Today was another day at work–I continued to write for a longer term project, and I attended a countdown meeting for an upcoming event, which was really exciting but reminded me a bit of curling meetings. Here, everything was about logistics for the event–everything from chair covers to security to media engagement was covered, and it just felt a lot  like curling board meetings where we prepare for upcoming practices, spiels, book hotels, rent cars, get quotes, deal with grant applications and club recognition as well as work to recruit new people. Embassy work; college curling–really, they’re the same 😉

Just kidding. But it reminded me of it a little.

After work, Laura and I were to attend a Networking event hosted by a group called Friends of Portugal, and American non-profit on behalf of the embassy. We took a taxi there and back, which was fun, because it was around 20 minutes outside of Lisbon. The event was pleasant–a lot of people–but it just was striking to see how shallow networking really can be. Not to say all networking is shallow, and maybe I’m just not very practiced at it, but it felt honestly kind of like the admitted students weekend at Harvard, where everyone is just trying to impress everyone else and subtly mention their test scores or the other schools they’ve been accepted to. It felt like that. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m inexperienced. But I wasn’t sure what I should even be aiming for–I was aimlessly eating high calorie food in a random office building, listening and trying to ask questions that I wanted to know the answers to. But alas. Who knows.

Pardon the bad quality photos taken from the taxi window 😉

But being in the networking event and meeting people that really only wanted to perfect their elevator pitch and hear themselves talk made me think about the dynamics at the embassy. Because of course, there are many many more men than women across all offices, and many more white people than not. The truth is, American foreign policy and diplomacy has been controlled by white men–anglo saxon protestants, if you will–for as long as it has existed. And while many things have changed and many bars preventing people who aren’t WASPs have been lifted–the embassy can still feel like it houses a secretive community, an elite club of men that banter at meetings and make small talk only amongst themselves. Perhaps I’m being oversensitive, but considering the sheer number of women in many of the spaces that I’m working in–something I’m extremely grateful for as they are amazing role models–I find it difficult to believe that it’s some coincidence that nearly all of the joking and banter occurs only between the men in the room. Perhaps I’m not giving enough credit to the personalities involved. Perhaps there are some relationships that I’m not aware of, some unspoken rules, and some particular exceptions, and everything that I’ve witnessed is a figment of my imagination and a tangle of coincidences. But it has happened so frequently now and in such different groups of people, over and over, that I have started to question the structures at play and I wonder how long this will take to change. Who knows. I’ll keep you updated 🙂

Much love!