderwood bond over anecdotes of discrimination

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September 2nd, 2016
The women of Riderwood recently came together to share their experiences in an event about the ways women have broken barriers to equality over the years.

The women of Riderwood recently came together to share their experiences in an event about the ways women have broken barriers to equality over the years.

It’s difficult to appreciate how much progress has been made toward equality for women without taking a look back at the way things used to be. Female residents and staff members at Riderwood came together to do just that at an event entitled “Riderwood Women Breaking Barriers,” which is the fourth in a series of events all related to the ways different groups have overcome obstacles throughout history.

As 175 women, and a handful of supportive men filed into the event, advertisements from the 1930s and 1940s depicting the now-antiquated roles of housewives and mothers flashed in a loop on a screen. A panel of two residents and two staff members then shared their own stories of discrimination—and how they overcame it. 

Career anecdotes

Resident Helen Helm reflected on her career and how her superiors took away all of her responsibility after she got married. She also shared her difficulties in taking male clients out for business lunches because waiters would never give her the check.

To overcome those obstacles, she quit that job and started taking male clients to a club she belonged to where only members could pick up the tab. 

Her final anecdote was about a boss who opened a meeting by gruffly asking each male member of the team for an update, then paused when he got to Helen and said, “What about you, sweetie? Is your group going to meet all of your deadlines?” Helen retorted with, “Sure thing, lamb chop,” to highlight the double standard.

When it comes to discrimination, Helen says, “You have to find a way over it, under it, or around it.”

‘Happy hum’

After the panelists shared their experiences with sexism, event attendees were invited to discuss in groups of about ten people the ways they had been discriminated against and how they dealt with it. 

Bettie Young, a member of Riderwood’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee who spearheaded the event, says the committee was unsure how the open discussion format would be received by attendees. But it was a huge success and created a real moment of bonding for the women of Riderwood.

“It worked beautifully, and everybody shared,” Bettie says. “They felt the atmosphere had this warmth, this involvement quality to it. There was a happy hum in the room—that is what somebody said to me afterward.”

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