“Do we not have enough sandwiches for our guests?” I am so confused that I blink in a daze, hoping the question that has just been asked of me is a figment of my imagination.
The context: I am a senior employee who works at the headquarters of a multinational financial services firm. I graduated from one of the world’s best universities, and have more than 6 years of experience in my field. I have difficulty being objective about myself for fear that I will appear cocky and elitist. However, I am fairly certain I am quite good at my job and at least above average in terms of performance when compared to my peer group. So, what on Earth makes it ok for my manager to ask me if I had arranged the catering for our meeting? And (surprise?) this isn’t the first time it has happened. I think it has something to do with the fact I am a 27 year old woman.
I don’t want to be misunderstood and be stereotypical about who does what in the office. I fully understand that often everyone has to get their hands dirty and do things that fall beneath their job description. That’s just life and career progression. However, I can’t help but wonder, somewhat grudgingly, whether the same question would be asked of a man.
And yet, by default, I deal with my anger and surprise with a smile and a polite nod. I quickly speak to the receptionist and the office secretary and ask them to arrange the catering. I guess I concede defeat… I tell myself that I have been well taken care of under this man’s management and his actions are not a reflection of his professional opinion of me. I try to appease myself by promising that I will be careful not to make this same mistake as I climb the ranks of seniority. That, I will lead by example and in my own small way will make a conscious effort to remove gender biases and inequality from the system.
But deep within me there is a feeling of sadness that I can’t fully rationalize myself away from feeling. Corporate life is difficult enough without having to deal with the silly nuance of being too ‘soft touch’ and too feminine, and consequently being put in the awkward and hurtful situation that I was put in today. “This can’t be the future,” I think to myself as as I brush away a tear that escapes while I walk to the ladies bathroom. Something’s got to give. Though I’m not sure what, and how to make it get there.
For now, I shrug my shoulders and accept that I am a woman in a man’s world. And I hope, one day, that will change.