I’ve never been in the minority before.
I’m a white, middle-class girl. I’m used to being in the majority. I once applied for a reporting internship program at the St. Petersburg Times and was thrilled to get a call back from the hiring editor, who liked my resume.
“Any chance you’re a minority, Miss Horvath?” he asked, a little sheepishly. Turns out the program I applied to was just for, yep, minorities.
“Not unless you count women,” I said. Unfortunately, the St. Pete Times didn’t.
That’s changed now. Welcome to business school. I knew coming in that I would be outnumbered by the more macho sex. I saw the statistics (at my school last year, 29 percent of the first year students were women). And after I took the GMATs, schools I’d never even considered started falling all over themselves to send me materials. For the first time ever, I was in demand.
But when I got to school, the gender gap slapped me in the face.
Everywhere we went – parties, bar mixers, laptop orientation, hanging out in someone’s apartment – there was a minimum of two guys to every girl. Sometimes the percentage was higher. It was much easier to remember the girls’ names than the guys’ simply because there were fewer of them.
It was … weird.
Understand that I have come from the Land of Women. I grew up on a suburban street with two little girls to every little boy. I did dance classes, Girl Scouts and softball (very girly). I majored in journalism (lots o’ chicks) and creative writing (even more chicks). I worked at newspapers (a healthy number of chicks) and volunteered with education programs (90 percent chicks).
So many young women worked at one of my newspapers that we often ran in a huge pack socially. The men were dwarfed by us just showing up.
Mine is a world where estrogen and testosterone are, at minimum, in balance. With just two exceptions. And I’m hoping those two instances can give me some guidance as I navigate my new minority status.
At age 13, I rode a short bus every day from my middle school to the local high school where took advanced math classes. With me were a pack of boys — boys who had nearly an hour to kill with me in the school library before the bus took off.
We played Spades and Hearts, did our overdue homework and cracked each other up. It was my first experience hanging out with a group of guys and I loved it. As long as you could keep up, shoot the moon once in awhile and make a joke, they were cool. It was so much easier than hanging out with girls, so much less maintenance.
The other experience was less positive. I took advanced physics in high school and found myself in a class with 15 boys and one other girl. Unlike my cards-and-jokes times in the library, this was a true boys’ club. Even though we two girls had some of the highest grades in the class, the guys didn’t want to work with us. The hour was a mix of dirty jokes, posturing and calling each other faggots. The teacher – who was a woman – tried to tamp things down, but it didn’t help much. I spent the year loving the class material and dreading the classroom.
Here’s hoping my b-school experience is more like my rides on the short bus! And so far, I think it will be. The guys I’ve met have been nice, funny and willing to include us girls. I feel like a very welcome minority.