Dinah swirled at the reception lobby like a butterfly in a garden of colourful petals. Her red knitted scarf that lightly swayed from shoulder to shoulder breathed life into her button-down white blouse and black skirt. Her signature flowery fragrance and red heels clacking against the wooden floor tiles marked her presence. At the reception desk, Farida screamed with excitement when she noticed her friend.
Two weeks ago. Dinah’s shaking hands holding each other, hesitant to open a specific email. Farida had set them free and guided her right hand to the mouse. She had clicked on the email. They had kept still for a second then they had screamed, leaving people walking by glaring.
10.38 a.m. Farida reached for a bracelet and tied it around her friend’s wrist. “Evans wished you the best. He said that you remember this day. This has never happened before here. And like him, I believe that too, that it is enough…”
Dinah cut her off with a hug, smiled at her and walked into the waiting room.
A set of black leather sofas enclosed it. Peter was seated at the farthest corner of the room. She took a seat and glanced at her watch. It was 10.40 a.m. He let off a vicious chuckle. His smile drew his loosely trimmed beard to attention. He had a clout air about him, and Dinah wondered whether it could be the reason he was the second line manager in the IT department. A lean man, his grey shirt holding onto his carved chest tightly. In another life, she saw him a warrior. She would joke to her friend that it was made of bricks. And she would momentarily get lost in that thought, whisper “warrior bricks” and they would laugh their hearts out.
“You are only a personal assistant. You cannot head an IT department,” he broke the silence.
She stared at the security camera above him, then at him.
Three years ago. In this same room, with a group of applicants rehearsing their interview responses, her name had been called. In that room, Evans had been impressed by her papers. Peter interrupted him. He had repeatedly told her that she could make a good personal assistant since she was bubbly and friendly. For once in her life, she had felt her personality determined the job she would get, not her papers, not her dreams. He made her as his personal assistant.
Three weeks ago. In this same room with eight applicants and after a series of interview sessions, only these two remained. Dinah and her former boss.
10.50 a.m. Dinah did not notice Farida walking in, giving brief instruction that the interview panelists would announce their decision within minutes of her leaving. All this time she was disappointed in herself, which built into rage, that she could work for this man for such a long time. A man who gave her the job for being bubbly and friendly. This same reason she could lose her dream job to him.
Four weeks ago. That night of the office party when she had been at the dancefloor when she had received a text message. She had hurried to the waiting room she nearly slipped. And before he could plant kisses, she gasped with little patience that she was ready.
10.55 a.m. Farida entered the room, she avoided eye contact with her friend. “Di, the panelists, they know about that night. You will be summoned by the HR team.”
She nodded. “Evans said you could only face suspension but you have lost this job. But you will still be a PA. It is enough to know you got this job.” She left the room.
“Bubbly and friendly’, it is an indirect phrase for ‘woman’, right?” she asked softly, twisting her bracelet. “To even think that I admired you.”
“Yet you chose to compete with me for this job. I told you I needed this job.”
“I need it too,” she raised her voice. “Is it because you think a woman does not need this job? Or is it that you fear losing to a woman? We were to compete on a leveled ground.”
With tears rolling, she scrolled through her phone. Peter demanded to know what she was doing. She stood up and continued pressing it. He grabbed her arm and snatched the phone. His eyes turned red.
“That was me uploading online a security footage of our night here. I am ready to be judged. I hope this company is ready to be judged too for gender bias. Am I now less bubbly and friendly for the job?” she asked with a furious tone.
11.00 a.m. The panelists rushed inside the waiting room.