Tonight, I was chatting with a group of all male baristas. I’m not even sure how, but the conversation steered towards the gender breakdown.
“Females don’t make it in specialty coffee,” one of them declared, then made eye contact with me and tried to backpedal. “No offense, just usually they don’t cut it in specialty environments.”
Irritated, I listed off a few female dominated specialty shops in our city, and the other men called out a few of their respected female colleagues. But unfortunately, he wasn’t wrong – the gender breakdown skews pretty heavily the higher up in coffee you get.
I love it. I’m passionate about it.
But for all the science that goes into it, coffee is. not. difficult.
This is a relatively new industry.
This isn’t like politics or medicine, which for much of history has been male dominated.
This isn’t the military or a physically demanding industry where testosterone levels can affect performance.
This is an industry about grace, intricacies, art. This is an industry about communication and cleanliness and teamwork. This is an industry that can delve deep into the molecular breakdown or float at the surface of “does this taste good?”.
Tell me. Is there a single thing about this industry that favors males?
And to be honest, that terrifies me.
Over the last month, I’ve been looking into going back to school to study chemistry. I’ve been looking up programs and trying to figure out if I’m willing to go into debt to get an education grounded in my current career.
But women are severely underrepresented in STEM careers and programs.
If this is how upset I’m getting about coffee – will I be able to handle the discrimination I read about in a science program? Will I be able to make a difference?
We’re almost in 2016. It makes me so angry as I look around at the world I live in. I look at my Middle Eastern friends and hear the stories of the racism they face and their concern for their families in Jordan, Palestine, and Syria. I look at my friends raised in poverty and listen to their stories of ignorant comments calling them lazy and worthless. I cheered with my LGBT friends when gay marriage was legalized earlier this year, and cringe when I see the rampant homophobia still trolling my facebook page.
Who ARE we, humanity? Why do we hate so much? Why are we so afraid of things that are different from what we know? Living is hard enough, why do we have to make it harder?
I just want to issue a challenge that was given to me a few weeks ago. I challenge you, all three readers, to give a good hard look at your motivations. Why do you do what you do? What are you thinking about – and why? What does your future look like, and is that how you want it to be?
Think about it.
Wrestle with it.
And maybe we can turn 2016 around.
(And seriously, vote.)