Basking in the sun, a woman with pale complexion pulled a wide-brimmed hat over her pink nose.
Another woman, tanned, sat next to her on the sand. "There's nothing like having some time off," she ventured.
"I hate time off," replied the first one. "It's such a waste."
"Oh? Well, you are more than welcome to stay at the office with the junior staff, going through boring files while the rest of us enjoy these days away."
The pinkish woman sneered and looked away. She would definitely do that if it weren't for the fact that even on vacation everyone was adding points to their relative positions in the firm's ranks. The fake smiles, the pseudo-intellectual conversations about the latest opera performance everyone who mattered attended (including her of course), the overexcited and drunk husbands who, on pretenses that this was a firm's retreat only for partners (a blatant lie), got overenthusiastic, slipping the increasingly younger waitresses cards with the numbers of their hotel rooms.
It was no surprise that over the years no one ever tried to hit on her. She had a reputation of being aloof and arrogant. Besides, she would invariably take cover under her straw hat, the biggest one she could find, and sit by the water, watching them play their parts.
"Lucy, do you ever think that this is all so artificial, you know, like there's a script?"
The tanned woman looked at her and smiled. "Yep. We have accepted to play these roles until we reach the top. Then we can write our own scripts."
"But it's pathetic. Look at them," replied the pinkish woman.
"I know, Patty. It is. Well, look at it on the bright side. One day, we'll own our own firm and be our own bosses. In the meantime, we bask in the sun and watch."
"I'm not sure I'll wait that long," said Patty, starting to look rather reddish instead of pink.
"What are you going to do? Don't throw it all away, not now, after all this effort, please, Patty."
But Patty wouldn't have anything to do with slow patient methods. She stood up, went over to the water, sinking her feet in the sand, and threw her hat away.
"Do you want me to be obedient? Do you want me to play along? Do you want me to fuck my way up the ranks? Do you? Well, to the gents, fuck you. To the ladies, you're getting fucked for nothing; they'll never give you any of the top jobs. Did you know that? I bet you didn't."
By then, she had the undivided attention of all the partners who had been slumbering on low beach-chairs, the dying waves lazily slapping their feet.
"Check your emails, ladies, check your emails," and she walked away, back to the hotel, where she packed her bags and disappeared.
The email had a copy of an internal communication, delivered only to the male partners, where it was clearly stated that men would be given preference over women for any leading position in the firm. A list of reasons were given to justify this unjustifiable decision; women miss work more often, they get pregnant, they take maternity leaves, they have to take care of their children, of their families, of their elderly parents, their attention span is lower, because they tend to multitask, and they are always on the phone solving their family issues.
Needless is to say that this particular firm ceased to exist after it was hit with a storm of lawsuits by the female staff, Lucy included.
Patty went to India. She opened a law firm and she never again basked in the sun.
(This story was inspired by a real event involving a prestigious organization. It was not a law firm. The outcome, however, was far from the one in the story. The organization still exists.)