I never really concerned myself with equality in the workplace. It’s the twenty-first century, surely all of that is a thing of the day drinking Don Draper workplace? The thing is if you don’t believe in something, it’s much harder to see.
It was first mentioned to me in passing. I was telling a story about something I was struggling with at work, and as I concluded my telling, the woman with whom I was sharing my tale, said, “classic, he just can’t work with women.” I shrugged this off thinking it was just how she classified the injustices he’d thrown in her direction-until it happened again, and again, from more and more women.
It seemed to be a common theme. And the more I thought about it, this was not an: “if the shoe fits” scenario, this was glass slipper fitting only Cinderella the night after the ball type of perfect fit (really-did no other lass in the kingdom wear a size 7 ½?).
So now I know. I know I work for a man who cannot manage women. So what? What do I do? The sad truth of the matter is nothing. It’s not flagrant sexism. I’m not making 77 cents compared to my male counterparts. Though truthfully, I’m the only one in my role. Nobody’s ever slapped my ass or called me sweetheart. My dress has never been deemed inappropriate nor has anyone said my mood is in anyway related to my menstrual cycle.
But I am completely miserable, because my work is discounted and I have no respect from any of my male superiors. Although really all that sentence needs to read is, “superiors.” We have no women in any executive roles. We did once. For about a year. But she didn’t get along with the boss, he didn’t respect her, or listen to her, or treat her with dignity. He called her a liar and said he couldn’t trust her. So she left. Now he blames just about anything that goes wrong in the office on her. So what’s happening?
The most obvious form of his bias was when I was taken in for a disciplinary lecture. Keep in mind, without getting into details, I was being lectured for someone else’s transgression. My boss suggested I needed a mentor in the workplace. He figured it obviously couldn’t be him or his immediate subordinate because I would probably feel more comfortable with a female mentor (remember how many women execs we have?).
This was before anyone had ever planted the idea in my head that the man was sexist. But even then, my response was a shocked, “Why would my mentor need to be a woman?” After all, I had mentors from previous jobs, many of them men, and I’d never felt the need to talk to them about my vagina thus far, for the most part it had all been professional. So I wasn’t sure why now I needed specifically a woman to guide me as I tried to succeed professionally.
As time went by the situation got worse. In that same meeting, after all of my crimes had been laid before me, I asked-in an attempt to turn the meeting into something constructive, what did I do well? The answer from my boss was, “I don’t go around patting people on the head for just doing their jobs.” Ok… I know our generation is known for getting trophies for participating or whatever, but that’s not what I was looking for here. While I found the response odd and incredibly unhelpful, I didn’t think too much of it (other than maybe he was an asshole).
Except that it came up again. In a meeting with another employee. One who happened to be a friend of mine, and afterward shared the comment with me. She mentioned to me, that our boss said to her that some of the staff was difficult to deal with and that he wasn’t going to go around giving out cookie baskets to someone just for setting up a meeting. I’m a scheduler. My job is to set up meetings. I am the only one in our office who does this job. This was very clearly a comment about me.
I don’t know why he interpreted my request for positive feedback as a desperate need for nurturing. It’s not what I was asking for. I had not had yet had a review of my work during my entire tenure, and it seemed that if we were going over the negatives, it may be helpful to discuss the positives. Apparently I was wrong, and I haven’t had another shot at a “review.”
Time has gone on and it has come to the point where I now need to discuss with another male employee basic day-to-day tasks that I used to bring to my boss. Everything is filtered through someone else. He now will not even sit down and have meetings with me. He ignores me. He has started assigning me tasks that are far below my role (not directly, never directly-they are filtered through someone else-remember he doesn’t want to deal with me directly). He has attempted to shift intern tasks to me. I have been in the workforce for 4 years. Even if I were a crappy employee, I believe I am above what my collegiate interns do daily. I cannot get time to sit down with him to discuss what’s going on.
Of course you don’t know me. The obvious assumption is that I am a disgruntled employee blaming my own lack of ability and skill on sexism instead of my own laziness. That may be. But I have a degree from a top university, where my major was directly related to my field. I have been nominated for leadership awards by my peers and am anything but a quitter. I suppose that means nothing as well, you only have my word for it after all. But, in the past four years five people have done this job. I’m the sixth. 6 people in four years. And I have been there for almost two of those years. Five of the last six have been women. And I have outlasted them all. Those are the facts. I have not changed them.
My situation wont change. It’s a unique set up, with a unique dynamic. So I will leave my job as quickly as I can. I can’t stay somewhere where I am not respected. Where I cannot have an honest discussion about the quality of my work. My daydreams are almost all of dramatic exits-where I’m asked to complete an absurd task and I say, “no thank you” and walk out. I ponder how I will train the sorry sap that takes my place. Do I tell her the hard and honest truth? Do I just give her the basics and let her remain hopeful? Do I tell her to run far away and never look back?
I don’t believe every workplace is sexist. But I do believe there are people who are sexist. I don’t believe it’s intentional. I hope, it’s not intentional. But it’s there. I go to work everyday to be torn down, stripped naked. They are testing me to see how long I will last. And it is not much longer. I hope that whoever comes after me cracks the code. I haven’t, and there is no hope in sight. So I quit.