6 Things That Happen When You're A Woman Working In A Mostly Male Workplace
I've worked in many office situations that are "boys' clubs". I started out working in the law profession, in an office where I was one of two women in an all-male office (excluding legal secretaries). Then I moved to New York where I worked in the lovely, open floor plan, testosterone-driven world of new media start ups. If you thought the legal arena was boysy, you've clearly never worked in an office place where apps are created. Wait, wait, where "earth shattering magic" is made. Part of being in an all-male office is understanding that the man's work is imperative to the survival of mankind. Because you know, the people NEED to be able to check in at every restaurant they go to, otherwise humanity will just start falling apart and we'll be killing each other for the last bottle of Poland Springs at the supermarket.
That's not to say that all male-driven work places are horrible. I've been lucky enough to work in certain environments with men who are nurturing, graceful and kind, where being a woman hasn't affected my professional experience in the slightest. But I have also worked in male-driven work places where being a woman is like coming to work every day with a giant strap-on attached to your forehead – You're made to be conspicuous, ridiculous, and a little bit offensive.
Lucky for me, I now have an incredible job where gender equality is so pervasive it's a non-issue that doesn't even need to ever be addressed. But workplaces that fancy themselves "boys' clubs" are still everywhere I look, and the tactics of intimidation that go on between men and women in workplaces are entirely unprofessional. But you know, at the end of the day, they're just trying to keep us down – because when we come up, there's going to be trouble. Here are 6 things that happen in boys' club work environments that all women who work within them will be familiar with.
1. YOU MIGHT FIND OUT YOUR MALE PEERS ARE MAKING MORE CASH DOLLARS THAN YOU
I once I found out a male peer who I worked with was making nearly 4 times the amount as me to do less work. In terms of qualifications for the job, we both had a similar education and work history, and in terms of our ability to actually do the job, I felt that I was actually better at it than he was. It was partly my mistake; I didn't ask for a lot more money because obviously, as a woman, I've been conditioned to take what I'm offered without question (although I have definitely changed that attitude since that experience). I've had many friends experience the same thing: they find out a male co-worker ostensibly doing the same job, to the same level, with the same qualifications, is earning more than them. In my case, I asked for more money. Interestingly enough, I was only granted a small raise, and wasn't offered the same as my male counterpart, not because of any extra merit on the male's part mentioned by my manager, but because, as I was told, there were "budget restrictions," which I guess is a euphemism for, "Shut up and just be grateful you have a job at all." Not acceptable in any way.
2. YOUR SEXUALITY WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU
In my job, I have written openly about sex a lot. This is often read as an invitation for male co-workers and superiors to say inappropriately sexual things to me. But it's not always so specific. "Are you on your period?" gets bandied about a lot when a woman becomes demanding or difficult. You're treated as weak and incapable by virtue of your sexuality, and if you're a single woman in a boys' club, you've got a giant red "A" emblazoned on your sweater in all times. You're treated so differently if you're in a relationship; a single, sexual, career woman is a threat in the boy's club, and a lot of the time you'll be made to feel like what defines you is your sexuality, rather than the actual work you're there to do.
3. PEOPLE WILL MANSPLAIN TO YOU
OH AND HOW! As a woman in a boys' club, you'll often be infantilized by the men around you who will insisting on talking to you like you're the village idiot. I will never forget an argument in which I was rationally trying to explain to one of MY STAFF, someone whose manager I was, how my product, that he was responsible for, was not up to snuff. He snapped at me, refused my advice, called me pet names, then called me a bitch, and didn't work with me to solve a problem that went on unsolved until I left the company. Meanwhile, my male boss overheard the whole thing, didn't admonish our junior, but instead took me aside and babied me, mansplaining why, while the other employee's behavior was rude and inappropriate, I shouldn't be upset about it, because that's just the way things are. There was no way that same staff member would have got away with speaking the same way to a male manager.
4. YOU WILL BE PRIVVY TO SEXIST CONVERSATIONS
I've heard male bosses calling female clients horrible names, talking about their weight and their dating habits. I've been in email chains objectifying Hooters employees. Work emails. All around you, men will be saying nasty things about women that you're not going to want to hear. I'd block the noise out as best I could, because the other wonderful thing about boys' clubs is that if you rebel against them, they'll come back at you twice as hard.
5. YOU WILL BECOME EXPERT AT NOT CRYING AT WORK
Kelly Cutrone will tell you to go outside if you need to cry at work. That might be fine for some, but when you're in the middle of a boys' club, even that is going to catch you flack. I used to work with a girl who would go and cry in the bathroom when she needed to, but the men in the office knew exactly what she was doing, and would bitch about her as though she'd just broken down in front of them. I learned to hold it all in, and wait until I was at least two blocks down the street at the end of the day before I let myself cry. Men see tears as a sign of weakness: they're not. They're a sign of frustration, sure, but in a boys' club you'll be forced wear your tears like a splint.
6. AT LEAST ONE GUY WILL HAVE A PERPETUAL CONVERSATION WITH YOUR CHEST
There's always a guy who thinks it's OK to oggle you and constantly try to flirt with you, even when you reject his advances. There might even be more than one. And the worst part is, in a real boys' club, everyone will congratulate this guy, and no one will have your back. Just another reason why, by far, the best part of working in a boys' club when you're a woman is when you get to finally leave.
Images: FX; Giphy(6)