Stop assuming women, especially women of color, aren’t qualified to lead

By The Reverend Renee Solano

Sexism is not new. I and every other woman in the world have been dealing with it all of our lives. It seems that men are assumed to be qualified for jobs without any facts, but women are assumed to be not qualified, again without any facts.

I am going to give two real-life examples.

1. Most of my life I have worked in male-dominated professions. I started as a seasonal firefighter at age 20, then made my way up to seasonal inspector/investigator, then permanent full- time inspector/investigator. During these years, I was told over and over that I only got my job because I am a woman. Here’s the problem with that: when I started, I was already in school getting my degrees in fire science and criminal justice. I graduated both with honors. When I applied for the seasonal inspector position, I had the two degrees, had put myself through the Firefighter 1 academy, and two of three levels each of inspector and investigator certifications from Asilomar. I was told by my bosses that I was miles ahead of any other candidate that applied. Every other candidate was male and had seasonal experience like me, but no education at all or very little. But I still had to hear every day how I only got my job “because I am a woman.” Yes, if it wasn’t for affirmative action, women and POC would never have jobs as police officers or firefighters, so it gave us opportunity where we were previously shut out. BUT, and this is a big but, we always have to work twice to three times as hard to even be seen as somewhat equal to any of our male counterparts. To be honest, most of the sexism I experienced came from outside the department, from the public and men who didn’t get jobs because they didn’t do any of the work to get experience and education and wanted to blame it on something other than that they just had not done the work.

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