It’s International Women’s Day today. I don’t know how many of you know this, I didn’t, but it apparently originally emerged out of the Socialist Party of America’s activism and support for female workers who were protesting their working conditions in 1908. Sticking with that theme, I want to talk about being a woman at work.
Being a woman at work is like juggling daggers made of pointy fire, whilst trying not to swear or look too much like you’re enjoying it.
I’m constantly told the reason women are paid less is because we’re not assertive enough and don’t ask when men would; the reason women aren’t given roles on company boards, or as CEOs, is because they’re not cut throat enough; and that we’re too feeling and not either aggressive or logical enough. On the other hand, by behaving in the exact same ways as my male contemporaries I am told I am too strident, loud, and antagonistic.
The male friends I have at work are the same as me: they occasionally think being funny is more important than being nice, they’re neurotic, forceful when they think they’re right, and not afraid to say ‘oi, I’m good at my job’, or ‘dude, this is wrong… fix it’, and sometimes they get things wrong. Yet I’m the bitch.
I have had people email me asking me to pass on information to a male colleague on projects I am running, in a department I am the lead in, because they assume the colleague must be my boss, despite all communications implying otherwise.
The guys I work with and for, whilst nice blokes, regularly talk over me. The women never ever do. If I interrupt anyone, even accidentally, it is noted, trust me. I have even had a man hold their hand up to me to stop me speaking – like you would a dog or a small child – when I was about to ask a shy participant in one of our events if they’d like to contribute.
The issue is that all of the things I am describing have happened despite the guys being pretty straight up, nice, liberal guys, who would be mortified to think of themselves as misogynistic. I’m afraid to mention it when these things happen because it would just be another example of me being a bitch.
(As a side note, I come from a left-wing perspective, but Tories are much less likely to behave like this. I don’t know exactly why this is, but I think this may be the one thing I can comfortably thank Maggie for.)
It has crossed my mind that maybe it’s me, maybe I am being unreasonable or seeing things that aren’t there, but my female friends are experiencing the same things in their workplaces. Sure, that’s a fairly self-selecting bunch, but it feels real.
I can’t publish this in my name, because if I do I am afraid it will damage my relationships with my colleagues. I’m in my 20s and I am already getting tired. Just let me do my job.