When I joined WOMEN ON BOARDS NETWORK KENYA as a young girl in the professional field, I would occasionally hear the ladies making statements in meetings and would marvel. I kept wondering, does that really happen? I was young and naïve I must say
‘’When they ask that you serve them tea in a board room, ask him ‘Maybe you should come and show me how you like your tea done’ ‘’ with a smile on your face. The elder women would burst out into laughter. Little did I know that this is a common phrase in Kenya’s board rooms. I also read a post from Amakove Wala about the same thing. I thought how ridiculous? How can I be asked to serve tea in a board room?
Fast forward, a few years later, IT HAPPENED TO ME GUYS. IT DID. The waiter came in to serve us and he was asked to leave. I actually thought it would have been self-service. BUT NO! I was instructed to serve the team tea. I was asked to serve tea. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. I was the youngest woman in the room. I sat there baffled and thought that it could have been a certain joke. Serve Tea? I remembered Catherine Musakali, strutting along the hall of Silver springs hotel telling us how to answer to this.
I could not muster the courage to say no. I stood, in my heels and served the tea. I did. All this time, trying to listen (because I could not engage in the conversation lest I spilled the damn tea on their crisp suits) I was also taking minutes in that particular session.
I was unhappy. I felt awful. I asked myself a myriad questions. How could they ask me to serve tea? Why did I do it? Did I have a choice of declining? You see, we all have reactions. They’re perfectly normal. But they don’t have to determine the direction the conversation takes. When it comes to tough conversations, your reaction doesn’t define you. Your response does. I unwillingly chose to obey and stay silent.
Working in an environment with the younger generation, this seldom happens. But there is something with the older folk that does not sit right. It is ok to serve the tea voluntarily.
Dear women on whose shoulders we stand on, Catherine, Amakove, Prof Nyokabi, Carol M, WOBN, I AM SORRY I served the tea. I do not know how I would have declined especially that it was coming from an older person. On behalf of younger women, in such forums, how do we politely decline?
We are in one board room in the same capacity; colleagues, SERVE YOUR TEA