On Monday I took part in a panel where I was supposed to talk about being a 'woman in media' but I really just ended up fumbling my lines next to Sandra Sully and smiling, wide-eyed, at the wrong camera.
To prepare for the spotlight, I did a ton of reading around the challenges that women in media – in many workplaces – face, and I learnt a lot. Mostly, I learned how lucky I am not to have faced any particularly overt cases of sexism at work. Don't get me wrong, I've absolutely been mansplained to, but I've never been made to feel lesser than my male colleagues, nor have I felt the need to dampen my perspective or deliver my opinions in a certain way to make men feel less intimidated. (Note: I'm also white, straight and I don't have a disability, which all factor into my lived experience.) But I also know that power reveals itself in different ways. On one end of the spectrum, we have the manifest horror of the Brittany Higgins scandal; a man who looks to have abused a power imbalance to its fullest, most shocking extent. And on the other, we see power operating in more insidious ways – for example, in the way that imposter syndrome (the sense that you are undeserving of your achievements) is a phenomenon that disproportionately affects women, and even moreso if you're queer or non-white.
I'm incredibly fortunate and privileged to say that my biggest challenge as a 'woman in media' is a hearty ol' dollop of this very syndrome – what I suspect is a byproduct of some deep conditioning about what I, as a woman, should have access to. Like many women, I'm inherently suspicious of my success. I'm quick to attribute achievements to 'luck' and 'timing'. If you push me, I'll maybe go as far as 'hard work'. But never my own abilities. In a 2015 Hollywood Reporter interview, Lena Dunham said she would hear Jack Antonoff, her boyfriend at the time, saying: "I'm worth more than that". As women, we're taught to believe the opposite. "I'm not worth all that."
But deciding that you are worthy, while easier said than done, can open doors. It can motivate you to go for that job, ask for that pay rise and yes, say your piece on a 'women in media' panel.
The last time I wrote about this stuff, I vowed to stop apologising. This time, I'll aim slightly higher; treat myself with the same courtesy and respect as I would to any other female friend of mine: we are worthy; we are deserving of success; and we damn well should be on more panels. (I would also tell them to look at the right camera.)
Written by Alice Griffin, editor of this very site. Sporadic updates from her here.