Bitch in Business
January 22, 2015 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Metafilter feminists help me out! I an trying to compile a list of things that only ambitious women get to hear as they fight their way into management. Things like "you sound too abrasive". But also getting ignored in a specific way. I would like these to be things someone has actually said to you or someone you know. Can you help me?
posted by Omnomnom to Human Relations (217 answers total) 268 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do they have to be things that were actually verbalized or written down?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


"You need to be more nurturing."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


No, they need not be verbalized as long as you can describe what happened in a non-general way.
Other examples would be descriptions of mansplaining or having ideas stolen.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:33 AM on January 22, 2015


When I was in college, I went to see my advisor (a science professor) about my plan for applying to med school. He started off the discussion by telling me I had beautiful blue eyes, and after looking over my record, said "I don't think your grades are good enough for med school. Why don't you think about doing something you're good at? Looks like you have good grades in English."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


I was told by my boss that I was too aggressive and that I have an attitude problem when I was proposing an increase in paid time off for staff members who work 20+ hours (and was told to be happy with getting retirement and health insurance). (The paid time off are far below industry standard and retirement & health insurance are expected norms.)

*Note: this was pre-transition; I was presenting as and viewed as female.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:41 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have heard "You need to calm down" way too many times. I wasn't hysterical or freaking out, but I was damn well being assertive.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:42 AM on January 22, 2015 [61 favorites]


I get "mansplained" to a lot. Yesterday I was told that "kitty has claws".
posted by Snackpants at 6:45 AM on January 22, 2015 [38 favorites]


Kickass PhD student I knew was going in to her oral exam defense. The patriarchal chair of her committee greeted her as she entered the room by looking her outfit over, giving her a general look of approval but commenting in a jovial voice, "wearing something around the neck would have been nice."
posted by third rail at 6:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


"You're a bit of a bitch. They're all scared of you." This was given as a compliment, actually, by a male superior who liked that I was shaking things up. I wasn't bitchy at all, though, just direct and not afraid to share my opinions.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:50 AM on January 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


After 3 years on the job I got to hear my CEO ask my new male colleague if he wanted to join him on the golf course. Once they finished joking about their handicaps, I said "hey P why haven't you ever asked about my golf game?" "Oh sorry, do you golf?" "No but you shouldn't have assumed that."

New colleague is now my VP/boss.
posted by headnsouth at 6:52 AM on January 22, 2015 [35 favorites]


A law firm partner told my friend, in my presence, that he was upset at getting new female associates because most of them just left when they had children anyway. When I told him I was getting married, the same partner grilled me as to what my and my fiancé's plans were with regard to children.
posted by holborne at 6:52 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm by no means management or even pointed that way, but I was told off for announcing to my students during their pre-departure orientation that I processed their transcripts when they came back from study abroad. I meant it as a "if you have questions, you can come to me," but it was heard as "I want all the glory (!?) and am implying that it is not a team effort." WTF?

I then turned the table around and requested that my boss stop adding "I fully support what Liesl just said," because it implied to me that whatever I was saying must not carry any weight unless he endorsed it. He replied that that totally wasn't happening, no one read it that way, and I was probably overreacting. Asshole.
posted by Liesl at 6:54 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh yes "I knew there was a reason I was scared of you", said an attorney to me, the CFO.
posted by Snackpants at 6:55 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I work in government. When I suggested a document should be classified, one guy said "Ooh, sexy classifed documents. Hot." Don't think he would have said that to a guy.

(I should note that the vast majority of my male colleagues are completely respectful and considerate. But then there's that guy.)
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:04 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I had a marketing/promo idea for my company that I thought was pretty good. It solved a lot of problems that we were having about printing costs vs publishing and distributing a product catalog. I shared with my male co-worker and he was really insulting about it, basically saying that nobody would want this promotional thing. Blew me out of the office. 6 months later, my boss announced my male co-worker's awesome new idea, which was of course mine originally. It generated a lot of buzz for the company. My male co-worker denied ever having the conversation with me. He took all of the credit for it. Very recently, I discover that he makes 40% more than his female equivalents, including myself. Unreal.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:04 AM on January 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


I have only ever seen the word "strident" used in performance evals of women, to describe how their conversations with (invariably male) colleagues have been construed. My sample size isn't huge, but this came up in a conversation of a dozen or so people, and three of the five women present mentioned the word having been levied at them in a professional context.
posted by Mayor West at 7:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


I regularly experience men pausing in mid-sentence to apologize to me, the only woman in the room, for cursing.
posted by something something at 7:09 AM on January 22, 2015 [87 favorites]


I've been told that maybe if I wore more makeup, people would take me more seriously.

When solving a series of problems that a (male, obviously) colleague had been unable to solve, I was told that I should really try to be nicer about having to do his job for him, because I wasn't being respectful enough of him. I wasn't being disrespectful, I just also wasn't saying well, gosh, I guess if you can't do it, no one can!
posted by MeghanC at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was at a meeting with our small company's CEO and five or six of the next-level-down managers, including my boss, to discuss revamping our website. (I was the company's copywriter, which is why I was there.) My boss and I were the only two women, and she was at the exact same managerial level as everyone else minus the CEO (and me). After preliminary chitchat, the CEO turned to her and said, "You'll take notes?"

(I actually grumbled under my breath, "Sure, because we're the girls!")
posted by jaguar at 7:13 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have got the "people are scared of you" line too for being assertive and opinionated. I also happen to be loud and tall. I get a lot of "not getting stakeholder buy-in" for not being a doormat to certain men on the team that are used to getting their way. I get feedback like "doesn't listen" or "steamrollers over", again for not being a doormat.

One male boss that I had used to try to convince me that whatever it was that I was thinking was wrong. The issue was that he had a different opinion than I did on the subject. I had to educate him that you never tell anybody (let alone a woman) that their feelings or perceptions are incorrect.

I got dinged for "not taking the time to build relationships" at work because I spend my free time parenting and caregiving, and do not care to engage in most extra-curriculars outside of office hours. And of course, I would "lack commitment" for taking sick time to care for my family.

As a woman of course it is my job to "promote team harmony" and "be a team player" even when there is a male bully that consistently yells, gives silent treatment, cuts people out of meetings, gossips, backbites, etc. Women have to learn how to work with abusers. The men in charge take a pass on doing the hard work of ejecting the bullies from the workplace.

I get the nickname of "trouble", get told to "tone it down", etc etc. I heard one woman get told that she was an expert at "laying on the mom guilt trip" when trying to push to get something done. The word "nagging" comes in to play as well when trying to hold other people accountable for doing their jobs.

These are just the concrete examples, and leaves out the freezing out by competitive women, inappropriate fawning at conferences, getting cut out of key networks run by men, the unspoken expectation to play party planner and secretary, the mother/wife trap, and other non-specific gender role issues.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:13 AM on January 22, 2015 [54 favorites]


"You're a little scary sometimes," and "No, let us speak," after I stood up to my team of men for interrupting me all the time.

According to my high school science teacher, "Pretty girls shouldn't research ugly diseases. It's not polite." He also said that men were more credible representatives when it came to who would speak about research I had been doing for a year, so he let a random male classmate appropriate my findings and speak about them at a symposium and during a radio interview. My name was never mentioned.

"You want this kids' story to have feminist undertones? You must be a lesbian. That's gross, no one will ever let you work in children's media now." -- male college advisor

"Make sure you wear your glasses and keep your hair up when you go to interviews so they take you seriously." -- my mother, and many other female advisors, who correctly assumed that if I showed my beauty I wouldn't be hired for jobs.

"You're too gentle and pretty to go to (most prestigious tech university on the planet). They'll eat you alive for being kind," -- told to me by my mentor at the university after I got in and was considering whether or not I'd go. I ended up not going.

"Your standards are now are standards," -- the CEO of my company after I was hired in a leadership position. 2 years later, "No one at this company will ever be able to meet your standards of excellence. Stop asking them to. No, you haven't done anything wrong. You're kind and respectful and have never done anything to make these people feel bad. But you're pretty and talented and that makes them all feel inadequate."

Shall I go on? 'Cause I can.
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:16 AM on January 22, 2015 [43 favorites]


I work in medicine and on more than one occasion I was called a bitch by the previous, male office manager for asking that there be some changes to work flow so that I would be able to do something vital to my role in a more productive way. It was said in the "joking" tone of voice that is often used as a tool to somehow deflect the true meaning of the word and make the person being called the bitch seem to be even "crazier and bitchier" for taking offense.

Same man also referred to one of the managing partners at my work as "her royal highness" every time she asked for him to do something. Same tone with same intent.
posted by teamnap at 7:16 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I did a totally amazing job on a highly complex and precision-oriented set of tasks, one of my old white dude supervisors told me that my attention to detail proved that I would be a really good wife someday.

The same guy still swings by my desk every so often and asks to see my left hand in order to check for an engagement ring. He worries out loud that I will not be able to find a man at my age (32) because I am "strong-willed."
posted by divined by radio at 7:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


Variants on being abrasive, all told to me in reviews: "You're not always sweet and nice." "You catch more flies with honey, you know." "You're supposed to be nice." "I'm shocked you challenged X in that meeting. You're supposed to be nice!" "Where's the warmth?" "You're mean." "Women are supposed to smooth things over." "When you ask questions, people think you're challenging them." "If you ask more questions and be less assertive, then the guys won't think you're challenging them." "You can be a tad abrasive at times, it comes off as confrontational." "You're way too aggressive. Back off a little. We all know you're smart." "You're too blunt, I thought women were supposed to be good communicators?" "Your confidence is a problem."

Variants on being the nurturer: I work in the field a lot, every.single.fucking.time when I work with guys and we arrive at the campsite at night they all look at me expecting me to make their dinner. "I was so excited to hear you were coming to our team, I thought you'd bring a lot of cookies and cakes!" "I really need someone to talk to about X non-business problems." "Hey, welcome, we're all joshing to see who's going to get you as their 'work wife'." "I wanted a woman on this team to help get the team working smoothly together, and you're not fulfilling that role." "You need to have more respect for X, he's trying really hard." He's not that good a fit for that job, and he keeps stealing my ideas (paraphrased response). "Nevertheless, he's trying really hard and part of your job is to respect everyone."

Variants on downsplaining: That's my life, every day. I think my favorite one, though, is when I arrived at a job site and introduced myself as the Y person. The foreman took my arm and told me that I would really enjoy it out there, there was a Y person coming who was really good and could explain to me all about being a Y, despite my saying at least three times that I was Y, then proceeded to explain to me what doing the Y job entailed (parts of it wrong).

Variants on being "the secretary": "Hey Barchan, take some notes will you?" "So Barchan, you'll plan X's birthday party?" "Barchan, make or buy a cake." "We need someone to take minutes, Barchan will step up, won't you."

Variants on my appearance: "Dress for the job you want!" (same person) "You need to dress down a little bit more, it makes people think that you think you're better than them."

There's always 1 or 2 or 5 guys, every year, who feel the need to say about my office or lab: "So this is where the kitchen is!"

I could go on and on and on. I've also commented on very specific things here (posing for photos for a STEM company), here on appearance, and here on promotions and non-equal pay.
posted by barchan at 7:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [64 favorites]


You're so hard.
Don't be so shrill.
You're so defensive.
Okay, okay, calm down! We'll get to it.
What do you have against motherhood? [total non-sequitor, that one]

I won't go on, because my blood pressure is already up. Shittily enough, the above (and worse) were flung at me by co-workers as often as managers.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:34 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Early 2000, I was one of two web designers for my local newspaper. My male coworker gave his 2-week notice.
Male reporter, to me: Well, I guess we'll have to shut the website down.
Me: Why?
Reporter: Because there's noone to update it, silly girl.
Me: What ...do you think I do here?
Reporter: Aren't you the secretary? (my title was the same as my coworker's)

2004, after I was promoted....

Me: "Thank you for calling XXX, how can I help you?"
Caller: "I'd like to speak with the Online Manager, please."
Me: "Hello, this is Kim XX, I am the Online Manager."
Caller: "Please transfer me to the Online Manager."
Me: "Hello, I'm Kim XXX. I am the Online Manager."
Caller: "Honey, I don't have time to play with a secretary. Transfer me to his line now."

While a manager, I was often called shrill, strident, and a bitch just within earshot. Never by my department, but by the male managers as well as the older women who pandered and played their game. I was interrupted constantly at the weekly executive meeting. When I raised my voice, I was told to calm down.

I had ideas regularly swiped -- literally copypasted into others' memos. One time when I produced my original docs, the publisher said I should have spoken up louder when I originally pitched the ideas.
posted by kimberussell at 7:34 AM on January 22, 2015 [25 favorites]


Oh, I forgot one other thing. Because my discipline is a rarity I get headhunted a lot and it's been successful only once, when the head shed at the other company told me bluntly that he knew I worked with a bunch of sexist assholes, and if I came to their company I would get paid what I deserved (and equally) as well as get a lot more training and leadership opportunities (in writing!). It wasn't the money, it was those opportunities and attitude that lured me away. When I gave my notice at the first company and told them why, the response was "But we let you do X (a thing every second year student knows how to do)! Doesn't that count?"
posted by barchan at 7:41 AM on January 22, 2015 [37 favorites]


I was told to take it easy a LOT when I was pregnant. Physically easy, I mean. Discouraged from walking down the stairs to the lab, where ~40% of my job was. I had walked 30 steep uphill minutes to work most days and was in good health.

A company recently persisted in sending emails and quotes to my male supervisee (who had little to do with the original request) but not to me (the manager) or to my female supervisee (who had requested the original quote). When corrected, they said they hadn't realized "the women" were taking the lead on it.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:45 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Oh, you must be misunderstanding me."
"You're pushy."
"Oh, that's just boys being boys!"
"Let me tell you about ..."
"Oh, I didn't think YOU would be interested in ..."
posted by hmo at 7:47 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was told 8 should get embarrassed more easily by the jokes the guys were making on the lunch room. . I just thought they were funny, and none of the guys were told they should be embarrassed for saying them or laughing, just me the only female. The jokes were just silly to not even sexist or offensive, but apparently woman don't belly laugh loudly at work, we are only allowed to giggle or something.
posted by wwax at 7:52 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I get apologised to a lot by men who swear in front of me too. If there's space to interject, I tell them I find that action infinitely more offensive than the swearing (ie. at all).

Someone I used to work with went for a mid-to-senior admin job at one of the "star-chitects". She got through for an interview, but was told to ensure she came in full make up, with her hair "done" and wearing heels. Weirdly, the practice is led by a prominent woman in a male-dominated field, so that really surprised me. She didn't bother going.
posted by greenish at 7:52 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You can't just put on cowboy boots, go to the bar and work out a bank loan."
posted by michaelh at 7:56 AM on January 22, 2015


"Nah, you look more low maintenance, like the type of gal who rolls out of bed and 20 minutes later is in the office for the day."

I swear I just looked at him, but he started to back up reallly fast after that.

"No, no, I just I mean, you aren't one of those flakes who spend hours getting ready just to walk to the mailbox. You're sensible."
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:58 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"You're not being a team player" after refusing to do secretarial work for an all-male department when I was a project manager.
posted by Librarypt at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


"I had this impression that you were kind of mean, and I was intimidated to meet you in person. But you're so nice!" Said by a slightly junior woman in a company we are partnered with, to my female boss.

This same woman later complained that my boss was "rude" to her, because she kept pressing for a direct answer to a question that the junior woman was trying to weasel on.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:12 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


It took me a while to realize that "passionate" is code in my workplace for women who care about their work and stand up for themselves. It's not actually a compliment.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:14 AM on January 22, 2015 [35 favorites]


"I'm surprised that you would be interested in *topic* since it's so math-heavy."

"I have no idea if I've read your work, but we haven't met before, since [after looking me up and down extremely obviously] I'm sure I'd remember it."

And after mildly dealing with an incredibly rude transgression (I said "please don't do that, it undermines what we're trying to build here, and the trust we have in the process") multiple comments about being "mean" and "humorless" and "aggressive".
posted by synapse at 8:17 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Getting my input ignored meeting after meeting only to be accepted when a male coworker would repeat the exact same thing verbatim.

I actually gave one of my buddies a script once. It was exactly, more or less word for word, the suggestion I had made to my boss. I had been making it for weeks. Dude said the exact same thing, boss listened. Dude brought up that it was exactly what I had been saying over and over, boss was oblivious, said he "must have misunderstood" when I said it.
posted by phunniemee at 8:18 AM on January 22, 2015 [71 favorites]


My mom frequently comments on the clothing I wear to work (in a warehouse driving a forklift, for reference) and says I should dress up more to show that I'm serious. (I wear jeans and long sleeved tshirts and sneakers. As I said--warehouse and forklift. Where it's 50F year round.)

She also says that I should never mention anything regarding 'womanly things' such as baking and sewing and that since I'm the only woman in my office and department (with 3 guys as my boss and coworkers) that I shouldn't rock the boat too much because they'll look to fire me first if anything happens.

(However, my male boss always comes to me for advice and has never mentioned anything regarding my capabilities in a negative manner, so props to him.)
posted by sperose at 8:21 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"That's an excellent point Ms. Peeps, would any of the men care to make it?"

It was meant as a joke but it happens.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:23 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


The thing is, it's so insidious. It's such "background radiation" that it's hard to nail down specifics. I'm in a complicated role in my office. I'm the last line of review before client sees the work, the client relationship manager and the person who scopes the work and maintains the budget and schedule. I'm also supposed to be friendly to everyone though it feels like it's entirely my ass on the line when my team members flake on the work or do a poor job. I have little support from our tiny management team. All my boss wants to talk to me about is my tone. He is quite the Pollyanna in general and any conflict seems to send him around the bend. Any conflict between two women will no doubt get us both called in to his office (separately) for a discussion about keeping a positive demeanor in the workplace. He also has a propensity to mainsplain things he knows nothing about. That has diminished a bit as he's gotten to know me and perhaps feels like he doesn't need to assert his power quite so much. Who knows?

But, I feel like getting called aside for "tone" and to grill me about problems on my team and how he's noticed (from afar) really heated debate in my team and is everything okaaaaay? seems somewhat gendered. I feel like on top of all my duties, I'm getting called to the mat for not also being Mary Poppins.
posted by amanda at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


"You're a girl. You've got a decent body. Do you want to do it?" Said to me by the (male) art director of a film I was working on as a production assistant, when the model the production team had hired for a nude photo shoot to generate an essential movie prop failed to show up on time.

SO I QUIT FILM, and became a marketing writer.

"If you want a flexible schedule maybe you should quit working in an office and start an in-home daycare." Said to me 1.) by a woman 2.) who was a mother 3.) at a company that officially offered flexible scheduling and work-from-home options, which multiple male employees were in fact already taking advantage of, after I inquired about the possibility of working from home one or two days a week.

SO I QUIT WRITING MARKETING COPY, and became an SEO consultant.

"You need to stop being so negative; our programmer is under a lot of stress." Said to me 1.) by a woman 2.) at a woman-owned company 3.) where I was the sole person in charge of SEO 4.) and had worked for 5 years 5.) about my polite but urgent warning that a male programmer, who had been working for us for less than a year, had TOTALLY IGNORED MY INSTRUCTIONS to use 301 redirects to new URLs during a major site migration and if this was not fixed immediately it was going to cause a catastrophic drop in our search engine traffic. (Which it did.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:35 AM on January 22, 2015 [26 favorites]


Also, I've been thinking of starting an ask.mefi about this very issue. I would love to be Mary Fucking Poppins and be that uber-woman that gets all her direct reports (even the lazy ones doing poor work) to get their work done and reviewed and in front of the client and also with everyone so happy. Women must not cause inconvenience or discord at any time. That is my feeling and it's something I've not ever been very good at. I use good humor at first and then I use directness. And if directness and good humor don't work then I get very, very direct. As a supervisor and with a lot of personal stake in these projects, it seems that should be a tool I'm allowed in my arsenal.
posted by amanda at 8:36 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I get "you seemed intimidating" a lot. These days I try to own it but I spent a long time of my youth trying to figure out why I seemed intimidating and what I could do to soften it (I'll take "internalized sexism" for $100, Alex).

Not directly an answer to the question, but:

-- I am a PhD and a professor (yet, happily unmarried). Do NOT ask for help from "Mrs. Dashy". She does not exist, here in the 21st century.

-- I sincerely hope that I never ever again hear, as I did last week, a very-very-senior scientist refer to his tech as his "lab wife" in a public talk.
posted by Dashy at 8:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [24 favorites]


My husband and I own a motorcycle shop. I've worked behind a parts counter for 14 years, and I have a strong CV in the hobby and business of motorcycles. I regularly get starry-eyed condescension when I prove myself competent, like "Look at this, a woman who knows how a carburetor works!" Or they'll turn to my husband and compliment him on finding such a rare specimen.
posted by workerant at 8:41 AM on January 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


(Also do not even get me started on my on-again, off-again side gig as a political blogger and the giant pile of gendered insults and rape and death threats I've collected. But the worst one was the threat that came from a male blogger I KNEW AND HAD WORKED WITH, who, after I wrote a piece opposing torture, sent me a private message to say that I should be raped and tortured and have my child kidnapped so that I would understand why torture was necessary. Somehow I don't think he was sending that stuff to male writers he disagreed with.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:45 AM on January 22, 2015 [23 favorites]


At university, some of the students I had been in seminars with told me I was 'intimidatingly articulate' - which meant I actually bothered to read the book and talked about it while everyone else sat in awkward silence ...

I once worked as a communications officer for a museum. I was working on a project with an assistant curator, so we were pretty equivalent in age and rank, but he asked me to look up transport routes for how we should get to our meetings as if I were his assistant.

Thinking about it, in the museum world, the communications department were sort of looked down upon by those doing the 'real' work of conservation/curation. Funny that it tends to be women in that department..

In my job now I am the regional manager for an organisation with a touring exhibition. I have a freelancer who works for me on exhibition set up - a man in his early 60s. Very often, when we arrive in a venue, people go to shake hands with him and start talking about the programme and he has to gracefully redirect them in my direction (whih he finds really embarrassing, bless him).

Also, I regularly experienced middle-aged male managers using their power to tell me off/demean and embarrass me in front of others in order to assert themselves, and spent many days crying in toilet. This was when I was in my early 20s - I have definitely grown tougher skin now!
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 8:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


'You're so intimidating.' — heard that countless times.
'You have a strong personality.'
'You're so good at your job that it makes me feel inadequate.' (My boss' response: 'That's exactly why I hired her in the first place.')
'You should smile more.'

Thank all the gods that my current boss is a woman who doesn't buy into that nonsense, and lets me be who I am.
posted by culfinglin at 8:58 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am an attorney that supervises three other attorneys. I also work with many consultants that are not my direct reports but are clearly junior to me (including by title). One guy, who also happens to be younger than I am, asked me a question related to an client's benefit plans and I asked him to specify what plans he was asking about (e.g. medical, retirement, disability).

"Life and disability only, young lady." He thought he was being charming, I think.
posted by Pax at 9:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You need to learn not to show your emotions on your face." This from a man well known for scaring the crap out of anyone he disagreed with, with just a flick of his eyebrows.

Later, a promotion I had been promised was glossed over when I was unexpectedly dinged at a review for having dared to do my job (user interface design) in front of a director who didn't like the fact that I talked to her underlings.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


A few examples from 30 years of working or having my own business:

"We can't hire you for the manager position, because our clients expect to deal with a man." (the speakers were the women owners of the business)

Performance review: "Ceiba does excellent work blah blah blah but shows a bad attitude. She shouldn't question the decisions of her superiors."

"The reason your blog is popular is because you write like a man."

Male boss, as I left for the day: "Going shopping, huh?"

A fellow entrepreneur: "They asked you to keynote at Big Deal Conference??? But are you really that famous?"

Male customer on the phone with a basic technical question in my tech support job: "Really? X is the answer? How do you know? Do you have a degree in computer science?"

Regular occurrence in the above tech support job: being called "sir" by tech salesmen who cold-called me, even though my voice sounded female to everyone else. Apparently it was the shock of having a female in a tech buying position that threw them off.

Male poster on a forum when another woman and I disagreed in a calm, professional way: "Catfight!"

I've also heard that I'm "intimidating." Also: "too independent."
posted by ceiba at 9:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Maybe you should make this into a website, along the lines of Overheard in New York?
posted by musofire at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


I teach in a postsecondary setting. Students frequently express (to me and to my colleagues) their belief that I am "angry" when I am telling them things they don't want to hear, in a straightforward way. I'm not angry, just firm. Examples: I had a student who kept calling me Mrs. [mylastname]. I reminded him he could call me by my first name, he said he didn't feel comfortable with that, so I said "Ok, Ms. [mylastname] is fine. It's just that Mrs. [mylastname] is my mother." Later he repeated this exchange to a classmate, adding, "She was really angry!" I wasn't.

Another time I sent a class email clarifying instructions on an assignment because students were expressing confusion. A number of them told me later they were made nervous by the email because it was "so angry." It really wasn't.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:18 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Remembered some more:

"Don't work so hard!" often from a coworker

"Oh, Ceiba is just being an overachiever," said by my boss when I turned my work in on time but my male coworker was late
posted by ceiba at 9:21 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I asked one of the workers I was supervising to stop using her phone and assist a customer, she went to my boss and told her I had been rude to her. My boss gave me a talk about it, and told me I have to be careful because I have a "rude voice." I had never been told this in my life up to this point, and I'm certain I spoke to the worker in an even, neutral tone, and included the word "please."

I now use my apparently rude voice in phone support. I have been asked any number of times to speak to a "tech guy" or "someone who knows computers" by callers after I told them I could assist them with their problem.
posted by prewar lemonade at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another voice one - a client apparently complained to my current department head that her voice was "too squeaky" and he wanted to talk to someone with a less squeaky voice. It's almost funny.
posted by prewar lemonade at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine (who works for a respected tech company in the Bay Area) was told by her female team lead, as part of her performance review, that she needed to use more emoticons and exclamation points in her emails so that she came off more friendly.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:37 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


When I said I didn't want to do all the admin work for the otherwise all male team and asked why he had assigned it all to me, our boss said "it's not because you're a woman, you know". When I asked why it was, then, he thought about it for a while and said "it's because you're new, but not the newest." Wtf? He had previously said "admin is a nice little job for a female" and he has told me it's unattractive for me to walk around with a chip on my shoulder.
posted by hazyjane at 9:37 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


"ACTUALLY..." Every man ever, interrupting me during a presentation.

"Erin's just being...proactive." A coworker who repeatedly tried to tone down my assertive language.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Passed over for the job I had been doing for six years when my contract expired and they decided to hire a full-time person into the position. Explained to me after the fact that the hiring manager wanted someone "more compliant". So he chose a young man fifteen years my junior.

Irony: Less than a year later, someone else left the team and they were forced to hire a contractor to fill the position during a hiring freeze. They ended up with me back, because the only firm to submit a proposal had me on their team. Whoops!

Sigh.
posted by suelac at 9:39 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You sound too intelligent when you talk, and that intimidates people. You might need to tone it down."

Kinda sounds like a humblebrag here (not my intention), but I've never heard of a man being told the same thing.
posted by terretu at 9:41 AM on January 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


In the "getting ignored" category:

Being ignored or having my work claimed by others was one of the main reasons I stopped working jobs and started my own business. The other main reason was to have my income represent the quality of my ideas rather than my ability to be an obedient, pleasant drone. I had also seen salary reports that showed that the only women in my field who made as much as men were the self-employed ones.

My income shot way up when I went out on my own, and my mental health improved too, especially my self-esteem.

Everyone who represented my work as their own or took credit for my ideas was a man, unfortunately. This included my boss claiming authorship of an entire project that I wrote right in front of me, at a conference. Most often it was coworkers, and it really wore me down.
posted by ceiba at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was hired as project manager at a smallish firm to work with an art director on a project that turned out to be much bigger and more complicated than anyone was expecting. I worked very closely with the art director for two years, at which point he burnt out and decided to move to a new city with a different job.

One of the firm partners invited the art director to a going away dinner and also invited the other male partner (but did not invite the female partner), as well as several other male co-workers, some of whom only worked with him tangentially.

I was not invited. No women were invited. It did cause a mini-uproar back in the office when word got out.
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I used to get a lot of variations on "Oh, isn't that cute!" in response to my being assertive or expressing anger. I also got blitzed by the cultural expectation for women to always be cheerful, often in the form of folks constantly telling me to "smile". (Yeah, those folks got a whole lot of "resting bitch face" instead.)

Also, lots of super subtle behavior manifesting from the largely subconscious (and of course untrue) bias that women are just not as capable as men. Examples would be chronic hypercriticism, lack of trust, constantly having to prove myself, my ideas not being taken seriously (unless promoted by a male colleague), etc.
posted by jazzbaby at 9:51 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Coffee, why is it always coffee?

When I was designing video conferencing networks I did a favor for a provider and hosted a demonstration. It wasn't my customer, just doing a solid for a colleague. The customers came in and I set them up and gave them a short intro because their representative was late. I got their call started and bounced. About 20 minutes later, their representative showed up so I lead him to the conference room, where the call was going on.

Me: Oh, if you want, there's coffee in the break room.
Asshole: I take with cream and one sugar. ONE sugar.
Me: That's interesting, I don't get the coffee.
Asshole: If you don't get the coffee I don't do business with you.
Me: Suit yourself. (I walked back to my desk.)

He did apologize to me, but I called my contact at Polycom and told him about it, "Don't EVER send me that kind of yutz again." Mitch still owes me a favor.

I was hosting a videoconferencing demo in Miami for a Latin American bank. I had been building my credibility with these guys for weeks. So I'm sitting in the conference room, and we're connecting up the call and the Account Executive turn to me and says, "So Ruth, why don't you get us some coffee?"

I made this face. Then I begged my colleague to bring it in. She made a huge production about it.

So...yeah, I got tripped up on coffee.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Gee, this is depressing.

"You look angry." (It's just my face. I don't really like the term "resting bitchface", but whatever, that's what I have. I am not going to smile while I am wrangling SharePoint into submission.)

"He's scared of you."/"He'll do whatever you say because you're scary."/"Your job is to make people cry."

"You're, you know, like my cat. He's not very nice but I still feed him." (That one was from a previous manager, also female. Super.)

"You have to understand how things work around here. You can't just make suggestions for improvement."

"Why are you only giving work-related examples? Can't you talk about what you do at home?"

I've heard the "strident", "shrill", and "passionate" complaints a lot about other women.
posted by minsies at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Not in the office, but a couple of weeks ago I was shopping for a suit, in a suit shop with a women's section. The salesman took me on a tour of men's suits. I said "these suits are twice the size of me!" and then he said "Oh you are looking for a lady's suit! I thought you must be looking for a suit for your husband."

Apparently the women's section in the suit shop does not contain any suits.
posted by emilyw at 10:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


My wife's girlfriend, who was dinged for a dress code violation for wearing polo shirts and khakis, when every man in the office wore polo shirts and khakis, and then got told she was pushy when she pointed that out.

Me, every time I asked students to call me by my first name, or by Professor Joyce or Ms. [last name] if they really insist, but that Mrs. Lastname is my mother and Miss Lastname is a 9 year old, not me, and I still get Mrs and Miss.

Every male student who comes in for advising and can't even make eye contact with me.
posted by joycehealy at 10:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


"In the top 1% of students I've taught in my 40 year career. But she should smile more."
-- My white, male French professor in a written job reference.
posted by humph at 10:14 AM on January 22, 2015 [27 favorites]


At my (delayed) yearly performance review this year: "Well, you were pregnant for most of last year, so we can't really review your performance. [Or give me a raise.] Instead we're going to double your workload because that's how productive we need you to be to earn out your salary [which they offered - which I hadn't even negotiated.] But you have to be twice as productive - only you can't stay late to get the work done. You have a family now to go home to. I'm going to be really mad if I see you working late." [I have a family to support - my husband is at home with the baby.]

I worked 60 hour weeks right up until I went into labor because I was trying to avoid the exact above scenario/perception. Note that my clients were all very happy with my work and when I came back from maternity leave, several of them emailed me privately to say how happy they were that I was back because my colleague who had been covering for me just wasn't the same.

I just handed in my resignation yesterday. Not surprisingly, doubling my workload without allocating me any more resources had an effect on performance.
posted by data hound at 10:14 AM on January 22, 2015 [40 favorites]


When I had to correct a man (which was my job and which I did in a mild, friendly way): "I feel like I'm in trouble with my wife."
posted by kapers at 10:15 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, kapers, that reminds me of the whole flotilla of "This is just like being married!" nonsense that happens when saying basically anything.
posted by minsies at 10:18 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


The "strong personality" theme has plagued me my entire career. I've only recently begun demanding that people be clear about what they're attempting to say about me. So generally, when I get "too aggressive" I ask: "What exactly do you mean by that?"
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:19 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


"You're being loud."
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I once had a male supervisor who complained to one of my colleagues that I "wasn't the warmest person...." Sheesh. I work here, dude -- I'm paid to get shit done, not shore you up emotionally. (This supervisor ended up getting fired because he was awful at his job and became physically aggressive to the VP of HR.)

I made a decision many years ago not to learn how to make coffee (I don't drink it myself) so if anyone asked me to make it I could do this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


[ What a great - though gruelling and depressing -- thread. I just want to thank everyone who's sharing their stories here. I'm (usually) male-presenting and although I try to keep my ear open and specifically seek out stories like this to learn from, it still shocks me to hear some of this, because it's just so invisible to me most of the time.. ! ]
posted by Drexen at 10:28 AM on January 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


The examples that come readily to mind:

I was standing and chatting with an engineer, and our QA person (male) came over with a question regarding something that happened in the production line I plan for. I keep tabs on the rejects, so I was able to answer it. He listened to me, nodded, then looked to the (male) engineer and repeated the question. In front of me. Engineer said "... um, Fig just told you that. She knows that stuff better than I do."

I've been told (not even asked politely, demanded) to bring over a part that an operator needed, even though it was literally 5 feet away from him. He would have never asked that of a male person in my position. I cocked an eyebrow and walked away. He managed to get the part himself.

Despite being a trained corporate-level safety auditor, I have been dismissed by operators when I point out unsafe conditions/acts ("Oh, don't worry - I don't need gloves to handle these sharp pieces of metal" etc etc ). When I bring over our safety coordinator (male), they listen to him.

I've also been requested to get water/coffee for others...I normally point them to where the coffee/water coolers are and leave it at that.
posted by Fig at 10:42 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


(I've shot this link around to a couple of friends, here are a few they have to add.)

From dudes:

* You need me to intervene? I know how you gals get.
* You're kinda mean. One of our Art Directors thinks so too.
* I mean, it's great that you have opinions...
* Wait - you're not a guy. We need a man's voice for our writing. So, a guy copywriter please.
* You can be such a bitch! I'm kidding, kidding.
* Yeah, it was either you or Dan... and we couldn't have all dudes, so you're our diversity ticket!
* You're so anal.
* That's... not harassment!


From women:

* She's lucky she's pretty.
* Listen, sweetie...
* She just has too much of an attitude.
* I'm taking you aside to do you a favor. You're not in New York anymore. You should really consider your approach.
* He just likes you.
* You feel underwater, don't you [NICKNAME]? Maybe we should call in [name of male coworker, of same title].
posted by functionequalsform at 10:43 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Former male boss: "I don't work well with single women over 30. If they're not married by that age it's usually because of some kind of personality problem".
posted by hazyjane at 10:44 AM on January 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


I've got a few I haven't explicitly seen mentioned yet:

In a performance review, a male supervisor wrote that I am "natural, intuitive manager." I told him management was a skillset I had worked hard to achieve, and I didn't think it was appropriate to write as if it was an innate trait. He said it was a compliment because only women are intuitive managers.

In another performance review, a male supervisor said I was too aggressive, and that $COMPANY doesn't reward aggressive self-promoters. I asked for an explicit example of when I had been too aggressive, and he had none.

I was once on a panel made up of speakers who all had PhDs. Everyone was listed as Dr. This or Dr. That. I was listed as Ms. OrangeDisk.

My boss (a senior VP) once introduced me to another senior VP (both male) as having a nurturing approach to junior staff. I looked at my boss blankly and said "Oh, you must be referring to the work I do mentoring NAME and NAME. That's an integral part of my job." (as in, mentoring is actually in my job description)

A male colleague and I were leaving to go to a conference halfway through the work day. We were going to be gone a day or two. He walked down the hall telling all our staff to behave while "mom and dad" were away. Not funny dude. SO not funny.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:51 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


(From academia...)

I was trying to explain/defend my choice of alternating gendered pronouns when referring to hypothetical study participants in my dissertation proposal-- this faculty member thought should "he/his/him" should be used consistently, the end.

I tried to push back a little citing APA style guides and other recent approaches to gender-neutral academic writing and he shut me down with "I've been a feminist longer than you've been alive."

#withAlliesLikeThat
posted by pantarei70 at 10:52 AM on January 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


I once got asked if the swearing bothered me. I replied "Fuck, no."

That seemed to get the point across.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


Not in management the way you're thinking of it, but this happened during my stage management career and I'd wager this is a common problem:

Once or twice, after having to issue a Sternly Worded request to an actor who was fucking around, someone would make some quip about how "ooh, you sound mad, are you having your period?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just remembered another gem. I work with my father's company in a management role and I know all of our clients, subcontractors, and suppliers quite well. I got a call just before Christmas from a gentleman who has met me a dozen times at job site meetings and the like. Not someone who makes decisions, but an employee of our client. He wanted to speak with Dad so I told him I'd have him call back.

When he called back, Dad had him on speakerphone and he said "Yeah, so I was talking to what's-her-name, your secretary or whatever she is earlier and..." Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a secretary but anybody who has spent any amount of time with me knows that's not what I do at all.

Eh, whatever dude. I'll remember that when I'm running the company in a couple of years.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Female surgeon to me (a coworker but not a fellow surgeon) when I was visibly pregnant and about to begin my own maternity leave: "Why is it that ALL of the female surgeons I've ever known suddenly turn into these huge bitches once they have a baby? And they always start dressing like shit, too. Why did so-and-so [another female surgeon by whom she felt threatened] have to start wearing those fugly stretchy pants every day after the baby was born?"
posted by hush at 11:00 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I did tech support for my school district for many years, and realized that our classified staff should include
an IT support position, since we had none. My union and the school district negotiated the position, using the job description and qualifications that I wrote and finally added it. I had just finished getting my CCNA and completed a network security course so I was well up on Tech Issues Of The Day.

The official job was posted for hiring, and I applied, complete with 7 letters of
recommendation from my colleagues and even my college professor who taught the computer
classes I aced. The district hired a man who submitted his application late, and, it
became clear later, who didn't really know any of the stuff he claimed to know how to do on his app. He, of
course, came to me to ask me how to do stuff.

Oh and in 2nd grade, we all took some IQ test and I came out on top. I was told,
in front of the whole class, that I couldn't possibly be the smartest person in the class,
it had to be J.S. since I was a girl and J.S. was a boy.

Yeah, depressing, this thread, isn't it?
posted by Lynsey at 11:02 AM on January 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


"You're just like a man!" (complimentary)
posted by corb at 11:03 AM on January 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


My previous boss has been called the "team mom" - by her direct employees.

I have been called aggressive, and asked to tone it down, when being less "strident" than the men in my organization. I was also told (by the VP, via my boss) that I should dress better, even though I was working in a lab and wearing the same thing that the men wore.

I have changed my tone as well as my dress in order to move up in my company.
posted by blurker at 11:04 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, right, corb. "We don't think of you as a woman." Um...thanks?
posted by blurker at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Congrats to the one person in the whole grade who scored over 1000 on the (old) SAT!"

I did too, but was not mentioned or called out.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


"If you would just say things more nicely, we might agree with them." I asked what "more nicely" meant. "Oh, you know, most women realize the need to be submissive with men." Unblinking, I looked him (yep, him) in the eye and said, "at least you're honest enough to say that straight out. Sorry, I'm not submissive. Deal with it." Things went more smoothly with him after that, I must say.

"It's a COMPLIMENT!!" from a woman director (sigh) after I had complained that a client kept trying to get me alone for non-professional reasons (there was literally no need for me to even meet with him in person, and indeed, company policy meant it should have been my project manager meeting with him, never me) and had made remarks on my "fine ass".

"You're too direct." Performance review. I asked for concrete examples. "What?" You know, concrete examples. Of things I've said that are too direct, instances that could have gone more smoothly, that sort of thing. ".........I don't have any........." Mmmkay.

As for ideas being stolen, I'm realizing in this thread that I have an odd advantage being seen as a foreigner (I'm not, I have dual citizenship, but stereotypes die hard). Everyone knows who fraula is and what she says; no one ever dares steal things I suggest. The few people who've tried have found themselves laughed at, actually: "as IF!!! The tall American's the one who said THAT!!!" a weakly bright light I suppose...

And yeah, as a tall, confident woman, boy do I ever get the "ur intimidating tone it down" thing. What the fuck am I supposed to "tone down"? I stare blankly, change nothing, and they deal, especially as time goes on and they realize I do good work and am a stickler for equality/teamwork. But I do still pay for it with "too direct" feedback. That's never based on anything concrete. Sigh.
posted by fraula at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


"You're just like a man!" (complimentary)

UGH YES and always with the expectation that you'll say "wow thanks that is the best thing anyone has ever said to me!" lol no

I got it with the added delight of "I bet it's because you're gay right" and similar fucking tedious bullshit comments.

Everyone at my current job is afraid of both my encyclopedic knowledge of the organization's work as well as of my wrath, so it's very relaxing.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:11 AM on January 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


I was assigned temporarily to work with a supervisor I hadn't worked with before. At the beginning of our first meeting, he told me he liked to cut the crap and not spend time on stuff that was unnecessary, so with that in mind, could I tell him how I've been performing lately and if there was anything I needed to work on?

I told him that I had been finishing all of my tasks ahead of schedule, that I'm pretty good at the sort of things I had been doing, and that I would like a challenge.

Later in my performance evaluation, he quoted my remarks and said that I should be more humble. He didn't mind it, but "some people" might not like my attitude (of self confidence).
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, over in MetaTalk...
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:21 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


"ooh, you sound mad, are you having your period?"

I can't believe we managed to get this long without this coming up (and I can't believe I forgot about it). Weather's bad? Mother nature is on her period [no lie; female student said that]. Coworker gets frustrated with class because they didn't the readings? On her period. (Male coworker does same, no comment.) My MOTHER, on my youngest sister (who is sometimes cranky): "Is she on her period?" "For the last six months, mom? Come on."
posted by joycehealy at 11:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I made a decision many years ago not to learn how to make coffee (I don't drink it myself) so if anyone asked me to make it I could do this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I did the exact same thing, for the exact same reasons.

"You're too emotional." I've only ever heard it used to described women, never men, and never in a positive way.
posted by PearlRose at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


A former male boss once told a female employee of his that he did not know how her husband could find her attractive. He told another one who was being laid off that he did not need to worry about her because she was newly married and her husband could now take care of her.

I work with artifact collections in a museum. One of the curators once told me that we needed to hire more men in the collections section because he needed help moving his filing cabinets (Note that this is not the job of collections staff, male or female, and I pointed out that it was easy to arrange the help of building crew to move filing cabinets.)

My male boss was asked by the development office to take some potential donors to view the artifact collections. He asked me along to help, along with another male co-worker. The potential donors were a married couple (male and female) who had founded a tech company, accompanied by a woman fairly high up in the development office. My boss repeatedly talked directly to the male half of the couple only, including asking what he did for a living. The guy explained that he and his wife were equal co-founders of the company, but my boss was still not picking up on the fact that by ignoring the wife and directing all his comments to the male half of the couple, he was seriously offending both. I finally stepped in and went over to the woman and started talking directly to her, asking what her interests were, and taking her over to see the artifacts she was interested in, kind of subtly shifting things on the tour to get her some attention. After the fact, I got a really nice email from the woman in the development office saying that if there was ever anything she could do for me to just ask. She passed on the thanks of the female half of the couple, saying that the woman had liked how I had managed to subtly direct my boss and male colleague into doing things the woman had wanted. Needless to say, I had to do it subtly, as that boss perceives women under him who speak up for themselves as insubordinate and challenging his authority, most particularly if that happens in front of other people.

(It also bears noting that this same male boss, who found my experience and knowledge threatening in a female subordinate, is the main reason I retired early from that job.)
posted by gudrun at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


"You have the total package" - meaning that you both do the job well *and* you are attractive. If you weren't attractive, you'd obviously have only a partial package of skills and talents.
posted by amtho at 11:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


My birth name is feminine in the US and masculine in Europe; I corresponded by email with an overseas research collaborator for a while and everything was great until we met in person while he was briefly in the States, where he was visibly taken aback at my appearance and after which he started only emailing my male supervisor instead.

After months of me wondering why I could never do anything right in lab even compared to the other student who almost blew up his own kitchen, my first PhD supervisor washed me out of his lab by telling me I "had some growing up to do"; I found out later that he hasn't graduated a female student since his divorce.

Always, always being hassled to serve on my grad school department's committees because they were feeling unsettled about how [whatever committee] was always 100% dudes and they thought I would clearly be interested just because I was (they thought) female. (I'm trans; it's complicated.) Being nagged further when I turned them down, because clearly I couldn't be as busy as the guys, right?

I was in a few rah-rah-diversity photo shoots where it was obvious I was picked because I was the only female student in my program (the only black guy also got dragged into this). Related: the part where an old white emeritus prof complained that in order to get more women into the program, the admissions committee would have to lower their standards; fortunately the (female) head of the admissions committee lit into him for that.
posted by dorque at 11:53 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


After a meeting about a personnel issue, one of the older men who I'd disagreed with patted me on the head and said "You'll learn".

I was 42 at the time.
posted by Esilia at 12:10 PM on January 22, 2015 [27 favorites]


I was literally told: "You're kinda bitchy... that's hot."

Also, constant orders to "Smile!"
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:13 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You don't look like an engineer".
posted by LittleFuzzy at 12:15 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dude comes into my office, which is near my immediate boss, and, ignoring the sign indicating my professional status, starts bombarding me with questions about my boss's whereabouts. When I repeat, over and over again, that I have no idea, he leans forward, puts his hands on the edge of my desk and says "what the f---, doesn't he have a secretary?" I replied, as neutrally as I could, "yes he does, his name is Bob, and his desk is right outside the [boss]'s office."

The guy sighed, shook his head, and walked away in the opposite direction.

A couple of years ago, my professional association did an anonymous study of the evaluations given to over a thousand employees. We were shocked at how often women were criticized for being "unhelpful," and we didn't find that comment in any of the men's evaluations.
posted by rpfields at 12:16 PM on January 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


Today's event: I am the only person in my office with a masters and credentials in a specific topic. I am mocked every time I weigh in on that topic with my experience and/or knowledge base. Why? Because despite my credentials, I am not enough of an authority on the topic to be allowed to state information as fact rather than a "humble opinion".
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


At a previous job, a coworker addressed all the women in the office as "woman." I asked him to call me by my name. He freaked out and ran to management, who told me to be nicer to him. Of course, one of the managers at this job had to be formally scolded for only shaking hands with male employees, so I did not expect much.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:25 PM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I was a nightclub DJ at a BIG club in Boston and one of the only female DJs in the city, I knew the male DJ was making $150 nightly; me $50. I went to the club owner, noted I had recently been featured in Boston Magazine; my name was on the weekly ads as a draw; and explained I expected to be paid $150 nightly.

He looked at me and said, "There are two reasons you'll never make as much as (male DJ's name)," and he looked right at my chest.
posted by kinetic at 12:34 PM on January 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh my god, the SAT thing. When my scores came back, my guidance counselor PHONED THE TESTING COMPANY since there was no possible way that a girl could have scored that high on the verbal AND math section. (Sorry, this was totally not related to the professional stuff, but just still stings.)
posted by synapse at 12:38 PM on January 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


A million years ago* I was working in a bank and they were interviewing for a new teller (entry level). A dude came out of the interview and I was casually shooting the shit with him about how he went. Completely matter-of-factly he told me, 'Yeah, they said they were happy that a man applied because they are looking for people they can promote.'
So doubly depressing that the interviewers were okay with saying it to him, and he was fine saying it to me.

*about 10 years ago...
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:44 PM on January 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


A colleague and I interviewing prospects for a contract position as a negotiator for a labor contract.

Me to prospect : So blah blah blah blah blah?
Prospect answering, while looking directly at male colleague, and not looking at me at all "Well blah blah blah..."

Rinse and repeat.

At least my colleague noticed and immediately said something when the guy left.

And no he didn't get the job.....
posted by Jalliah at 12:48 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


My favorite: "I HOPE YOU DON'T HAVE CHILDREN !!!" (shouted at me by a bug-eyed, red-faced older man after I took a firm position in a negotiation -- the implication being that I'm so mean for declining his offer that I'd be a terrible mother. I laughed and said, "me too!")
posted by Corvid at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


"Now see here young lady!" From a male boss that maybe was 5 years older then me if that. I was in my 30s at the time. We were having a heated, but not shouty conversation about some policy or another.

"Here let me get that for you. I don't want you to wreck your womb," Some guy offering to move some (not really that heavy) boxes for me.
posted by Jalliah at 1:03 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


A former male boss once told a female employee of his that he did not know how her husband could find her attractive.

After a recent meeting (which my boss thought had gone well) someone told her "jokingly" that he felt sorry for her husband. Because she's such a meanie, I guess.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:08 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Off the top of my head: I've had coworkers sit attentively through men's presentations and take mine, and those of other women, as an opportunity to not-so-subtly discuss the finer points of their weekend. I've known clients audibly sigh at the prospect of talking to a woman about their case, and volubly praise men while handing out patronising verbal head-pats to women who went to more trouble and delivered better results.

I'll echo always being expected to be the friendly, approachable face of the team, with that obviously being a woman's natural comfort zone and the work I was doing clearly less urgent. And then having the visitor/client/guest compliment my shoes before addressing a man with the substantive stuff.
posted by emmtee at 1:16 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was recently told that some of my coworkers find me intimidating because I'm not afraid to share my opinions, which is something many of my coworkers (apparently) don't expect from a woman.

The worst part about this is that I was told this because they genuinely were trying to help me. This is the first time I've ever felt like my gender was an issue. Pretty eye opening to all the other stuff I might not be aware of.
posted by Krop Tor at 1:27 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This week at a meeting with the tech folks (I do tech things, but in another department):

"Funny, I never pictured you with blond hair and pigtails."

This was in response to me asking for an important request to be considered before being dismissed as "impossible". The request came from a VP. It was not, it turns out, even remotely impossible. I know this was a put down, since it's comparing me to a child and a blond. For the life of me, I can't understand WHY except that I pushed back against the abrupt "We can't" response.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:28 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everytime I express disagreement I get accused of "pushing back" and being "quick to reject other ideas" (including when I point out factual errors).

I was once pulled away from an urgent substantive task because a higher-up wanted (young, attractive) me to escort his girlfriend from the front door to his office, even after being told I was not available, I was not an assistant, and there were plenty of male employees available to assist him. He insisted.

A coworker of mine was forced to reschedule an important meeting to accompany one of our bosses on a trip out of town; when he explained why he needed her there instead of any of the others on the project (all men), he said it was because she was more fun to hang out with.
posted by sallybrown at 1:29 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow. You guys work with a bunch of dicks and I am impressed by your abilities not to punch anyone. I've never had anyone say anything like that to me, the worst is that I don't get told stuff or invited to meetings by new male colleagues and they generallly get quickly corrected by my co-workers. I did have a programmer tell me I wasn't "technical" (not true) but he's a gender neutral dick to everyone. I removed him from my project.

Mostly I don't hear stuff, like about meetings or updates. Inevitably this is a new male staffer who is rapidly corrected by our colleagues.

I have been told I'm intimidating but it's true, I am. And I've never been told it in a "stop being intimidating" way, more of a "can you come over here and scare these people for us, they won't listen" kind of way.
posted by fshgrl at 1:30 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Feisty.
[it's not meant as a compliment. and it's never said about men.]
posted by atomicstone at 1:32 PM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


This thread makes me want to cry having been put down on a daily basis by a bully of a sexist male boss in a previous job. He took great pleasure in telling me all my faults in great detail - but the one that sticks most in my mind now is that "you're too ambitious, everyone's noticed it". No one ever told a man he was too ambitious! I now ensure that my ambition knows no limit!!!
posted by smudge at 1:33 PM on January 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


A male hiring official told my colleague he'd not even bothered to read her application, since his workgroup had 'already hired their diversity candidates' for the year.

Also, the histrionics from my boss's boss when I drop the f-bomb are something to behold. 'Whoa, whoa, where did THAT come from?' 'Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?' This in an environment where a man's reluctance to swear is seen as a character flaw.

And then there's the occasional subordinate willing to just look me in the eye and say, "I don't take orders from a woman."
posted by Lycaon_pictus at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Forgot one of my all-time faves -- the use of "feminist" as a term of derision toward women who object to sexist behavior or remarks. It hasn't happened at the job I have now, but it happened a few times at various offices I temped at when I was a teenager.

cow-orker: [makes horrifyingly sexist statement or gesture in reference to one or more physical attributes of a female interviewee, vendor, contractor, employee, or superior]
dbr: Oh, wow. That's not OK. Please don't say things like that.
cow-orker: [snorts derisively] What are you, some kind of feminist?
imaginary dbr: YES I AM! [throws a copy of the SCUM Manifesto at him]

I've also been called a "ball-buster" for attempting to extract information I needed to do my job from lazy male employees. If I ask softly or politely, I'm a shrinking violet who can be summarily ignored. But if I ask frankly or repeatedly, whoops! Now I'm a ball-busting feminist bitch.

The Everyday Sexism Project has a whole, whole, whole lot more examples of this sort of thing.
posted by divined by radio at 1:55 PM on January 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


'Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?'

Free advice re: guys who do this - saying "whoa calm down oedipus" will shut them up forever.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:58 PM on January 22, 2015 [91 favorites]


Keep in mind that I've been working for over four decades. These are all things that have been said to me.

"You don't belong here. Because of you some man can't support his family."

(After driving us to a remote part of the military base where we were working) "I know you want it. Now put out or you can walk back." (I walked.)

These are from the same company:
"The real reason we're firing you is that nobody likes you."
"You ask why there are no women on the board of directors? Because they have no balls."

"We aren't sending you to Japan to do this installation and training because women don't do that in their culture."

(The guy they did send had to call me at 4 am so I could walk him through it. The same company later hired from the outside rather than promote me to department manager, and made me train my new (male, of course) boss. Three months later they told me I could name my price if only I wouldn't quit.)

I could go on ...
posted by caryatid at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


I found a good response to the on the rag snark: If I bled every time I had to deal with cretins like you I'd be anemic.
posted by brujita at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


I'm lucky enough to do a lot of work for a lady boss who had to deal with a lot of it, so I'm shielded. But there was an old dude that used to be at my workplace -- the first few times we ran into each other, I kept trying to make eye contact and introduce myself, but he ignored me. Later, we ran into each other and introduced myself as a new member of the department.

He blurted out that he thought I'd been a secretary, and that was why he didn't say hello. Because clearly, that's what I was.

Also, I knew a lady lawyer who used to work for a big firm. One night, she was in the office and saw a guy she didn't know on the floor. It turned out he was a big deal partner from an even larger (and politically connected) law firm across the street, stopping by to pick up his son for dinner. At one point in the conversation, he laughed and said,"Hey, I guess this place keeps paralegals late!"

Which is fine, because it was late. But she was an attorney.

A senior attorney.

Actively supervising his son on a case.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:55 PM on January 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'm the director of my department, a 29-year old woman. I have a 32-year old male colleague who is the director of a similar department who starts every phone call with "hey there kiddo". Drives me crazy.
posted by JannaK at 2:59 PM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


"I think the boys in the lab have trouble taking you seriously because you look so girly. Maybe cut your hair or something." *pause* "Don't dyke it up too much, though, there's a reason I put your desk by the door." (I worked in the same lab, this was a multimedia test lab)

Same manager, when my boyfriend came to pick me up from work: "Make sure she gets her beauty sleep! You need to keep her sweet for us!"
posted by KathrynT at 3:15 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Augh, this whole thread is giving me flashbacks. And thus I have two more anecdotes to add:

I was a "floater" legal assistant for a summer. This involved filling in for assistants (all women, known as "secretaries") who were on vacation. One day I got to my assigned desk and had a seat. The paternalistic partner I had been assigned to came out of his office, leaned over my cubicle, and said "Oh, are you my girl for the day? Aren't I lucky?"

I said "I'm a woman, not your girl, and I'm not sure what you're talking about."

I was then disciplined and assigned to another desk.

At another job, I did transcription of deposition summaries. The male attorney dictating ALWAYS gave novelistically graphic descriptions of female deponents. "The deponent was a large-breasted woman in her thirties who wore a plunging V-neck," etc. When I asked him why he was so descriptive only about female deponents, he told me it might be relevant for the case so they could compare the deponent's physical appearance to that obtained in surveillance footage, etc. and requested that I keep my opinions to myself. (This was a firm that dealt with workers' compensation lawsuits!!!)
posted by mynameisluka at 3:18 PM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Dropped by my legit agents of ten years after I turned forty.

I should note, too, that this is a woman-owned and operated agency.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 3:31 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had an executive producer tell me "You're right too much!". I told him that was my job.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:38 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


For background: I was inducted into Mu Alpha Theta in 11th grade. It's a college level math honor society. You have to be in at least 11th grade, taking college level math and making at least B's. So I have a tendency in classroom situations to be the strongest math person there. I often help my classmates with the math portion of stuff, explaining it in laymen's terms.

When I was in GIS school (Geographic Information Systems -- a 2/3s male STEM field -- think Google maps and urban planning), I took a required class in Cartography for GIS. It was a math heavy class and I was often the first person (or the only person) with my hand up when math-y questions happened. Every single time the professor called on me to answer a math question, he would then ask "How do you know that?" This was such a consistent thing that, at some point, one of my male classmates blurted in exasperation "She's obviously already worked it out in her head!"
posted by Michele in California at 3:39 PM on January 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


My favorites include the time one boss said my email asking for a time-sensitive decision (sent after weeks of "hey, this thing is coming up") was incredibly rude. When he pulled it up on the projector to make his point in extra forceful detail, he was forced to concede it was in fact polite. Fortunately he got me back in the same meeting when, in response to me saying a senior manager was hard to talk to and asking for advice, he yelled "HE IS YOUR MANAGER AND YOU DO WHAT HE SAYS."

Then there was the workplace where, when having a not-very-heated-by-tech-standards email discussion with the team I was pulled aside and told to stop being "mean." When I asked how I was being mean, stressing that I had worked very hard to be factual and dispassionate in the discussion, I was told "well nothing obvious but we know you don't like so-and-so." This same manager called me "argumentative and unflexible" and the coworker with whom I disagreed the *most* jumped in to defend me, pointing out all the times I had been convinced by data and testing.

I get "passionate" a lot, no matter how polite I am. Blergh.
posted by dame at 3:39 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also relevant.
posted by dame at 3:41 PM on January 22, 2015


"Intimidating." "Blunt." "Scary." "Demanding." "Terrifying."

These all make me laugh/sigh, because if I were male, I swear to God people would describe me as friendly and warm.

Other things I have noticed:

-- Where a man might be called forceful or direct or clear, a woman is "upset." I think this is partly a lens thing -- like, men are seeing the relationship through a marital/family lens, as though they were having a fight with their wife or daughter. IME men are very uncomfortable having disagreements, even ones that aren't particularly spirited, with female colleagues.

-- Capable, effective women get praised in minimizing ways, like being described as "detail-oriented," "hard-working," or "diligent." Seriously, I have seen women deliver really excellent work, like solid strategic documents and project plans and marketing decks .. and then get praised as though their contribution had been like, typing it up. Like, 'you must have worked all weekend, aren't you sweet.'

-- Men have high standards, but women are prima donnas. I used to have an assistant who made a big show out of how demanding I supposedly was. (She was "terrified" of me; I was "very particular" and had "strong preferences.") But at the same time she would happily jump through hoops for men, including willingly traipsing all over town on the weekend to get a particular type of coffee beans for my male direct report. (Note that she didn't work for him or particularly like him, he didn't care much about the beans and never thanked her. WTF.)
posted by Susan PG at 3:44 PM on January 22, 2015 [25 favorites]


In 19 years of technical support and roles that include support, I can't even estimate the number of times someone has asked me a question, not liked the answer, gone to one of my male colleagues for an answer, and ended up back having to talk to me while we both pretend I don't know what they just did.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:51 PM on January 22, 2015 [36 favorites]


Since other people are mentioning academia, I'll chime in too. although I'm not aiming for "management" specifically, I am fairly ambitious.

After my phd, I went to a senior male professor in our department for advice on a postdoc application I was writing. He said, "why do you need a postdoc, anyway? Doesn't your husband have a job?" (Same dude once stopped me in the corridor and said, "I like your skirt. You don't wear skirts very often. I prefer women in skirts to women in trousers. You should wear them more.")

Another example, different guy: I was co-teaching a class with a colleague, and while the students were working on a pop quiz, he said, at a volume the students could all hear: "you should apply for the new job the department is advertising. I've heard they are looking for someone with boobies, and hey, you have boobies. Heh heh. Oops. Now I'm looking at your chest too much, aren't i?"

(He was pissed because the department had been told by on high to finally hire a woman for the first time in their history of tenure-track hiring, or risk a discrimination suit. Interestingly, the woman they did end up hiring ended up putting in a harassment claim against this specific dude, and while it was dismissed, I believe her SO MUCH.)
posted by lollusc at 3:57 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


A student took a covert photo of me while I was lecturing and I complained to HR. The male administrator they referred me to said, "maybe they just wanted to show their friends what a pretty teacher they have."
posted by quiet coyote at 4:05 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah. Showing up in skirts!!!! Like I'd grown a third boob. On my elbow.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 4:31 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, more I just thought of:

(1) My PhD supervisor, when giving advice for my first teaching experience, told me that although all the men at the university dress in t-shirts and jeans to teach, I should wear a skirt suit, because students otherwise wouldn't take me seriously as a woman. (Sadly, this was not actually bad advice.)

(2) After a job talk, the feedback was that one of the reasons I didn't get it was because I came across as "too confident". I know the other people in that department well. Over-confidence is kind of their thing. But they are all male. There were four women and three men shortlisted for that job. While they hired a woman (they were required to, as I explained above), they also made private offers of postdocs and research funding to all of the men, but none of the women. (And I'm pretty sure it's not just because the men were better than the other women: The selection process had involved interviews with three separate panels, and I heard on the grapevine that one of the panels had given the recommendation to hire any of us except two of the men.)

(3) A supervisor once said to me that he thought I was unfairly advantaged because I was blonde and pretty so people would see my intelligence as more exceptional than it was. (Huh? Is that how it works?)

(4) And I was blocked from carrying out some research a couple of years ago (that I already had external grant funding to do, government approval and ethics committee approval for) because our head of department decided it wasn't safe for a woman to do on her own. (It involved travel in a country he considered unsafe for women, despite the fact I had spent plenty of time there on my own in the past and he had never visited it.) I mentioned that my mother was considering accompanying me on this trip, so I wouldn't actually be alone, anyway. He said that "If you've inherited your looks from your mother, then we have to worry about her safety too."

Finally, I should say that my current job seems to have none of this bullshit at all so far. The university I work for now has won awards as a "preferred employer" for women, and it's pretty clear why. And I knew my new boss was going to be awesome when we were passing a shop window where toy animals had been dressed up anthropomorphically and he pointed out unprompted how ridiculous it was that they had gendered all the small soft animals as female and the big dangerous ones as male (and that they had black animals carrying out servant-type tasks like sweeping, or bringing tea trays to white animals picnicking on the lawn.)
posted by lollusc at 4:43 PM on January 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


Part of my job includes quoting and outfitting customers with highly technical equipment and supplies. I spent a few days on one customer and he called when I wasn't in the office, got a hold of my male co-worker, who proceeded to speculate about a detail of the project which I had researched in depth, and his speculation was incorrect. I lost the sale because the customer called me, sputtering, saying he had spoken to "the tech" and now he wanted new specs. I was pissed, saying that he's not the tech, he's just a guy, and he's incorrect. I didn't follow up and never heard back. But jeez, I am really waking up to some pretty deep inequalities in my field and where I work. Thank you so much for posting this question and for helping me and so many other to make this an active conversation.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:51 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my first year of teaching in a private catholic college, I had my bra strap pinged as a male staffer said good morning to me each day. I was too anxious about appearing uncool as the new gal on staff that it took me six months to say something. Same guy would send a kid from his class down to my Year 9 English class which only had three boys in it ('AND THEY'RE NOT EXACTLY UN-GIRLY, ARE THEY? Ha ha ha ha') so that we could give the school a clean. JK! Guy also told me that when the Year 12s hooted at me n mimed fucking me as I walked down the school hall they were just showing me how attractive they found me, so... It's a compliment! Also, 'well, look at ya! Yer a hot lady!'

'Oh you're not one of THOSE, are you?' (Feminist) when I corrected Miss to Ms in my title. And assiduously called Miss or Mrs thereafter by that moron. Or many staff members using Ms but pronounced in an awkward, long buzzing sounding way, in derision.

Being driven home to a farm where I was living, by a coworker who'd been at the same union meeting that afternoon. Him making a pass at me and leaving me by the side of the country road several miles from home, in the dark when I didn't respond eagerly. I never said a word about it at work, even though he'd harassed me out of the blue.

English departments in private girls colleges are 'full of angry women' according to many male sources of opinion when I told them where I worked. Our department was always sneered at for being all women, and if men joined our department, as they did from time to time, they were ribbed by male teachers in other departments as being honorary women, or watch out for starting yer periods etc. Obviously he'd have to watch out for Shark Week because we'd all obviously be synchronised.

Also. Yes, 'too intimidating' bleurgh. Suck it monkeys.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:33 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am a journalist. Back in the day, I had an editor who overheard me talking in the lunchroom about my water aerobics class and became quite eager for details of my swimsuit. "Do you wear a thong? I bet you'd look good in a thong."

Same editor asked me into his office, shut the door and whispered, "I just got back from getting my hair cut and she always puts a ton of crap on it. Tell me, do I smell like a French whore?"
posted by virago at 5:35 PM on January 22, 2015


(Male) Lawyer from another department: "See, it's better when we work together. It's like we're a husband and wife working out their problems."
Me: "It's really more like we're coworkers working together."

Also: "You were coming across as a little harsh because you kept disagreeing with him." (I do disagree with people who are wrong.)

"You should wear more makeup," follow almost immediately by, "You should wear less makeup, you look too uppity."

"Well, the law says...." (From a variety of men in positions that are not legal positions to me, their lawyer.

Or, "You're not qualified for the title or the raise, but we're giving you all the work to do anyway."

And about a woman who had just been elected to the bench back in 2004, at an election watch party: "I can't believe that stupid bitch won. She acts like such a woman on the bench." I kinda wanted to ask what the guy meant, does she like bleed her menses all over the bench once a month? Does she have a baby out of her vagina on the bench? Or does she just pee sitting down on the bench in open court? What does it mean to act like a woman on the bench?
posted by mibo at 5:56 PM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


While this thread is depressing, I also find it sort of freeing. Because I internalize comments like this. Good to know I'm not the problem.

- "You're so loud." (I'm a lawyer. Same manager has criticized me for not being aggressive enough.)
- "I think you just don't like her" - when I was appropriately negotiating a resolution to a professional disagreement with a female colleague.
- "You should wear skirts more."

When I was at my last firm, one of the male equity partners in my group told me he was so disappointed women started going to law school, because that meant there were no good secretaries left. I was used to hearing ridiculous comments from him, but that one stunned me. (Oh, and he's a year younger than I am.)

When I was a very junior associate at a different large defense firm, I was working with a junior partner to prepare our client's expert witness for deposition. I got the "you're too pretty to be a lawyer" comment from the much older, male expert. And instead of focusing on the case he was hired for, he started telling me in minute detail about his work with penis pumps. When the partner tried to change the topic, the expert ignored him. Finally I asked the partner if I could leave. He said yes. And when the partner ran into me on the stairs later that day, he turned white and said "we'll talk about today later." Never did. I was so glad to leave that firm.
posted by marguerite at 5:56 PM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I had no idea how common the "intimidating" thing was!! I am suddenly filled with so much relief, I thought it was just me! And its close companion, "scary," too! Over a decade ago, in my late 20s, I was being interviewed for a position at Harvard Business School's magazine & got told that the next (round robin) interviewer was "scared" of my resume. I gave him a joking, friendly comment to that effect that I thought would defuse the tension...nope. No hire.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:57 PM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


I thought it was just me as well. I didn't understand the injunctions about smiling and tone of voice. I thought I had been pleasant. I thought proactivity and making suggestions showed initiative, and that it would be valued. But more often than not, I was let go with a shrug, told "it's just a bad fit." And I started to wonder why my life seemed like the Twilight Zone, me thinking things were fine, going along minding my own business and just being me, and then shocked to discover that people had all these nebulous problems with me. And I began to think something mysterious and undefinable was wrong with me. Something too horrible for the nice people who thought I was a bad fit to say out loud.

We all thought it was just us. But now, thanks to the Internet, we can talk about it together. We can define microaggressions. We can educate and be educated. No more divide and conquer. I believe a change is gonna come.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 6:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [31 favorites]


I used to get the "overconfident" thing ALL the time. Once I was doing a mock interview with a recruiter and she told me no one would hire me because they'd see me as a threat to their own jobs.

And tech support? Yeah, I used to get the guys calling in and doing the rounds of the entire department and ending up with me anyway when every single one of my coworkers said, "Let me transfer you to caryatid. She's the expert on that product."

Or the time when I was a technical journalist and Multinational Electronics Company sent a clueless PR team to wine and dine me (and my ex), but didn't tell them I was the one they were trying to impress with their new product, not him. The man kept talking to the ex about techie stuff while the woman kept trying to distract me with fashion, celebrity gossip, and babies.

Field engineering: "We'd rather have a male technician." I only said this once, and I revel in it to this day: "Fine. I'll see how soon we can get one out here. Do you have a racial, ethnic, religious, or political preference too?" (shocked silence) "On the other hand, I'm here now and your system doesn't care what sex I am."

Actually, that would make a good AskMe. Describe the time you had the perfect response to a case of overt (or covert) workplace sexism.
posted by caryatid at 6:45 PM on January 22, 2015 [65 favorites]


Being pounced on for interrupting when a male colleague and I started talking at the same time, when they interrupt me, and my female colleagues, all the time. The worst is that I am told by my male supervisors how much everyone respects me. The women who aren't as respected are called "little girls" and are essentially ignored.
posted by umwhat at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've experienced a lot of finding out things secondhand, that were decided in the boys-only meeting-before-the-meeting. Or the boys-only meeting that took place instead of a general meeting. Once, I found out that my boss had known for six months that we were moving offices and didn't say anything to my female colleague and I until the week before the move. He said, "I didn't want to burden you."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Last year I got let go from a job for two reasons: one, that I had made a tiny mistake that I caught and fixed soon after and two that I had been arguing with my boss. All I was trying to get him to let me finish my question before he started telling me that I was doing it wrong.

It's sad that this thread is so long.
posted by bendy at 8:33 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Heh, I was once outright told that my personality was "too aggressive for a woman" and that while there was nothing technically wrong with how I acted and would be fine if I were a man, as a woman I needed to "tone it down."

I've since discovered, though, that if I dress and groom myself in a high-femme style, I can get away with a lot more than when I present as more gender-neutral. It's like there's a total pool of points you can spend on deviating from preconceived gender norms so if you over-comply in one area you can under-comply in another.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:41 PM on January 22, 2015 [30 favorites]


Is aspiring to senior technical status close enough to "fighting to get into management"? Because I have no desire to manage people, but I can give you anecdotes all day...

I will always remember a meeting where I was sitting across from a male network tech and his male manager, and asked to see a diagram they had been referring to that was facing them (upside down for me). The manager looked over and sarcastically said, "Oh, she understands network diagrams, huh?" My college minor was in data networks.

I have been told:
"you are too aggressive"
"you are abrasive"
"you are kind of a Sherman tank"
"you don't know how to work with men"
"it's OK that you suggested a design, but..." (I'd been in the field for 12 years at that point, and I still wish I'd been quick enough on my feet to interrupt that interruption to ask if he was seriously giving me his permission to have ideas)

More so when I was younger, I was often mistaken for an admin assistant or intern. Worst was when I sat in the cube nearest the department's only plotter printer. People I didn't know were constantly bringing over drives and asking me to print things for them, then blinking in confusion and refusing to believe it when I told them I had never used the plotter and didn't have the drivers installed.

"...the unspoken expectation to play party planner and secretary...."
Yes! I don't remember where I first heard it, but I call this extra work expectation the "estrogen tax," and it drives me up a wall. I can't think of the last time a man on my primarily male IT team handled getting a Christmas present for the boss or organizing a team outing or recognizing someone's birthday. I don't do it now either, but of course some other women stepped into the role.

Also familiar with being excluded from the pre-meeting decision making and brainstorming sessions. Pretty obvious when your questions/ideas at the official team design meeting get shot down with, "Well, Bob, Charley, Doug & I all agree this is the way to go." I thought it would improve when I was moved to a cube neighboring the major offenders so lack of proximity could no longer be an excuse for shutting me out, but the sessions apparently just moved to another location (maybe the men's room?).
posted by superna at 8:42 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


"She's just too emotional."

Going to reception to get an interview candidate and getting a shocked "YOU'RE the interviewer?" Similarly, constantly getting "are you one of the interns/are you a part-timer/are you still working on your degree too?" I'm the second most senior person on my team.

"She's been pushing for us to have more diversity among the executives. I guess that means we'll have to start dressing like girls!" Hahaha go fuck yourself.
posted by daelin at 9:25 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was just in a meeting this week with a high-level software rep and the accompanying "Tech Guy" who would be illustrating the latest improvements to the platform that we use. I was the only woman in the meeting. I'm highly experienced with this software, and although I'm not in that department in my new job, I still use the software almost daily.

I have been the "Tech Gal" in the past, so I know a fair bit about server-side admin issues, and I was able to contribute what I thought were some pretty good questions that added to our discussion. (And of course, then I felt guilty, because I'm a relatively recent hire, and maybe I was coming across as "showing off" and making our Lead Software Guy look bad, versus what I thought I was doing, i.e., being helpful and asking smart questions?)

Tech Guy is rolling merrily along showing us all about the cool new features; this particular example was how their online platform was streamlining and simplifying coordination between utility field crews and in-office support staff. Techie Guy gets this guilty, slightly panicked look on his face, apologizes for what he is about to say, and then says, "Well, the way these utility field guys describe it, this lookup process is always done by The Girls back at the office. Because it's always The Girls back at the office who are using this feature." (Because clearly, there are never-ever women field crew staff, and only women do customer service.) He proceeds to go on at length about how the new feature makes things So Less Confusing! and Simpler to Understand! for The Girls, and just kept digging himself deeper and deeper.

My thought response went like:
1. Hey, this is vaguely humiliating. Not cool, Tech Guy, not cool.
2. Ohhhh I get it, I think this is one of those times where they are Doing the Thing where I'm treated like a de-facto male, and then when they slip up, there's the awkward-guilty dance to navigate, and then I have to do the emotional work of forgiving their slip-up and smoothing things over and making sure it's clear that I'm not offended, because, y'know, it's cool and I'm one of the guys!

On the flipside, being one of the guys means that I'm not really seen as female, so that's another issue entirely.
posted by cardinality at 10:06 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Since we hired a male staff assistant, I have noticed a huge difference in the way people treat the two of us. I have a fancy title and 15 years experience, and we hired him right out of college 18 months ago. And yet both male and female executives we meet at business functions will often assume that he is my superior, directing questions to him and basically ignoring me (whereupon he usually points out that I'm his boss and they should ask me). If we meet with potential vendors or event venue staff together, it's the same thing - some will speak to him as if I'm not there.

I have never seen this type of behavior before (it used to be me and a female coworker), and it's quite frustrating. On the flip side, when I talk about "my assistant," people usually assume that it's a woman.
posted by gemmy at 10:07 PM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


When I worked at a professional photo lab I often encountered old men photographers who just couldn't get it through their heads that I, a small and very young looking woman knew more about photography and developing black and white film than they did. The one time I was proud of myself for standing up to a douche canoe was when this old dude came in to complain that the film we sold him wasn't working and then proceeded to get tongue-tied when I very aggressively quizzed him on his methods and then schooled him on where he went wrong. He left the store looking incredibly unhappy.
Alternatively, the nice thing about being an elementary school teacher in a high-poverty area is that I can be aggressive and firm and demanding, and I am seen as very professional and getting things done.
posted by ruhroh at 10:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I actually don't have any examples because I have only worked in very female-dominated industries. Though right now I'm looking at a certain male-dominated one and ah...I'm starting to think that might not be a great idea after reading this thread.

*gulp*

"I've since discovered, though, that if I dress and groom myself in a high-femme style, I can get away with a lot more than when I present as more gender-neutral. It's like there's a total pool of points you can spend on deviating from preconceived gender norms so if you over-comply in one area you can under-comply in another."

I do have to agree with this, though. I already dress high femme but if I act especially ah...submissive, cheerful, smiley and girly, I get a lot less complaints. But then again, I'm only dealing with clients.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:44 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, a man, once accompanied a colleague, a woman, on a recruiting trip in a... well, conservative country. Although she was the lead recruiter, all the men we talked didn't so much as shake her hands, look her in the eyes, or talk to her directly.

I spent the next two days deflecting questions addressed to me with: "Yeah but you should really be talking to her as she is leading this mission" and the men (including the prospects we were interviewing) just kept talking to me.

Before we left, I told her how sad this was and she shrugged her shoulders and said: "Oh, that's my life story"
posted by Kwadeng at 11:16 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the military, occasionally on a ship. Pways (passageways) are small but meant for traveling in both directions, so you have to let someone go ahead of you when arriving at the smaller door-like breaks or when equipment jutting out into the pway creates a bottleneck. If they aren't senior to you, it's a mere politeness thing. This interaction happens about 50x a day for me and usually ends up with me getting the right of way because of my ovary ownership.

I attempted to point this out once. I was 10 paces away and said "Go ahead" to a man of same rank with a crowd behind him (which creates a "We don't have time for this sexist bullshit" vibe with me). He pulled his choo-choo train up short and insisted I go first because "that's how he was raised." While stepping through, I shook my head and said that that could be taken in a sexist manner and went on my way. A few hours later I was cornered in the food line by a female coworker of his who said I needed to watch my words because "the wrong person could've heard that and it's a career ender". I noted that he should perhaps take my comment as a mild warning then if he was so worried, and stop that kind of behavior since it was equal opportunity n' all. She kept talking over me, that I shouldn't make "a big deal out of it" anymore when guys were just trying to be nice.

If the above situation doesn't seem like a big deal, I note again that on average I had such interactions about 50x a day while on a ship and that most persons in the military are male. I just wanted to see if I could speak out about it once.

"Oh no, darling, after you"
"Ladies first"
"I was raised to hold the door for a woman" (too many times while I'm actively holding the door for the man speaking, while he basically goes out of his way to take the door from me),
"You're really scary sometimes"
"Everyone's scared of you"
"You have nice handwriting, right?" asked of me and another woman in an office
"Could you help me sew my uniform patches on?" (at least 20x at my first command; when I said I was bad at this I got "really??" and other such nonsense)
Definitely a lot of apologizing post-cursing, even after I had just cursed, but strangely only a lot of ignoring me awkwardly when I requested they stop with the rape jokes (they did eventually, mostly).
Being back-handedly propositioned for sex on a social network: "they others thought you looked weird today, but I liked that lipstick on you" followed closely by "We can sleep together whenever it's good for you".
Of course, "you should smile more."

I'm sure I'll think of more.
posted by DisreputableDog at 11:34 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm an executive chef. I'm friends with a group of male chefs from other restaurants in my town. When we hang out and meet anyone new, all of the questions are inevitably directed at me. "Did you go to culinary school? How long have you been cooking? How long were you cooking before you became a chef? Will you come over and make dinner for me?" None of the males get asked any of those questions. Ever.

One of my new employees last year acted surprised one day because I was running circles around him during a lunch rush. I made a joking comment about how I had clearly only gotten my job because I was just so damn cute. He took me seriously and agreed.

I've been asked out while interviewing line cooks. I've been asked out by more than a few of my employees after I've hired them. They don't last long, but who the hell thinks it's a good idea to treat your BOSS as a potential date?
posted by evilbeck at 11:34 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Students ignoring me, who has worked there for years, and directing questions to the male temp, who was there for a week.

The last time I worked in the private sector and the male ceo admitting he fired a female sales rep because he 'found out' that she was a 'slut.'
posted by toerinishuman at 12:17 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Male partners at law firm functions (including people I had met and worked with), to my husband: "Oh, what's your area at firm X?"
Husband: "Talk to her [gestures at me], she's your partner, not me."

"The reason litigation is so expensive now is that women are lawyers and they pay attention to all the details."
posted by Cocodrillo at 12:23 AM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Agree with the comment that much of it is pervasive, subtle, and insidious.

- Natural assumption that if I am with a male, men will presume to talk to the male colleague first, though I outrank him.
- "Are you in marketing?" or "Are you in Sales?" No, honey, I run the business, manage the strategy and P&L
- Getting interrupted in a business meeting at a cafe by a complete stranger, and getting told I am attractive. (would a man ever get brazenly interrupted that way?)
- Getting talked over when I present ideas, in a dismissive way with complete lack of awareness that this is the dynamic
- Just simply getting shut out of informal conversations, and seeing the men scatter from water-cooler chats because there's fear of saying something offensive in mixed company

The worst is just simply not getting the recognition. In one-on-ones being told about my value and contribution, and yet in a public setting that all goes to my male boss.
posted by hampanda at 12:40 AM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've remembered another related to my career - I was interviewing a guy who runs a house cleaning service to clean my house. He asked what I do for a living and I said I'm a lawyer. We referenced that a few times in the conversation and then towards the end he said, "So you work for a lawyer?"

That's just one of the thousands of times someone mishears "I work for a lawyer" when I say "I am a lawyer!"
posted by mibo at 3:10 AM on January 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


At a meeting with the CIO of the large Midwestern university where I worked, I was the only woman among the six or so IT managers present. The CIO extended a handshake to everyone except me. Despite my normally crippling social anxiety, I thrust my hand out and forced a handshake after I had been skipped over.

I used to preface this anecdote with the excuse that I was young (and young looking), and this was in higher ed, so perhaps I was mistaken for a student. But it was inexcusable.
posted by ellenaim at 5:58 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


At 17, in the early 90s, when my guidance counselor refused to fill out a college paperwork request: "I don't think you should go into biology. You're cute and look like you'd serve coffee well. You should become a secretary." Now, admin assistants are awesome and every one I've ever met is super hard working, but I wanted to be a scientist - and you don't have to present as a woman to be an admin assistant. I ended up having another guidance counselor fill in the paperwork, when it became obvious that the first guidance counselor was just going to sit on it until the due date passed.

6 months ago, as I took over a large project that a male coworker had completely fubar'ed, he said to me, "You're too nice to get the job done. See you in 3 months when you fail to deliver." Needless to say, I delivered it flawlessly in under 2 months. At least he has the good sense to avoid me now.
posted by RogueTech at 6:20 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another one I remembered. '

My boss and I were trying to hire two more people. Our budget was such that we were thinking that we could get a (relatively) high-priced person and then a less expensive person. I'm thinking recent grad, less experience, etc. He says something to the effect of "you know, someone that smart and qualified but is looking for straight 9-5, not willing to do much extra work...like a mom."
posted by Pax at 6:41 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


- First tech-related job out of grad school: told I was I hired because I reminded my supervisor of his daughter.

- Feedback from (male) CTO after interviewing candidate for an open QA position (one of several interviewers): "Candidate said you were combative and hostile. You need to talk up the company more and ask fewer technical questions." Candidate in question was universally disliked by all interviewers and admitted to changing other developers code without telling them.

- Routinely interrupted by specific senior engineer. When finally called out for it, had to watch him make faces while I was speaking.

- Chastised by (woman) product owner for "doing my job too well".
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 7:05 AM on January 23, 2015


Oh another one: once a woman I knew and had worked with as a blogger, who ran her own social media marketing business in addition to blogging and had repeatedly publicly expressed feminist views in her writing, asked me to join her as a subcontractor on a marketing project she was doing for a client, to provide an area of expertise that neither she nor her employees could not offer. After I agreed, she told me that her husband, who had recently been laid off from his job, had joined her company and would be managing the project. Which I was all right with, until I discovered that her husband was lying to the client and telling the client that he was an expert in MY field (which he actually had NO experience at all in!), and that he was the one doing all of the specialized work I was actually doing, and that I was basically just his assistant doing grunt work. Not only did he take credit for my work, but, because of his total ignorance regarding my area of expertise, before I realized what was really going on, he misinformed the client on critical issues and made multiple promises to the client that were actually impossible to keep. I addressed this issue directly with my friend who owned the company, explaining that I had joined the project as a partner, and had not signed up to basically ghostwrite work for her husband, and that as a businesswoman it's important to me to take both credit and responsibility for my own work. And she responded by saying that "Companies do this sort of thing all the time; if you're really a professional, I don't know why you have a problem with it."
posted by BlueJae at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I used to work in outdoor education. I often worked on instructor teams of 3 with two guys. One year when I was the head instructor, my two male co-workers got really angry with me for telling them what to do sometimes. They were incompetent, so I didn't feel like I had any other choice. Also, as head instructor, that was my job.

Towards the end of the course, we were hiking in the Colorado mountains and our students were running low on water, because a lot of the intermittent streams that we had been counting on were dry that year. Just to be clear: running out of water in the wilderness is a serious safety issue when the nearest known reliable source is 6-10 miles away. We were hiking in a big group and I had told everyone, students and my co-instructors, to keep their eyes out for even the smallest trickle and to tell me if they saw something. I hiked in the front and my co-leaders took up the back.

We hiked into the evening, and when we stopped for a rest break, I pulled my two co-instructors aside to talk about what we should do and where we might be able to find any water at all. One of my co-instructors said angrily, "I thought we should have stopped at that stream back there."

"Which stream?" I asked.

"The one about a mile back. I thought you saw it and decided it was too small, because you always know everything."

He didn't mean that as a compliment. He was so mad at me for doing my job that he was willing to put our students' safety at risk just so he could get in a little jab at me.
posted by colfax at 9:17 AM on January 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


I used to preface this anecdote with the excuse that ...

This. So much.
posted by vignettist at 9:27 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]




Remembered another one: I was told I have "sharp elbows." Which I am entirely ok with, actually.
posted by headnsouth at 10:04 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


From a friend:

My diss chair mentioned in my rec letters for jobs that I had finished my dissertation despite having a baby! He also described what I was wearing to a committee member who had to phone in during my defense, and when I was at a meeting late in pregnancy, blurted out "omg you're huge!"
posted by asterix at 10:35 AM on January 23, 2015


Oh God, I remember another one. I was going back and forth once with an employer, negotiating comp. There was a fair bit to figure out: salary, but also stuff like relocation allowance, legal costs related to my immigration status, duration of term, parameters for renewal, etc. We'd exchanged, like, four emails, and from my perspective things were going fine: I was providing justification for what I wanted, and for the most part he was giving it to me.

Out of nowhere he sends me a highly-emotional email calling for a "truce," because "I know this is making you really upset, and I don't want our working relationship damaged." I was baffled. It was a totally normal negotiation: I was in no way angry or upset.

I'm always surprised by men at work attributing strong negative emotions to me, that I am not actually experiencing. Also FWIW in my experience men at work are much more emotional than women are: things tend to be very personal, and tied up with status and power in ways they aren't, for women.
posted by Susan PG at 10:56 AM on January 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


My first name is not gender specific. When I worked at both a university and PBS in managerial positions, people on the phone would ask to speak with my boss; to connect me with him. Never, "Can you please connect me to them?" No. Always him.

(And I mean, obviously, the idiotic notion that a young woman couldn't be a manager.)
posted by kinetic at 11:06 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I recently had the displeasure of working at the most terrible and disorganized kid's camp. They decided to run an overnight weekend (usually staff didn't do anything with the kids overnight) as a promotional event for their summer camp, and it was a total shit show of poor planning and incompetence to a laughable degree (this was everyone's feeling, not just mine).

At the next staff meeting, I brought up my concern that an event planned so poorly had been run, and voiced my concern that the weekend had been unsafe. My boss asked me if I could provide specifics on ways it had been unsafe. I did so. There was a silence. Then he said "Well. I can see you feel very emotional about this."
posted by geegollygosh at 11:21 AM on January 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


I've been thinking about this thread since I first posted here, coming up with other anecdotes. The most egregious one:

About ten years ago, my male-dominated organization sent me off as its sole representative to a faraway place. At that point, I was literally the only person in "the Company" who had worked in there in the last thirty or so years. When I got back, I was told to report to half a dozen offices to get debriefed. At every session, the supposed debriefing turned into a briefing session for ME on everything my male interlocutor knew about the situation in the place I had just returned from. In one of them, I finally lost it and spluttered "you know I just got back from there, right?" and the guy answered, without a hint of irony "so, that doesn't mean anything."

My ten subsequent replacements in that job were guys, but somehow, even now, when personnel wants to refer someone for advice about how to "cope" with the situation there, they contact me. When they want someone to give a prestigious talk about the substantive issues we dealt with there, my phone rings much less often.
posted by rpfields at 1:41 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Late to this thread but want to thank everyone for the litany of all-too-familiar examples and comments. Just thought I would weigh in with a few of mine. Bear in mind, I am a probably older than most of you and things have gotten a lot better over my work life. And being older, I don't run into as much overt sexism today; I am more likely to run into ageism or ageism/sexism combined.
  • At a national insurance trade show, one company had a popular booth which featured scantily clad, large breasted women doing shoe shines, a shameful spectacle. I and a few other women complained to show sponsors. The next year, the company still had the large breasted shoe shiners, but they had a table full of costume jewelry on sale "so there would be something for the gals to look at, too."
  • At an insurer: in one of our southern branches, a top performing woman sales rep was excluded from a few "special events" that her colleagues staged because they included a trip to a strip show. Her colleagues decided that even if she was OK with going, the sales prospects might be uncomfortable having her there. As the company's PR person, I heard about this and spilled the beans to HR and senior management, who were unaware of these "special events." Thank God for laws, because I think the prospect of a discrimination suit was the only thing that really stopped them.
  • At a global manufacturer: On being told that the first woman toolmaker ever hired had to be let go from a machine manufacturing shop because she was disruptive for having complained about the egregious sexist hazing she got: "See, this is why we can't hire women in those types of positions. They can't get along with the guys and they are too sensitive."
  • At an ad agency where I was a VP, the boss's wife took me aside to say, "My husband won't tell you this directly, but he wishes you would dress more feminine. I would be glad to go shopping with you and help you pick out better clothes."
  • Obviously, I had a split personality because over my career I was told that I was overly sensitive, emotional, touchy-feely, a soft-touch, too girly, etc., but also that I was aggressive, bitchy, hard, witchy, intimidating, bossy, know-it-all, argumentative, and angry. So go figure.
Those are just a few examples, I could write a book.

One of my language pet peeves in the workplace, here on Mefi and in general has always been the "Cried like a little girl" "threw like a girl" tropes. Grrrrr.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Chiming in because just 2 hours ago in a meeting with a 2 people at a client:
Meeting is to discuss issues X and Y. Client Man chimes in with topic he wants to speak to the partner on the project (also a man) about - this topic is tangentially related to the project, but not the agenda in discussion. Client Woman politely lets him finish, and the continues the discussion of X and Y. Client Man again tells me he wants to speak to my boss about - to which I say "I'll make sure he's aware", and get back to the agenda at hand.
At the end of the discussion, Client Man again tells me he needs to talk to partner about a topic - at which point, I say I won't be seeing him today, but Client Man should call boss' cell (which I know everyone at the client has). Client Man says - have him call me, won't you - as if my job was to pass his messages!

I know he wouldn't have done that if my male peer were running the meeting - and because he's a client I wasnt comfortable telling him to pick up the fucking phone. Still mad about it
posted by darsh at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Was one of several administrative support positions in a large company. The only male in one of those positions was not assigned phone service.

In a meeting about hiring a new associate, a colleague said that he would prefer not to hire a woman because some of our clients in the South were prejudiced. I said that was illegal and I couldn't believe he was stupid enough to say it out loud in front of me. When I complained to a male friend he said I should have handled it better.

After exchanging multiple emails with a potential customer, all of them with my job title in my signature ('President'), he referred to me in correspondence with a client as 'your assistant'.

Told directly by the female instructor that I spoke up too much in a freshman discussion seminar and prevented other students from contributing. I revelled in the long minutes of awkward silence that characterized the rest of the semester.
posted by bq at 2:45 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


My mother, an accomplished electrical engineer, was at a trade show, representing her state's Dept. of Transportation. She was watching a demo of a "barrier zipper", and discussing its impressive speed with her civil engineer coworker (a man).

The fellow manning the booth told her "if you were an engineer, you could appreciate how impressive this is."

Luckily, my mom is not a shy woman, and asked her coworker "wait, aren't I an engineer?" to which he responded "why yes, you are!"
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


I applied for an entry-level clerical job at IBM when I was a teenager. They had me take a bunch of tests. Then they told me they couldn't hire me because I was too good at math for a girl.

A few years later I applied for a job at the local phone company. They asked me the date of my last period. When I refused to answer they showed me the door.

Two decades later, in the mid-1990s, the day I handed in my dissertation at an ivy university I went to the career center because I still hadn't landed a teaching job. I asked if they had any leads on university admin or research positions I could apply for. They said I should apply for secretarial jobs since I could type.

It's sad reading everyone's stories. I hope a lot of men here read them.
posted by mareli at 6:51 PM on January 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I just remembered one of my all-time favorites! I was hired during college to work as a Mac specialist at CompUSA, back before there were Apple Stores scattered 'round the land. I got paid more than double what my PC-loving colleagues did, and they (90% men) were for the most part really good coworkers. Once, during the Christmas rush, everyone was booked solid helping customers but me. I see a dude looking at the Macs, and wander over to ask if he needs anything.

"That's ok, I'll wait for one of the guys."

Righto, sir. I step away and watch him from nearby. My colleagues are still swamped, so he ends up waiting for a good thirty minutes. Finally! FINALLY, A MAN IS AVAILABLE. He asks his question...

...and my coworker says "Oh! I'm sorry. You'll need to talk to [bitter-girl], she knows more than any of us when it comes to Apple stuff."

*polishes knuckles on polo shirt, walks over*
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:23 PM on January 23, 2015 [32 favorites]


Back around 2000 or 2001 at a Cisco Networkers (now called Cisco Live, I think) trade show, they had a panel on getting women in the field and keeping them there. That was nice. The very same evening was the social event, where one of the attractions/decorations was a bunch of conventionally attractive, scantily-clad (bikini levels of scanty) women on pedestals as "living statues". Just women. I think if there had been at least a little bit of beefcake I would've been fine with it. As it was, well, the irony was thick and ironic.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:43 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh God, this thread is *mesmerizing.*

I have lots of blatant, jaw-droppy stories, but those mostly make me laugh. The worst experiences, to me, are the subtle undermining ones.

The vendors who ignore me and talk to my subordinate. The server who gives the bill to the guy I'm interviewing for a job, not to me. The server who thinks my lawyer is my boss. The consultant who is patronizing to all the women in the room, but listens raptly to the only man. The jokey bartender who assumes my coworker and I are "girlfriends" out on the town, looking to pick up men. All the flight attendants who are super-deferential to the men beside me, but whose tone with me is a tiny bit cool, like I'm asking too much. Everybody who's ever assumed I work in marketing. When a male speaker is presented with a book, and I get flowers. When, at work, men tell me I look younger than my age. The guy whose eyes widen, almost but not quite imperceptibly, when I'm introduced at a work party as his friend's boss's boss. The guy at the conference who asks my title, and when I say CEO, says "what."

Okay that last one is actually pretty jaw-droppy ;)
posted by Susan PG at 9:24 PM on January 23, 2015 [23 favorites]


The very first time I met the PI of the lab I used to work in, one of the first questions he asked me was when I was planning on having kids because, "Your eggs won't keep forever and if you want to go to medical school, you'll have to start thinking about kids now." (I was 21 and had no interest in going to medical school.)

This is the guy who footed the bill for a lavish lab-wide going-away party for the pretty, blonde RA who kissed his ass, but when another, less attractive/ compliant RA left a month later, he ignored it entirely. Didn't even sign the card. He also told me that I would be a good teacher because I have such an angry face.
posted by coppermoss at 5:37 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


My current department is very female friendly, which I need to appreciate more hearing these anecdotes! The head of our department is a woman who is clearly incredibly smart, so that helps.

- even so, I have been amazed at how disrespectful and critical people are of our leader's behavior. She definitely has some issues as a leader, but I've worked for men with similar issues and people are generally MUCH more forgiving of leadership flaws in men. I've seen this dynamic of outright subordination towards flawed female leaders while an equivalent male just gets quiet grumbling several times now. Women have no room for error.
- the interruption thing! In my last job I received the feedback that I was interrupting too much, and when I pointed out that men interrupted me constantly my boss said "huh, I never noticed"
- I'm pretty assertive, which male bosses have used a lot to make me "bad cop". Occasionally I'm told I'm too aggressive, but that has declined as I get more senior.
- I talk about babies/family about 50% less than most of my female colleagues - not really on purpose, but I've noticed there is serious mommy tracking if a woman talks a lot about her kids. I'm pretty work obsessed, which has worked strongly in my favor in that regard. Men who talk about their kids a lot are extremely favorably received.
- people are very confused my assistant is male, and he is given more "real work" and less admin tasks than his female counterpart by the other team members (the female admin is very capable and bright, but unfortunately almost too good at admin)
- I heard that the window of age when women are perceived as "ready for a big job" is 38-42 (only four years!) while the range for men is about 35-55 (20 years!!)
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:16 AM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


The worst one I almost forgot...

My male client who continously asks me if I will come back to work when my next baby is born. I think I've told him a few times my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so I'm not quite sure where he thinks the money will come from when I follow my biological destiny to leave work! (Luckily my boss is well aware that career is my priority)
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:21 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh here's another one. Twice I have seen immigration officials at the airport super-hassle women execs.

Once immigration guy said "So you say you're a CEO, huh. Is it a real company? How'd you get that job?"

Another time the guy said, to a woman who was going to New York for pitch meetings "Are you sure this is a business trip? Sure you're not really going shopping?" (I didn't really get that one: it's easier to enter the U.S. as a tourist rather than for work, so it was inexplicable to me why he'd think she was lying.)

When I applied for my first TN visa, immigration was pretty hostile and asked why I felt I was "so special" that no American could do the job I was going to do. But that was probably more protectionism/nationalism, with maybe just a tiny bit of sexism mixed in. So hard to tell sometimes!
posted by Susan PG at 10:19 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a female in the fire service, you learn quickly that you are lumped into two categories: "whore" and "dyke." I, apparently, am of the "whore" variety, because I am divorced and have yet to remarry and when I was more single than I am now, I was quite a player. However, because of my personality, tattoos, absence of makeup, and, again, seemingly lack of male partner frequently suspected of being a lesbian. (I do have a male partner, but we aren't open about our relationship because we both work in the fire service and are in a smallish city; I am not, by any means, offended by the assumption that I am a lesbian - I am offended that people are ASSUMING rather than actually talking to me)

This is all at a previous department - not where I am currently employed.
In the past after having some heat-related issues (surprise! when a 125 lb person rapidly loses 5-10 lbs of water weight during evolutions in humid weather, their electrolytes will be in a bad way and they will consequently fall out), I have been told that I am physically unable to do the job. Bullshit. For someone my size, I'm extremely strong, in addition to having KSAs that exceed my current job level.

I'm also extremely intimidating. Apparently. Oh, and a "problem child." "You'll never be promoted because you're female." "Let the people who get paid to think, think." "You shouldn't cuss so much; it's not ladylike." "Why do you dip? Girls don't dip." "You are stupid." "You have no business, as an unmarried female, having friendships with coworkers, especially coworkers who outrank you. It looks bad for both of you." "Stupid girls" - that one was from dumbass that was supposed to be IC on a trench evolution (not an ACTUAL rescue) where the workers in the trench (myself, who prides herself on her extrication skills, and a female colleague who is a fucking rope GURU) had an easy and SAFE plan for extrication and extraction of the victim. Our plan was disregarded and we were forced to comply with a plan that was unsafe and we both felt uncomfortable with, and in an actual situation, I would have left the trench and refused to participate.

I have been harassed, a victim of a hostile work environment, and sexually harassed where I felt I was forced to submit sexual favors in return for not receiving a potential written warning. Unsolicited texts and phone calls for sexual favors when I had stated to the men contacting me I was not interested and had a partner. That was probably partially my fault, because I have my "slutty" reputation, and I am flirty (I am an extroverted Libra and tend to enjoy attention and flattery even when I know I should keep to myself).

Frequently, younger/ less experienced firefighters will not listen to me because I am not male, and defer to a male who will invariably repeat whatever I had just spent 20 minutes attempting to explain to them. My ideas are also frequently stolen and I am talked over/interrupted constantly. I usually just keep my damn mouth shut. Which sucks, because I love teaching and innovation.

I would get sent as first in on an OB/GYN EMS call when I was on a truck with 3 men who are actual PARENTS. I have no children, no siblings, no nieces or nephews, have never taught anyone under the age of 16, and know absolutely nothing (outside what I've learned in EMS coursework) about childbirth or babies, other than they are cute, I guess. I'd rather have a puppy.

There's more, but this is the major stuff that's stuck with me.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 1:35 PM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, this.
posted by bendy at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2015


Very late to the game but since I've gotten so much from these responses I thought I would share my own experiences. Realizing this, I realize how "lucky" I've been. I'm in a field with a pretty decent representation of female leadership and an expectation of at least lip service to being inclusive and feminist.* So most of the stuff I've gotten has been the more subtle, "background radiation"-type stuff. But that can be so insidious, because when it's not explicit, it's so hard to peg as being gender-related and so easy to think of it as just your problem.

Anyway, a few examples that stick out in my mind:

- Just last week my team had a meeting with a male consultant who has worked with others (men) in our organization but not my (all-female) team directly. The consultant was jaw-droppingly condescending to both me and my reports, mansplaining all over the place (including in areas not at all covered by his expertise and very much covered by ours). This happens all the time with consultants and agencies, but when I mentioned that to a male coworker who works with such firms all the time, he was like "huh, I've never noticed that kind of treatment."

- At my first job out of college, I was hired for a sub-entry-level position (basically, a door-to-door canvasser on a political campaign) with the promise that after the election I'd be hired on as an entry-level community organizer with the organization running the canvass effort. The guy running the canvass was completely unqualified - he'd never worked for a campaign or non-profit, but he was slick-looking white guy who "had read any political science book you can name." He was totally unprofessional, couldn't manage his staff, and we never hit our goals because he ran such a horrible shop. I had worked as a door-to-door fundraiser for another advocacy organization every summer during college and had worked on political campaigns, so I knocked myself out trying to do a good job, act like a leader, and eventually get the promotion I'd been promised. Of course, once the election was over, I was told two other white men on the team (who had way less experience than me) were getting promoted over me, sorry. I should mention that this was an organization supposedly dedicated to economic and social justice, with an all-male leadership team.

- I was recently hiring for some slightly-above-entry-level positions (ideally, 3-4 years of post-college experience). I went through three rounds of hiring to fill these positions, and out of the ~15 people or so who made it to the interview stage we only had 4 men, and they were almost all underqualified. And actually, one of them mansplained to me! In an interview! WTF? The women on the other hand - at least half of them were well-overqualified. A few of them could have easily have had MY job! I even tried to recruit some men I knew whose experience level was perfect, and they all told me it was lower-level than they were looking for. One, who I KNOW views himself as, and usually is, a good feminist ally, told me I should recruit his coworker - WHO HAD 4 MORE YEARS OF EXPERIENCE THAN HE DID. The mind boggles.

- I now work at a woman-led organization where we really try to "walk the walk" both internally and externally. But in some ways, that just puts certain things into sharper relief. For instance, there is a really heightened sense of awareness around the whole treating women like secretaries thing. This has led me to realize that a lot of my male coworkers are just totally and completely clueless about really basic administrative and team dynamics things. Things like not reserving rooms for meetings, not introducing themselves to new team members, trying to make decisions unilaterally (which does not fly at my org), etc.

*I work in non-profit advocacy, so there's a whole other can of worms about how of course, the field where there are more women in leadership is also the field where people are paid below market rate for their skills.
posted by lunasol at 3:25 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, a few other things:

- When I was younger, I definitely got "feedback" from male bosses about my temper, being more accommodating, etc. At the time I took it really seriously, but looking back, I almost never lost my temper at work and my lack of "accommodation" was simply not allowing other coworkers to treat me like a doormat. But now that I'm in a leadership role, I'm expected to be many of the things that my bosses were indirectly discouraging. So if I'd changed to please them, I might not have become a manager. That is really disturbing.

- One really annoying thing is that I've noticed that when a woman has a professional conflict or disagreement with another coworker, whether it's a man or a woman, it's much more likely to be written off as a "personality clash" rather than a legitimate problem. This is especially true when it's two women. I've had serious disagreements about policy written off with "maybe you two should just try to get along better."
posted by lunasol at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


Oh here's another one. Twice I have seen immigration officials at the airport super-hassle women execs.

Once immigration guy said "So you say you're a CEO, huh. Is it a real company? How'd you get that job?"


Something similar happened to new Zealand's then prime minister (Helen Clark) once, when she was travelling through Sydney airport and security apparently didn't recognise her. They insisted on giving her an explosives frisking.
posted by lollusc at 5:23 PM on January 24, 2015


And then there's the occasional subordinate willing to just look me in the eye and say, "I don't take orders from a woman."

Had that happen to me as well. It's still a thing.
posted by immlass at 8:33 PM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Something else I haven't seen mentioned yet: there are a lot of awesome, brave women in this thread talking about getting penalized for being "too aggressive," but I feel like I have been penalized most frequently in my career, as a woman, for not being aggressive enough.

In my first job I watched guys get praised for being "serious" and "hard workers" when they minded their own business and kept their heads down and just did their work well. No one expected them to be more social than they were as long as they got their work done and did it well. But I watched those same guys get praised and promoted while I got continuously passed over because my boss kept telling me, "I'm not sure you're ready for a leadership position yet," and "You need to deepen your voice when you talk, like me, so you sound more authoritative," and, "You know, position x is a big responsibility. It means the buck stops with you. Do you think you're ready for that?"

I started to realize that the real problem was that even though I minded my own business, kept my head down , and did my work well as a woman that was interpreted as weakness and passivity instead of as industriousness and strength like it was with the guys. I know it wasn't an issue of experience or training, because the guys who got promoted over me started working at the company the same year I did--or a year or two afterwards--fresh out of college just like me.

I worked for that company for 5 years, and I finally quit after I realized my boss had decided in the first month that I worked there that I was a quiet, shy, naive girl unsuited to any sort of position of leadership. And since 5 years of evidence to the contrary had not changed his opinion, nothing ever would, so I could either bang my head against a door that was never going to open, or I could get out of there.
posted by colfax at 3:44 AM on January 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Maybe you should consider a career in psychology instead, since you're so good at talking." Said by a professor when I asked for help with a physics problem (the only time that I had to in that class). I am currently finishing up my PhD in physics.
posted by Shouraku at 6:51 AM on January 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


Just, wow. These are eye opening - maybe most particularly since I have been going along for 30 years assuming that I was too intimidating and should smile more. I am reminded of a meeting I had with a guy my boss had hired to build us a new website. We had a tour and discussion - I offered some suggestions and disagreed with some of his ideas. I thought everything was fine. Suddenly he turned on me, shouting that I was rude and arrogant and interrupted him (I hadn't) and that he wouldn't work with a bitch like me. My (female) boss took him out to lunch, told me I needed to tone it down and hired him. Six months later the project had to be scrapped in large part due to the issues I had brought up. I was gone by then. You know, for years I have thought that I screwed up that interaction somehow but reading this I think perhaps it wasn't just me.

Where I work now there are 5 locations, each with 2 managers -none are female, purely coincidence I am sure, in this not even traditionally male field. The owner addresses almost all his comments only to male staff and I was reprimanded for approaching him directly: I'm supposed to go through a manager. I doubt this policy applies to my male coworkers. It makes for an uncomfortable work environment but fortunately he's not often around...
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:07 AM on January 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bedside Hospital Nursing field here: The number of times a patient safety issue is brought up and described by non-nurses as something 'a bunch of nurses are complaining' about. Or entire units of nurses being descibed as 'a bunch of bitches on that floor.'

Blatent sexual harrassment from patients ignored because patient is dying or family is already overwhelmed with psycho-social issues. Nurses who think they have no right to report such things to supervisors, or correctly assume nothing will be done.

Comments about my body from all staff. Doctors, techs, nursing aids, repair people. They all pretty much feel they have this right to comment if I look fat, thin, great, horrible, tired, whatever. Patients who request to only have early 20-something blond nurses as their nurses. Sometimes this request is for young Asian women but only if they're young and only if they don't have some accent.

While the majority of nurses are women a large number of the male nurses progress up the leadership ladder despite less experience, even less certification and education in some cases. I work at a state institution where our saleries were published online. You could look up the men you started with, who had the same years experience as you, making 5K to 10K more than you.

Male leadership that addresses a room full of nurses as "ladies" even though there are some men in the room. Sometimes they will apologize to the men in the room for addressing everyone in this way. Once I said: "Why don't you just address us all as nurses?" I smiled as I said it, but I still got a short talking to from my boss to be friendlier to the new male leaders and consider their feelings and how hard this is for them.

This one nursing award that is pushed really hard where the award for your recognized work is a bouquet of flowers and coupons for a national donut shop.

Someone above mentioned conflicts between women being dismissed as personality issues. That is all over the place so conflict resolution is really sink or swim. People either figure out how to fit in or they end up quiting in frustration and hoping the next job isn't so rough.

Constantly being asked about my children and who takes care of them. I don't have any. But I always wonder within this field dominated by women working night and day why is childcare not addressed or offered or subsidized in any way.

The expectation of work that should be done off the clock and / or at home. Projects, finishing charting after a code or busy shift, evaluations. Much of this work is encouraged to be done off the clock. They get around this by saying of course you can do it on the clock if your time management skills are up to par. But if you're running out of time to do your work that's your own fault and inabilty to manage time.

Speaking of workloads: being asked to cover for non-nursing work when that staff is not available for no extra compensation. Examples are nursing assistants, respitory therapists, physical therapists, unit secretaries, transporters, techs. Nurses are to cover all those jobs regardless of any certification or training needs for that job. And if you fuck up then it's your fault, you should have known better. You should have been more careful.

Generally there is a constant expectation that nurses should do more for less or no pay as much as possible. My friends who are teachers have a similar expectation.

The latest push to have good questionnaire answers from patients after they are discharged makes upper management push floor nurses to push these questions on patients and their families before discharge so they'll answer the questions in the right way. It has nothing to do with their immediate care and everything to do with how the hospital gets compensated for whatever, or represented in someway not connected to their inpatient hospital nursing care. Most of this is ignored because it's extra work and time and hard to not sound condescending to the patients and their families.

Then there's the constant encouragement to return to school as if bedside nursing, while everyone says omg-that's-so-wonderful-what-you-do is not a respected end point position for a career. To not have some eventual plan to return to school means you are not politely ambitious enough on your eval.

Funny I was just going to say a few things and that sure turned into a long comment. Thanks to all the others who have contributed to this thread.
posted by dog food sugar at 10:32 AM on January 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


I've heard : "do you think she got a boob job?" in reference to my female boss.
Personally: "I bet you'd clean up nice" "bitch" "well no wonder, you look great in that"
I have also been accused of getting preferential treatment because my former male boss "really liked" me. This person also said "I know you guys are close"
posted by bookshelves at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


And then there's the occasional subordinate willing to just look me in the eye and say, "I don't take orders from a woman."

Damn, I had totally forgotten that. He never came out and said it, but there was one young male subordinate who consistently left one weekly task undone, no matter what I said or did. (Male) boss refused to back me up; he said, "I haven't heard any other complaints about Young Male Subordinate; you should be able to handle this yourself.

One week, I exasperatedly asked him, "WHY don't you do [task]? Where did you get the idea it didn't need to be done, even though I keep telling you it does?" He shrugged and said, "Older Male Subordinate said it wasn't important and I didn't need to do it." I told Older Male Subordinate to stop interfering, and he just shrugged and said something like, "It's a waste of time."

Not only did Boss keep refusing to back me up, he named both Young Male Subordinate and Old Male Subordinate Employee of the Month. The situation never got resolved, and I did the weekly task myself, on top of my own work, until I found another job.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:52 PM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've been pretty lucky to avoid this in my work life over the years, and I'm very aware of recognizing overt sexism and microaggressions so it's not like I just haven't noticed or haven't been to enough gender studies classes. Having said that, I have heard "attitude problem," "needs to smile more and be friendlier," "women shouldn't wear trousers on job interviews" (from a placement agency), a general unease by one employer about me being too much of a go-getter*, and "if we could just forget this conversation about the sexual harassment you witnessed ever happened, it would be a huge favor to us."

*which, to be fair, could be sexism or could just be a fear that i was angling to get my superior's job
posted by mirepoix at 6:46 PM on January 25, 2015


Since it falls under 'aspiring to rise to management' I'll add this beloved story:

Early in grad school, I was dating another grad student, and he, his two friends and I were out to dinner one day, so: 3 guys and me. All 4 of us in engineering. As young grad students do, there was much complaining about professors, and bloviating about how it could be done better.

These words are burned onto my brain: "When the three of US are professors ..."

Again, there were 4 people at that table.

I'm the only one of those 4 people who is now a PhD or a professor.
posted by Dashy at 7:33 AM on January 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


And then there's the occasional subordinate willing to just look me in the eye and say, "I don't take orders from a woman."

Damn, I had totally forgotten that. He never came out and said it, but there was one young male subordinate who consistently left one weekly task undone, no matter what I said or did.


I didn't originally add this anecdote because there's no real money quote to go with it, but this was basically my experience in management as well. I managed a varied team. It was about half male/female and the ages ran the gamut from just out of high school to nearing retirement age. There were two men who were near my age. Everyone else seemed to think I was an ok or good manager, but these two people constantly undermined me. There was never anything I could exactly pinpoint. It just seemed like they were great employees until it came to interacting with me, then suddenly work would deliberately not be done, or they made some comment that seemed innocent enough on its own but would never be made to the male managers in the corporation. I kept thinking "am I imagining this"? Another employee admitted to me that one of the guys had called me a 'bitch', but that still didn't seem definitive.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:10 AM on January 26, 2015


Another one I'd forgotten:

When my department moved into a new building, I discovered to my surprise and glee that I'd been assigned an office with a huge window, a drafting table, a spectacular view, and a door. As we all milled around, trying to figure out where everyone now sat, and admiring our new spaces, every so often someone would walk into mine, and ask snidely, 'Wow, what did you have to do for [Male Boss' Boss] to get an office like this?!'

'My job,' I'd say, with a withering stare.

I stopped counting after the 20th time it happened in two weeks.
posted by culfinglin at 4:01 PM on January 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ha ha, I just racked up a new one.

The other day I did a reference call for a guy who used to work for me. I spoke about him positively, and he got the job. Afterwards he praised me to a third party, characterising my reference as ... "sweet."

If you're reading this, buddy, no I don't hate you and I don't think you're a terrible person. But next time, maybe try a little harder.
posted by Susan PG at 2:10 PM on January 27, 2015


Ugh, in college application stories: a certain esteemed tech university in the US requires (or required, back in the 90s) that applicants for undergrad programs complete an interview with an alumnus of the university. They originally assigned me to some lawyer guy, who was apparently too busy to do the thing he had agreed to do, and pawned me off on another guy (maybe also a lawyer?). After about four attempts to actually meet second guy for this interview that he cancelled out of either last-minute or post-last-minute, he finally came to my school to do the interview in my guidance counsellor's office (quite late - she was not impressed). The whole interview he was incredibly condescending, and didn't really listen to a word I said. But the clincher was his parting comment, of how I reminded him of his neice, who was in second grade and just learning to read. And the extra clincher was the fact that he never got around to filing his report of the interview, until after a couple phone calls to the university admissions department and some strong and not-so-polite words from my father. It's not clear if they got the interview report after that, or realized they had screwed up and admitted me anyway based on the rest of my application. (They also didn't give me an affordable financial aid offer; I did not end up attending that particular university.)
posted by eviemath at 4:37 PM on January 27, 2015


I am very late to this but I have one so egregious I found it hysterically funny at the time. Not in retrospect though. I'm a senior advisor to a senior executive. My background is in communications and media. I have about twenty years experience. And a Master's degree. I provide policy and business advice and am remunerated in the low six figures. One day my manager asked me to... get his dry cleaning. After a farcical email exchange where I asked did he mean to send that email to his wife ("No?") I said that it was a firm no on dry cleaning coordination from me. He apologised immediately and said he'd been presumptuous. Except. Yeah. Not JUST presumptuous. Because no way would he have asked a man in my role to do that for him. The kicker? He had a PA!

To be honest, I find the upfront bullshit a lot easier to deal with than backhanded patronisation - from both genders - and invisible discrimination.

I've been told by a senior (woman!) manager, as I was WRITING a report to go to our CEO that I was a "good girl" and "typed beautifully". I was very focussed on what I was doing so really didn't take it in as it was said. Just as well because I was so livid when I realised I don't think I'd have been able to be polite. Which would have made me a defensive bitch, I'm sure.

I also notice there is literally no one in our organizations senior female management ranks who is not a tall, thin white woman. There is no one in my role who is not a young, good looking woman. Appointment by appearance does not happen to the men, who come in a wide variety of ages, sizes, and levels of attractiveness. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
posted by t0astie at 5:00 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh. My employer is an 'employer of choice' for women, btw. And does, in fact, run great women's development courses and leadership programs, as well as providing flexible work arrangements.
posted by t0astie at 5:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


(The publisher in me wants to turn this thread into a book SO HARD)

The woman in me is still amused by how she had to dumb down the explanation of what is been doing in Canada for work when I crossed back over the border last night.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:28 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


There are so many to choose from; I think I could write a novel. Many are rehashes of what's been experienced upthread (Emotional? Too passionate? Need to tone it down?) and many I didn't realize were sexism until much, much later. It's hard when you're young and you think it's due to some failing of your own, while the men around you fall upwards. I too got the criticism for being too aggressive, but would not have gotten where I wanted without taking a bold stance. Time I didn't, I was a doormat. There is no waiting for recognition.

As I said, I could write a novel. And it's hard to say how many were ones I had to fight that stopped me from being management, or slowed down my track. But the below stories are ones that were definitely management related, including some that I observed rather than had happen to me.

1) IT lies to women.
I don't think that of all IT departments, that's just the name of this story. So I came to work at a company as a web designer and front end coder. But I've got a fairly extensive background in a wide array of technology from server administration to programming, blah blah blah. I was a technical person during the dotcom era and got to work with some brilliant technical minds and picked up a thing or two.

The design team, which included me, was part of the marketing department, and my boss was a woman, her title director of marketing. The IT department is made up of developers and computer support (server management, helpdesk, networking). I'd routinely hear about meeting's where my boss, as the head of marketing, would want to get something implemented and the IT department would say it couldn't be done. I'd hear what she wanted and wonder why, because it's a fairly basic thing to do.

I begin helping her understand the technical speak, including the rebuttals to "can't do it" with an explanation of how it can be done. Eventually, she just starts bringing me to meetings with IT where issues like this are likely to come up. The first few times I get to check the programmer or admin who says it can't be done with an explanation of how it can be done is pretty fun, and gets a bunch of stutters and back tracking about how "well, it's not that it can't be done, it's that there are all these caveats, like cost, or project priority" I ask isn't that something for my boss to decide.

But I also notice in these meetings that whenever one of the male directors has a project, they get the full explanation. Mind you, my boss is really diplomatic. She doesn't get upset, and she is really good at what she does. So now that she's got someone that can translate tech speak into something she can understand, and more importantly someone to actually call out IT when they say something that isn't true, we start getting somewhere.

Except at some point, IT decides they want to annex my department. Or more accurately, they want to annex me. There are literally zero women in that department, and considering how they've treated myself and other women, I do not want to be part of that team. And so they write out a job description FOR MY JOB, the implication being if I don't come work for them, they will hire someone to do my job and cut me out of the front end design part of my job. Their excuse is that they need someone that can work more closely with their developers, as well as working in the same system. Okay great! Get me setup in visual studio on the team foundation server and we work together. I am already using version control, so setting it up as part of the development team sounds delightful! This was during a meeting, at which point their jaws literally dropped before they backpedaled into that not being what they meant.

All that because they didn't like a couple of women who were able to fact-check some of the crap they were pulling. Most of this is about how my boss was treated. That was a rough outline, but they would do things like not come to meetings, not answer emails; you name it, whenever she needed something. They did the same thing to the customer service manager who was a women; in that case, I ended up developing a complete web front end for the customer service software that everyone thought was going forward until the front end design and work was 90% complete, in which the IT director and the head programmer said could not go forward because they were not involved in any of the meetings. Did I forget to mention they also ignored her meeting requests? They said it was a waste of a programmers time and they would only need to be involved when the front end work was done. (this was my first real experience with that team, I wised up pretty quickly).

2) Hey, You Oversaw Our Most Profitable Years! We're Going To Hire Someone Over You Rather Than Promote You.
Same marketing director as above. She oversaw the three most profitable years in a row, and when they decided they needed to expand, instead of promoting her to VP of marketing, they hired from the outside, and subsequently had the worst year on record. The guy they hired came from a company I had worked at prior to that job, and they had some big issues with upper management. They asked me about him, and while I didn't know him (different division), I warned that there was some serious issues with director and executive management. They hired him anyway. He brought with him the same tool kit that didn't work at the other company, so it was no surprise when none of that worked at the new place.

But when HE was let go, they again did not promote the director of marketing, they once again hired another person from the outside. I was no longer there at that point, but it was once again upsetting to hear she was passed over a second time in favor of hiring "new blood" that happened to be male.

3) You're A Girl, So It's Your Fault
I actually can't swear to this, but after I left that place, they ended up heaping all the blame for the failings on my old boss, and letting her go. I'm fairly certain it was due to her gender because the many failings had nothing to do with her, but she was a convenient target and she couldn't turn things around fast enough after the two new VPs of marketing mucked things up. IT got their way and got to steal the front end design from the design team, which was eventually just dissolved.

4) You've Been Doing All The Work, Let's Reward You By Making You Interim Director, Then Hire Someone Else
Same company, different person. The director of merchandising did very little work. I'm not talking the usual gripe where some people don't understand that higher management might require a lot of work that isn't quite as tangible as making a lot of widgets. He just didn't do anything except hang out, go on business trips to schmooze clients (which I realize can be legitimate, but that's all he did, and it was a couple times a year. The rest was surf the internet and socialize). Meanwhile, his direct report did all the work. She, a women, ended up being the go to person if you had questions, and she picked up all the slack he didn't do.

So when he eventually is let go, they reward the person who was actually doing all the work by making her interim director until they could hire someone else to be the permanent director.

5) You can be co-lead.
Same company as above. The lead designer was a guy who'd been in the company since it was very small. He was lead by virtue of being there a long time, but had little ambition. I came in and was very ambitious. As the lead designer, he assigned the daily workload to people. One thing I quickly learned was that he had very little interest in the leadership role. He didn't fight for the department, he had no interest in office politics and frequently gave away responsibility of the department, leaving us in a weaker position when it came to leveraging our departments needs.

And he always said no to new ideas. Talk about making me crazy. He was a good designer, but his knowledge of web technologies was severely dated. He fought against learning new things, hiring new people, taking on projects that were outside his comfort zone.

I fell into the position of being the one to do the nitty gritty managing part of being a team lead. But I didn't want to be the one to do all the hard work, while he got to be the one that gained. So I advocated to be made the team lead, as this designer really didn't care.

Except for one thing. He liked assigning the work, because he could assign things to be beneficial to him. He didn't realize he liked that part until he let me take it over for a brief while. When I started to more equitably assign the work, suddenly he wanted the task back.

So my boss's solution? We'd be co-leads. I can't imaging in a million years that would have happened if I were a man. I really liked my boss there, but even she had some failings. As the new co-lead, I got to deal with all the things he didn't want to, BUT he still got control over assigning work orders and preferentially picking work he wanted to do.

6) And A Raise For You Too!
Same company. I fought for title changes, particularly for myself, and a raise to match the work I was actually doing vs what my title/pay was. Even than, I asked for much lower than my research had shown I should be asking for. I actually told my boss I felt guilty for asking for the full amount. I look back and realize how both stupid that was and how it was because it was ingrained not to rock the boat TOO much.

After many months of deliberation and a few job interviews on my part, they finally came back to me with the raise. Except my boss said something that strongly suggested that the raise was only going to the two senior designers. That would be the other male designer I mention above. I think again it's fair to say that if I was a man asking for a raise, the raise would not have gone to any of my colleagues as well, and especially a woman colleague. Sure, it's impossible to say for sure, but that is the problem with all this, isn't it?

I can't believe that's 6 anecdotes from one company. I meant to keep it short.

One last one.
7) Don't Show Up The Manager If You're A Woman
This goes back to my first "real" job. I'm a tech support rep at an internet company. I was really good at what I did, and learned the job fast. The manager that hired me complimented me some time after my hire, saying he had hired me at a time that they just needed warm bodies on the phone during a special and expected me to wash out, to being one of the best techs there.

Eventually, he moved up, and they hired a manager from outside the company. I really don't know why they did this; he was not very technical. But the idea was that his management experience was what was important. One day, I had the audacity to correct a mistake he made. Now, because he wasn't technical, he made it an open policy that people should tell him when he did something wrong. And we did this via a staff mailing list.

The manager and I butted heads before this, but there was a distinct breaking point. The case that caused this all was one customer who kept repeatedly calling in. He couldn't connect via his modem and after he called into technical support, his work network stopped working. Repeatedly. I got it working, and I followed up with an explanation of what the problem was and what the fix was (I don't remember, it was something to do with network adapters on win95). This was protocol; if you encountered a problem that was complicated, or had caused a customer to be bounced around technical support for a while, you followed up with a message to the team that detailedthe fix so that other techs in the future knew what to do if the circumstance comes up again.

Except, the manager was one of the people that spoke to this customer, and he really didn't like being "called out". That was not my intent, and "the proper way to do things" emails were really common. Never had anyone had trouble before. But in this case, the manager took such affront that he made it a policy that whatever I did was wrong, and the technical support team was instructed to do the opposite. The opposite, whatever it was, meant destroying other peoples' networks. It did not matter that I had several of the senior technical staff explain why this was wrong, this was the way we were doing it now.

And thus began his shitty crusade against me. I can't count the number of times I left crying or took a lunch just to get away from him. When my review came, he rated me really poorly, even though my two supervisors rated me highly. They wanted to promote me to a senior tech, but he refused, citing the bad review he gave me. He argued I wasn't at the company long enough - I had originally been part time, and he decided that didn't count - This was never spelled out in any place in our handbook or other policies, but up until then, for any other employees your start date was your start date. He rewrote my start date to be my full time start date on every record and document in technical support (He couldn't do that in HR, I'm sure he would have if he could.)

I should have just quit, but I was young and didn't know any better.

Eventually I took it to HR over the denied promotion, arguing he was unfairly biased towards me (back then, I was at the point in my life that I honestly didn't see it as sexism, I thought it was some personal grudge. Which it was, but because I was a woman). The manager trotted out all sorts of other reasons why I shouldn't be promoted, many I'd never heard before that day. I'd made typos on informal staff email. My most recent review was worse than previous reviews; that was the review he did after his campaign against me started, compared to the review prior he signed off on as well, which had high marks across the board, and reviews prior to him starting.

He faked an email, which he had in printed form, supposedly from an ex-employee, but it was missing all the headers. When I pointed that out, he said that it was how his computer at home was set to print. When I said in the HR meeting we should look at the digital copy, he claimed that he only had it on his hard drive at home, and it had crashed so he no longer had the email or a way of recovering it. But was able to print out this copy before it crashed. It was a staff email, but no one in the department had a copy of it. The ex-employee did not remember sending anything out like that, and was pretty sure he wouldn't have because it was wrong.

The mail server admin said they could recover the email if it existed if HR requested they do so. HR refused. Eventually it came down to his "gut" as to why I didn't deserve to be promoted, and that was enough reason and no one that could do anything really cared that he had obviously forged information to make me look bad.

The irony perhaps is that I was promoted to supervisor some months later when he was promoted to director. He had to sign off on it, but there wasn't anyone else that was qualified.

To reiterate, what had happened was not unusual, it was standard operating procedure. Many men were able to correct the manager. The moment I, a woman did, it was an all out crusade to destroy me. The hardest lesson for me too was that I was objectively right. It was a problem that there was a wrong way to do it, and a right way, and there wasn't any grey area. But it did not matter. Perhaps that was the most important lesson to learn: being objectively right doesn't matter.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:28 PM on January 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


I also feel I should add that I think I've been part of the problem at times. I've judged women more harshly if they've been less ambitious then men. I definitely went though a period were I internalized the misogyny I experienced and denied the experience of other women. And I've seen many other women do the same. It sucks to look back and realize I was a part of the problem too.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:46 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Insert clever name here, I could have written that same thing. It's why I finally went freelance. I charge 2-3x what I'd make being passed over again and again after being interim director, and put up with none of the shit.
posted by dejah420 at 8:10 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am literally sitting in a meeting right now, and am one of two females in the room. The other one says, "You know when you," stops, looks around, says "Well, maybe not, you're all guys here. Okay, so if you've ever been shopping with your wife or girlfriend and you've got a whole bunch of stuff picked out ..."

I'm sitting right here and have contributed to every bit of the presentations with corrections and questions and info (code share meeting). WTAF.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:31 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


New one!

When I joined a meeting ten minutes late last week, the Important Visitor who the meeting revolved around just couldn't seem to figure out who I was or why I was there. I had formally introduced myself, but no matter.

A few minutes into the meeting, I was jointly explaining something with my (male) colleague. Important Visitor interrupts to say: are you two married? Like he had just figured it all out, and now it made sense.

Yeah, that's the only reason I was in the room. Uh huh.
posted by Dashy at 6:03 PM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


My new one:

I've been sharing a scientific space with a good-but-sloppy-but-senior to me colleague part time for a few months. He recently left and I'm taking over his responsibilities. I'm doing a whole lot of things in the lab to maximize workflow efficiencies so that 1FTE should be able to do what 2 did previously. (Also, finding literally irreplaceable artifacts completely unlabeled and unprocessed. And unopened $30,000 cameras. Argh.) My boss is thrilled.

A researcher that we run samples for walks in, takes in that special type of disorder that comes as part of reorganization, and says "now that the ladies are in charge I guess it's housekeeping time!"

Yes. I am housekeeping. 2.5 million dollars of equipment I am singlehandedly running. House. Keeping.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:34 PM on October 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


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