#121: The Old Girl's Network
When I first moved to Cincinnati 15 years ago, one of the things that shocked me the most was that when someone here asked you where you went to school, they didn't mean college. They meant high school. When confronted with that question, I would at first tell them, wondering why they cared about my crappy high school in a rural county in Northeast Ohio.
After a while, I learned to just say, "Oh, I didn't grow up here," because it's a uniquely Cincinnati thing, and a pretty old-school way of placing, or even ranking, people you meet. (They only answer anyone in the business community wanted at that time was one of a handful of elite Catholic high schools. One large private company here counts their entire leadership/ownership team as graduates of the same Catholic all-boys school. Diversity is not a core value for them.) It also feels incredibly exclusionary to anyone not from here, like you are an interloper in an otherwise closed society.
I hadn't run into that in a long time, but last night on a networking happy hour zoom with a group of business owners, it showed up again. (I've probably avoided this question because I have built up a network of other transplants who find the question as weird as I do.) Turns out, nearly everyone on the call had gone to the same private, Catholic, all-girls high school in the area, and their daughters were also going to that school. We spent a lot of time on the call talking about those schools, and drawing connections between the people who went there, while the two of us not from this area just sipped our cocktails and checked email in the background.
It was a frustrating, and eye-opening, experience. Once again, I sat on the outside of the circle, looking in, and I had to make a decision. Do I try to break in, or do I go and continue to develop my own circles? Do I spend time hitting my head against the stained-glass ceiling of Old Cincinnati, or do I just peel off and make my own connections?
I think you know which direction I'm going.