Sometimes you find pioneers in the strangest places. Meet Alexandra Hai, Venice's first female gondolier. The city's staple tourist attraction has been around for more than 1,000 years and has only today, in 2007, 50 years after the feminist movement, accepted a woman as a face of the industry.
Sound familiar? So do the comments made by Venice's all-male gondoliers. Comments like, "it is a question of skill and not sex." I couldn't help think of Neil French when I read that line. It's amazing that I can draw a parallel between a city that is rooted in tradition and petrified of change and an industry that thrives on it.
Alexandra Hai isn't even Italian. She's German and has lived in Venice for 11 years, most of which have been spent fighting for her right to be a gondolier. For some reason, this makes me want to root for her even more; a foreigner and a woman, she has everything working against her. But, she's determined to change the face of her industry, and she looks pretty cool too. We can all learn something from her story, which just goes to show you that the boys club exists even at the most basic corporate levels.
Read the article at New York Times, May 13th