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I have recently discovered that I am a woman.

Don’t get me wrong: physically I have always known I am a woman. But I have always considered myself different. Not a man, quite, but different: someone to be taken seriously.

Except that I am a woman. And that which is woman is not taken seriously, is it?

I have just discovered that the things I like are actually woman-things: conversation, connection and cooperation. Which makes me, not-man and in a field still dominated by men, an outsider.

Here’s how I discovered my gender.

Covering the second day of hearings on a subject that is not very dear to my heart: the operations and rate-change projections of energy utilities , I was the only female reporter in the room, a fact I didn’t notice until today – when another female reporter walked in.

A woman! I thought. It was novel.

A reporter with a local radio station, she was short, fat and smiling.

During the break, in between getting names and quotes and interviews, I approached her. Without too much hesitation, I admitted my ignorance on the subject at hand (something I had not been able to admit around the male reporters, in fact around them I made sure to keep my mouth closed, for the most part). She surprised me by also admitting her ignorance, but saying she was enjoying the learning process (very female mode of introduction).

We moved on to sharing a tip or two about what we each had started to understand. Then we shared stories about our various children, about how they did or did not fit the various gender stereotypes. Then I said I had no idea how to boil down the overwhelming influx of testimony and information into a 500-word story. What was she going to focus on?

And you know what? She told me.

I’m not sure if a man would have told me. But I would not have felt comfortable asking him. I realized then that some of the reasons I struggle with feeling legit in my own profession is because I am a woman and I see things differently than the majority of the people I work with.

I didn’t use her story template as my own, but listening to her female voice and female way of expression helped me put a focus on my own impressions and thoughts, gave me confidence to broach a subject I didn’t know about. I left our encounter feeling happy and satisfied, something I hadn’t felt the day before.

I realized then that what had happened between us was possible because were the same GENDER and could RELATE to each other.

I thought then about mentors, about how much more I’d like my job if there was a SINGLE woman in a position above my own who could give me advice, with whom I could commiserate, who would encourage me to follow story ideas and leads that weren’t centered on the male-ideal of what is hard news.

Actually there was one woman about my age in an editor position when I first came here. She did some of the above. She left, pushed out by the old boys club. I miss her.

I can’t help it: I am woman.

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