The General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly was being held the week after I departed New York City this past September. Foreign dignitaries from the world over began arriving my last day in preparation to discuss global issues of importance.
I was staying at the Ritz Carlton, which was booked for this annual gathering at UN Headquarters. As I entered the elevator, four men of African descent followed. They were having difficulty grasping the concept of swiping their room key card to gain access to their floor. Although they spoke English, I used my card to demonstrate what they needed to do, saying “You need your card to get to your floor.”
I thought it was the considerate thing to and didn’t expect anything in return. Except to be acknowledged. Not one of the men said anything to me, no one looked at me. I was invisible. In 2017, as a woman offering aid I didn’t matter, or even exist. Perhaps they would have figured out the workings of the key card among themselves eventually, or ask a fellow male for help.
Women are nearly half the world’s population, 49.6% to be exact. Over time the difference of 100 females born per 1,000 to males 107 evens out. Males have a higher risk of dying both in childhood and as adults and women live longer.
We are not second class although some cultures believe otherwise. For an American woman growing up with the freedom to make my own choices and decisions, the incident served as a nasty reminder that for all we’ve accomplished, there is always so much more to be done. The equal treatment of women is a global issue of importance that cannot be ignored. We are not invisible.