Workplace

Penny

Being an autistic woman is a rarely talked about intersection. There is a lot of unrealistic and problematic but in a way fairly positive media representation of autistic men as geniuses, but very little media representation of autistic women. The autistic man stereotype is someone who is socially awkward but really good at something, I’m not going to claim this is great (but that’s another topic), but the result is people know to look for talents in socially awkward men. A socially awkward woman is just seen as a total failure of a human being. As a woman, I am expected to be a certain feminine type of people-person, and when I fail to meet that expectation, I am perceived as failing at everything. In some parts of my life where nerds and misfits are better accepted, my talents are recognised, so I know they exist, my big problem is in the workplace. I could not get a promotion in many years in my old job because my social awkwardness meant I was perceived as stupid. When I tried to ask for more challenging opportunities, people said they didn’t want to “set me up for a fall” by giving me something too difficult, despite it being something I knew I could do. I have never seen someone worry not setting up a man for a fall by giving him work he could clearly do. I left that job, because I could see it wasn’t just me. None of the socially awkward women ever got promoted. When they overheard me saying that at a conference, rather than considering the real problem they need to address, they put in a formal complaint to my new employer. Even leaving wasn’t enough to stop them wanting to ruin my career for the crime of being an autistic woman.

Edwina

One of my male colleagues has just had a second baby. My male boss sent an email to the whole team with the birth announcement, congratulating the new father and said, in the email, “[new father] now has a daughter to look after him in old age!”. He never said anything like this when that male colleague had his first baby, a boy.

Elisabeth

I work as a teacher in a college in England. While I’ve worked in secondary education for 20 years, I can’t say I’ve experienced sexism in such an obvious and consistent manner as in the place I work now. Here are some personal experiences. Not long after I’d started, a senior manager snuck up behind me at the photocopier during a busy interview evening in a packed library. As I waited for the machine to finish my print job, he snuck up and stroked my back. I was so startled, I just managed to keep my composure (there were prospective new students and parents around).I blurted out that I’d nearly screamed to which he replied he liked to make women scream with a grin on his face. I walked off mumbling something about he’d better be careful as I might hit someone pulling a stunt like that again. I reported it to HR, who passed it on to assistant principal. They told me that the man in question had mistaken me for his friend (I’m about 8 cm taller) and that he was mortified. Next time I saw the guy, he glared at me with undisguised anger… So, it’s obviously a load of BE and he’s been let off the hook. Fortunately, I have little to do with him, but have since heard other rumours about him and inappropriate behaviour with female students. He was also the guy who in a staff briefing shortly before he sexually harassed me, referred to another female colleague as “the beautiful [name]” . Then there’s the PE teacher who makes a rehearsed joke during a zoom briefing how the rugby team had won a competition, but it was a shame that it was “just the girl’s team”. While there were horrified faces across the zoom call, I doubt much will be done about this. And finally there’s my Head of Faculty who patronizes every female colleague and forgets to address them by name in emails, while using male colleague’s names. Male colleagues who make a mistake hear nothing, while a female colleague making same mistake gets sent an unpleasant, patronising email telling off. In a meeting, I made a suggestion, only to be ignored. Then a male colleague makes the same suggestion and he is praised by the Head.Fortunately, my male colleague is a decent guy, who pointed out that I’d made the suggestion first. These are just some instances and I don’t think much will change while we have more men with the same first name in senior and middle management than women and ethnic minorities in leadership positions. I’m saddened by these experiences (all cover the previous 12 months), because if this is what I’m experiencing, what must our young students of all genders be experiencing?

CC

I was hobbling down the corridor at work on my crutches after hurting my knee at football, and a male colleague asked “What have you done?”. I said that I had torn my ligament playing football to which he replied “What are you doing playing that? That’s a boys’ sport!”. I really couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but seeing as I didn’t really know him, I thought probably not. I was so astonished by the outdated cliché remark, all I could say back was “It is 2020 you know”, but I wish I’d have been able to think quickly enough to say something a bit more thought-provoking.

anonymous

When I started reading the book I spoke to my sister about it and we both exchanged stories of sexual assault/harrassment, and when our mum came in the room she told us of an instance of assault that we didn’t know about, as well as one her friend recently shared with her. These instances were just the ones that had stuck in our heads because they were the most disturbing/scary/memorable but I made a list on my notes on my phone later that night of all the instances I could remember and split it into sexual assault and sexual harrassment. JUST in the sexual assualt list I had over 20 instances that I could remember starting from school years, and I’m almost certain its not an exhaustive list. It was actually effortful to remember all of the instances and made me realise how I’d actually dismissed most of them and how I’d normalised them. But actually writing them out and reading them back made me extremely emotional and brought to light how utterly fucked up it was. Most of the instances I felt I couldn’t speak up because even if people believed me nothing would be done anyway. So it’s easier to stay silent.

S

I am a professional in my late 30s. I had my year end review in work this week. I got a top rating. I’m the only one in my team to get that. I have had a good year and worked hard for it. What bothered me is that my boss got very defensive when I tried to initiate a conversation about pay. At the end of the conversation he said he hoped to see me smiling more than I had done in this meeting/ Zoom call.

K

I’m a senior manager in a blue chip company. At a dinner last night the former president of our company was sat next to me, I introduced myself and he asked if I was a personal assistant for our male colleague at the table. I said no I’m the regional manager. He was shocked.. I was shocked that he assumed I was an assistant. He proceeded to call me young lady (I’m 40) and told me what I should say my male colleagues. I deserved to be at that table, I used my voice and experience to try and change his perspective of women. Pointless though.

Louise

A few years ago, I worked with an older man who I trusted a lot and was a good friend to me. I had no reason to mistrust him and I always looked forward to being on shift with him as I knew we would have a good laugh! This one time, he gave me a friendly hug and squeezed my bum and laughed. At the time it felt gross, I didn’t fancy him at all. But we laughed it off. When I think of it now, it makes me feel sick.

abbey

I was 17 working as a waitress and a group of men asked me if I found their mate attractive, I joked along but was then pushed up against the fruit machine and kissed. I immediately told my manager who assessed that the situation wasn’t bad enough to kick them out for. When I told my boyfriend at the time about the situation he believed that it was my fault as I must have been flirting with them.

Lucy

I’m 28 and I own a small business. On a pretty regular basis I will have customers come in (usually men) who assume that I am the “receptionist”. These same people will usually assume that my male apprentice is the boss. We have no uniforms or anything that would distinguish job role or career level. I also notice this happens when my male fiancé comes into my work occasionally. Certain people will address him first, when enquiring, even though he doesn’t actually work there. The only common denominator is that my apprentice and fiancé are male. This is a clear reflection of the view that society has in general – that men are at the top and women must be subordinate to them, especially in the work place. The sexism extends further than this though – When buying a car, with my own money, the sales person addressed my fiancé. When viewing houses together, the estate agents addressed my fiancé. Even though I am the bread winner in our relationship. It has taken blood sweat and tears to get to where I am, but seems it may take more than that before that struggle is respected.