A Comment from “Why We Are Screwed”

(The original post being commented on is at http://pilantsbusinessethics.com/2014/08/28/business-ethics-women/)

Why We Are Screwed
Why We Are Screwed

Hi James,

It’s your friend over at “Why We Are Screwed” again.

I wanted to reply to your posts, “Women Scared of the Big Issues?” and “Business Ethics and Women”. Thank you for posting them. I wanted to share a few personal experiences with you and your readers.

I spent the last number of years working in an area of science/engineering consulting. Most recently, I had to deal with harassment, wherein I was the unfortunate recipient of an inappropriate sexual remark made by a male coworker, who was attempting to mock and disrespect me. I subsequently left this position because of this and many other reasons; either way, I did not want to continue working in that type of environment and I’ve now been unemployed for many months.

Although overt harassment, toxic workplaces, etc. are issues that affect women, (and not just women of course), the less overt male behavior I observed was probably more disappointing because it was more prevalent yet more difficult to identify since it was just under the surface of the company culture, e.g. a bunch of isolated occurrences/behavioral observations. Let me elaborate.

One manager I worked with always talked about sports with the guys around the office common areas, but never engaged with women in the same way because he just didn’t know how. When the annual company golf tournament approached, this manager made sure to “stack” his team with the best male golfers so he would have a shot at winning, which was obviously much more important to him than encouraging teamwork or just having fun. During one golf tournament I attended, this manager made a comment in front of me at a table of mostly men that he was “able to play 27 holes of golf” and something to the effect of, “women could only do 18 holes or less because they’d be too tired to do more than that”. I’m quite sure he was trying to show off in front of his buddies by blurting out his completely irrelevant comment, and was probably attempting to get a dig in at me because he was upset that I was no longer working in his office. I was the only one to speak up (none of the men at the table would bother, I mean, it didn’t affect them, right?), but none of the women said anything either. I replied sarcastically, “Oh, is that it? Women just can’t do it?”. After I made this comment, there was total silence at the table.

This same manager actually asked a female colleague if she was pregnant during an annual performance review. One could hardly think he was effective at his job, and yet, no one would bother to do anything about it, because well, the business was making money, he’d just been with the company for a long time, and, the company was run by men.

I’ve watched women have children and later leave their jobs, or, after being overlooked for promotion, elect to work part time after having children. There is nothing wrong with this option of course, but is working part time a free choice a woman makes, or is it the result of a workplace refusing to accommodate parental needs? It was absolutely true that some managers thought that it was not possible to promote any woman who was aged 25-40ish, if married and childless, into a management role, since she might potentially have a baby (I emphasize the word potentially, not even pregnant). The problem was, no one thought to ask these women whether they would want to consider taking on more responsibility.

On a positive note, I’ve noticed Generation X/Y and onward males often have a better attitude towards women in the workplace, and thus I hope that the culture will slowly change for the better.

And by the way, since I worked mostly with men, I wore pants to work, but I made sure to speak my mind. It was already challenging enough being a woman in the workplace, let alone reminding other men I was a woman by looking more like one. When in Rome…

(From James Pilant – Pilant’s Business Ethics: “Why We Are Screwed” is one of my favorite web sites to visit and it features a wise and witty author. Please visit it often.)