My manager made some outrageously offensive comments about the clothing of a female professional in a meeting last week. This kind of thing has been going on for years, despite my organsiation being in a sector that means staff working there really should know better (shouldn’t they all??). For some reason last week when this happened I just snapped and called him out on it – in front of four other colleagues. Nobody backed me up, and my manager seemed livid about being challenged. He has arranged for us to meet tomorrow to discuss the ‘obvious frustrations’. He has no idea that his sexist comments are at the top of my list. I’m so cross that I have to spend most of today preparing for the meeting tomorrow, when he is the one in the wrong, and I am already so overwhelmed in my role. I’m using Laura Bates’ article in the Guardian in April to galvanise my thoughts, and it helps me to know I am not alone. Thank you Laura for providing this platform and for all the work you do.
Ever so often when I, an early career academic, work together with male colleagues they imply that their priorities, and hence their work, are more important that mine, and that they are busier than me, even when we are on the same career level and have the same amount of duties. This is also true for some of my friends, who tend to be men rather than women: whenever we envisage a meeting, it is them who wish to set the priorities. Of course I do make it clear that I have my priorities as well. But this is rarely taken as a given.
I worked at a restaurant and was sexually harassed by one of the kitchen guys. There was only one other woman and one trans-man that worked there before me. The man had transitioned during his time at the restaurant. The restaurant was and is extremely male dominated. When I filed my report against the man who harassed me my manager said, “I’m sorry, we don’t normally deal with this kind of thing. We have Sarah and Ren, but you know… You’re the first real woman to work here. Do you know what I mean?” Not only is it offensive to the trans man being referred to as a woman, but to Sarah for not being attractive enough in his eyes to be considered a woman. It was one of the most sexist things I had ever heard in such a casual way. Fucking disgraceful. I filed a complaint against him with the EEOC. When I was interviewed by the EEOC employee he interrogated me and belittled my complaint. I told him management did not try to make my work environment safe. He said “When you tell a man no he is going to be angry, you gotta be ready to deal with that.” Like the whole thing was my fault. I filed a complaint against him to his boss too. Maybe I wasted my time, this process took months, but I refuse to sit back and let people treat me or other women like shit just because we are women.
My boss likes to speak over me in meetings or play on his phone when I’m talking. Other female colleagues have noticed him do the same to them. I’ve tried speaking to him about it. He acknowledges it at the time and apologises for “upsetting” me, but then next meeting it’s the same deal. Regently, I sent a big piece of work I’d done to him for feedback. He proceeded to give feedback to my junior male colleague within my earshot. Apparently, despite the email coming from me, it was inherently obvious that work of that quality had come from another man in the team. Unsurprising really that the junior male colleague tells me he’s booking other people in to represent the organisation at events because they’re more qualified, despite the advice of a female director that I’m the right person for the job. Classic case of trickle-down sexism.
We were in a manager’s meeting and I was one of only 2 females out of 9 people. When it came for a coffee break the MD looked at us and said “take orders for drinks and biccies, please ladies”. I couldn’t believe it. We are both more senior than at least 3 of the guys but we had yo go get the drinks like we were the most junior in the room.
Having worked my way up through an organisation a which I joined as a PA, I was running a practice and engaging regularly with CEO’s and Directors for Business Development and Delivery. In my late 20’s (not so long ago!), I took care of my appearance, but looked smart and professional (unlike many of my male counterparts) but was careful to balance, being well turned out, with not too glamorous! I found myself leading a regional practice when my two bosses left and whilst they tried to take me with them, I maintained my commitment to my current employer and was keen to develop my own market, take up their mantel and, in fact work in direct competition with my two former employers. I did this successfully on a temporary basis for a number of months, with no discussion or involvement from above. Then a Director asked for a meeting, casually put his feet up on the desk and suggested I take a secondment into a wider part of the business that dealt with a different (lower level, higher volume) type of work. He said that the fact that I looked young and was a pretty woman meant I was less likely to have credibility with the CEO’s and Directors that I needed to impress on a daily basis. Apparently getting experience in a different environment (where I would be 4-5 steps removed from any decision makers) should give me the credibility I needed???! I politely told him that I thought he ought to discuss the suggestion with HR before putting anything in writing. I was gobsmacked that my looks and age could be held against me in an environment where I had already proved my worth. THis made me even more driven and I made a huge success of my market, despite the hurdles and perceived barriers!
First of all, look out for those inherently/ subconsciously sexist people, who proclaim vigorously that rape culture does not exist, despite there being an environment where women are objectified and have their traumatic experiences viewed with indifference. Secondly, don’t worry; sexists will be punished due to karma under God, no matter what the Bible states. God is fair toward everyone and there will be justice. Moreover, always speak up whenever you receive any sort of sexist remark; don’t let it normalize any further, and please try to re-educate those who are sexist.
Coworker answered the phone and I heard him say “let me get My Office Girl” (meaning me). I responded; “My title is Environmental Protection Admin. Unless you would like ME to start calling YOU “My Dozer Boy” (He’s a heavy equipment operator). He blushed and walked away. Let’s break down his title for me: “My” – illustrates he believes I have been assigned to him to use me as he sees fit. “Office” – ignores my multitude of other critical environmental duties. “Girl” – illustrates he sees me as a child needing guidance which he is quick to provide. No it’s not a slip he made. It is a sneak peak inside his mind and shows he believes me to be HIS to BELITTLE and GUIDE while I am in his presence. No it’s not micro-managing. It’s sexism.
A male coworker hacked into my phone data and shared what he found with my other coworkers. This had the effect of humiliating me and to my surprise it made him all the more popular. What upset me was the extent to which my colleagues did not care, even though it was against the rules, even though some of them were women, and even though my coworkers are educated people who probably identify themselves as feminist or egalitarian…I could have complained but I still think that this could have made me so unpopular that I could have been forced to leave.
I was in a meeting with my boss and was alone with him in his office. He held a water bottle against his groin and stroked it from top to bottom. Then he turned it around and did the same thing again twice so that it was clearly on purpose. Now that I am writing this it sounds absurd.