If she were a man and not a woman, this wouldn't be cool at all
December 15, 2010 12:20 PM Subscribe
It's kind of uncomfortable at times, being a female professional in a male-dominated work environment where most of the female employees are on the other side of the business-coin as support staff (less education and pay). Was yesterday's incident somewhat sexist or am I being an educational elitist?
posted by lizbunny to Work & Money (69 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Our small engineering office is of course mostly guys, maybe out of 100 people only 15 are women, and only 4 are engineers. The rest are HR, document control, project support, procurement and the receptionist. There are no men in these roles, except a few in procurement.
Yesterday S from HR (early 30's) took all of them out to holiday lunch, minus the 4 engineering ones (we have ours with our departments apparently). Usually one of the doc control/project support/junior HR people fills in for the receptionist on a daily basis whenever she's away for various reasons, as part of their job description. Since there was no one else left to fill in for the receptionist yesterday because they were all going out for lunch, S asked one of the newly hired engineering ladies (B) to take her work over to the reception desk and fill in for two hours.
So we all heard that B was filling in at reception. Everyone is astonished to see her sitting there, doing some of her calculations while manning the desk. A general "female engineer at reception, really?" Several of the guys joked "oh, you got demoted!" "ah, so that's in your job description now too?" "feels more natural in that desk than yours?" etc. B started to think about it, and didn't quite know whether she should feel offended or not to have been asked to fill in, instead of one of the other male engineer new-hires.
From my perspective, it's not great that she was asked to do it instead of a guy. Says to me that it falls to her as lowest female on the totem pole available to fill in at reception. Sure, there are other reasons why S might have approached B, no malicious intent. Perhaps it's the perspective that all women in the office are equally important, so it shouldn't be beneath us female engineers to do a secretarial job temporarily when there's need. But we are educated* women working in a male-dominated profession, and already have to work against being perceived as inferior though we do the same jobs. It's counter-progressive to give them the idea they're also allowed to consider us secretaries.
B decided to grin and bear it, and let it go, keep things light and joke with the guys. Fair enough, but I still don't like it, and am wondering if other people can provide me perspective as to whether I'm out of line in feeling this way. I want to know what other women in this kind of work environment have to say.
*Nothing against the non-engineering women, but aside from HR we're the only ones with degrees. The others mostly just have highschool or perhaps a business college diploma, and largely do formatting/filing work. Socially this is a non-issue, most of us hang out on weekends (except S). S, B, and the latest receptionist are relatively new hires, this involves business-relationships, not friends asking favors.