Three ingredient milk chocolate mousse - Happy International Women's Day


I have had some feminist ponderings lately so I thought why not share them on this International Women's Day, eh?

I want to add a disclaimer here. I am very aware that there is much more serious and violent discrimination that women in many parts of the world face compared to our fairly cosy existence here in the reasonably enlightened Europe. But we must continue the fight because we are the example for the world and even here we are not at parity with men regarding equal pay, or political or economic power. And whilst we have achieved equal basic rights in many ways, there is a lot of prejudice that we have to endure in our everyday lives. 

I have let my feminism hibernate. I was quite a passionate feminist in my younger days. My sister and I used to make sure our brothers did exactly the same amount of house work as we did for example. The oldest two escaped quite early, but I remember we used to lock our youngest brother in the house until he'd hoovered the floor space allocated to him. We challenged our parents about every gender biased comment or behaviour until they learned to at least hide it. They weren't particularly bad, just products of their time.

And during my early career it wasn't always easy and I had to fight quite a bit to command equal airtime in meetings and make progress in the male world of business. And maybe lately I have become a bit too comfortable thinking we have made so much progress. But we are not there yet

It's the same with my vegetarianism. I quit before the job was done! But I'm glad the woke millenials are veganing it all the way, so I can be a bit more flexitarian (= total meat eater).

So recently I've started to think about the gender issues again. Diversity is one of our company's key values and we talk about it a lot. Of course it is a lot broader an issue than gender encompassing topics like culture, ethnicity, disability etc. But let's stick to gender for now

As one of the few female leaders in the business, I was asked to mentor some of our company's female talent. There is a hypothesis that some probably unconscious bias exists that may hinder the progress of these women. My first question when I was asked was why is it these females that need the mentoring rather than the discriminatory managers who are stopping the progress of these women?

But apparently there are behaviours that make it more difficult for women  to succeed in job interviews or internally building their careers. Women are probably more realistic about their abilities and maybe more modest in communicating their strenghts, they are more polite in meetings and don't interrupt people or force their opinions down other people's throats and so forth. Again I wonder if it really is the women who need the mentoring.

Like with Hitler, should we have told the Jews to just not be quite so Jewish, or the disabled to try to hide their disability, the gay to just try to like the opposite sex, or should we actually have told Hitler to stop being a horrible maniac. You might think this is a harsh example, but looking at what women have had to endure through the course of history, and still are in many countries, including mutilation, rape, stoning to death for having been raped, it is not an unreasonable comparison. The point here is: Don't blame the victim. 

Another lighter example, me and my boss were discussing my communication style in my annual performance review meeting. We all love these precious opportunities for unsolicited feedback. We were discussing the very subject of diversity and he told me that my communication style on a man would be an asset, a sign of a strong individual with passion, conviction and drive. But in a woman these traits can make the person to come across as a bitch.

Yes, he really said that. I told him that surely this is not my problem, it is the problem of the bigoted people who think this way. To his credit he fully agreed. But this is what we have to change.

In the beautiful Finnish language there is a special word that we use for women like this, "difficult", opinionated women. We call them "Riivinrauta". A man would never be called a Riivinrauta. Riivinrauta literally is a grater, but is often used to describe a woman who has strong opinions, who stands up for her rights and has the balls to disagree. Even that saying is sexist, you don't need balls to have courage. Sometimes I think it's probably easier to have courage when your genitals aren't hanging outside your body. 

Most recent example of this was my Dad calling Nancy Pelosi a Riivinrauta. My poor dad is an old man now and isn't particularly misogynistic at all. Maybe I should have let him get away with this one. But old habits die hard and he also enjoyes a bit of a debate, so I didn't. I pointed out that she was no more difficult than any of the male politicians around her and that he wouldn't call her Riivinrauta if she was a man. "This is the world your daughters live in" was my emotive campaign punch line. And then we went to cook some blinis together.

Nancy Pelosi

I attended a media training session at work last week. These are about as much fun as an autopsy. You discuss what messages you want to convey, do a couple of practice runs and then you are put in front of the camera to be interviewed by a journalist. You are filmed and then reviewed and critiqued by everyone in the room. To add to the fun you will also look at least 10 years older and a stone heavier than you thought you did.

The journalist asked me about our company's market leading position and I gave an answer talking about our research and development investments and how we stay a step ahead of competition through our strategy and focus. He suggested I put a bit more female energy to the answer.

Excuse me?

He wanted me to talk about the lives we are saving and protecting, babies and incubators. And those are important things, reasons why I work for this company and worthy topics to talk about! But why is that female. Releasing my inner Riivinrauta I confronted the man on this. Would he have asked the same thing if I was a man? He said he would have (fake news!) and then he went on stuttering about Jung and his theories about male and female energies. I suggested he let go of Jung and look for some more contemporary reference points.

That's just a small example that shows that women are still today expected to be conciliatory, demure, caring and calming, while men are allowed and expected to be assertive, confrontational, factual, technical, commercial, rational.

I am not saying men and women are the same. We are not. But we are not just men and women. We are individuals. These stereotypings do harm to both parties. What about my soft-spoken, non-confrontational husband who cries at Cinderella when the step mum is mean, what about all the fathers who would give their lives for their children. Is it fair to them to say caring or showing emotion is not a masculine trait. And what about the women who care and love till their hearts bleed, but who also have intellect and courage and the ability to kick ass in politics, science or business.
From now on I will make sure I will help my sisters to navigate this still misogynistic world. I will make sure that I and my colleagues, male and female, recognise the prejudices and often unconscious  bias that still exists.

And because women love chocolate (a gender stereotype I immediately could thrash by telling I'm not too bothered and know at least two other women who could take it or leave it) and because my mum raised two hell-raising daughters I will share her super easy milk chocolate mousse recipe in honour of the International Women's day.

Easy three ingredient milk chocolate mousse

(makes 4 fairly small servings)

100g milk chocolate
100 ml whole milk
100 ml whipping cream

Heat up the milk. Chop the chocolate and add to the milk as soon as it reaches boiling point. Mix until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the cream and leave to cool in the fridge for a couple of hours. Whisk until it's a fluffy mousse consistency.

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