Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"The Girls"

If you have ever worked in an office, you know how indispensable Administrative Staff is.

 I get up early every morning, put on professional business clothes, comb my short hair, and drive to the office just like everyone else. I unlock the doors and turn on the lights, make the coffee and turn on the phones. I spend 8 to 10 hours at the office every day. I keep the office supplied, I do all the vital paperwork, I pay the office bills, and interact with all our clients.

A job like mine usually requires a minimum 2 year degree and experience. My profession is not easy. It is not fun. It is not a joke. But every day I go into the office to do my job, I am dismissed, talked down to, and marginalized.

My boss consistently refers to the admin staff as “The Girls.” The other two women on our team of three are middle aged mothers. When do they earn the title of “Woman?” What do we have to do to be taken seriously as business people?

Am I the only one who cares about this?

I met a male Administrator once. He was a 20-year-old student who worked part time as a Receptionist. He did nothing but answer phones and browse Facebook. All. Day. Long. His boss (an older man) called him “Sir” and often praised his accomplishment of being a student and employee at the same time. He used words like “young” and “ambitious” and “smart” when he talked about his Receptionist.

But I’m just a girl. Married, going to school 10 hours a week, working full time, indispensable team member, but just one of “The Girls.” It disgusts me.

I mentioned my frustration to a fellow administrator once, and she called me “a crazy feminist.” I asked her to define “feminist” and her only response was that she “doesn’t have a fit when a man holds the door open.” Are American women so ignorant that they don’t see the oppression and discrimination going on before their very eyes? How can I demand the respect I deserve when the women around me don’t mind being marginalized?

I have news for you America: sexism is alive and well. I see it every single day. I just wish there was something I could do about it.

15 comments:

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    1. I call for a strike!!!! actually nevermind i really need this paycheck. *sigh*

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  2. I used to work in an office like that -- we were all "the girls". I was floored that this still could happen in the 2000's in the USA, but apparently it's very common.

    I am glad that I now work in an office where I'm not dismissed as one of "the girls". Light and day, I swear.

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    1. i LONG for the day when i work in an environment of equality! :P

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  3. Interesting! I'm sorry that your work culture has been like that :( I've been in the workforce for four years now, and sexism is certainly alive and well at my company. However, I've seen it mostly go the other way. The company is anxious to promote diversity, so usually if a woman and man with similar experience are both eligible for a promotion, the woman gets the nod. Of the 5 people in upper management in my department, 4 are women. My boss has far more respect for a successful girl than a successful guy. It's great for me- a young successful woman doesn't have to do much to be her favorite- but definitely not fair. Whenever a male team member has a problem with her, she blames it on the fact that they "just can't tolerate having a woman in charge." We(I'm ashamed to admit I'm guilty of this as well) make "dumb guy" jokes all the time (e.g: He's being irresponsible- it's a boy thing. He has horrible written communication skills. Guys have such awful grammar and spelling skills). If the men talked about the women the way the women demean the guys, they'd be called into HR in a heartbeat. The guys in my department are pretty easy going, so they take the "good natured" abuse and laugh. Every company has a different culture and atmosphere, and I certainly have seen some sexism in favor of men in my company. But (at least in my department) it has been MUCH easier to be a woman than a man.

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    1. I think a lot of it has to do with education as well. From what i have seen, highly educated women are more readily respected in business. Men have no choice but to respect a woman who makes the rules and takes home a bigger paycheck than them. But when it comes to bachelors and associates level or lower, all that respect tapers off. Men are considered "ambitious" or "rising in the ranks" and women are tolerated at best.
      I think people ignore sexism when it's between superiors and their subordinates. Rank and education are used to excuse it. I'm happy for you that your current work environment is so female-affirming. But i think i have a lot of school and a lot of fighting to do before i ever reach that level of respect.
      I think people ignore sexism when it's between superiors and thier subordinates. Rank and education are used to excuse it. I'm happy for you that your current work environment is so female-affirming. But i think i have alot of school and a lot of fighting to do before i ever reach that level of respect.

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    2. Just keep hanging in there, girl. You're doing all the right things to better your career :) You should be proud of yourself.

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  4. Yes I hate how where I work, women are cashiers and men are on the floor. And they make a big deal about every woman on the floor. Like "Oh wow, can you believe we have a WOMAN in lumber?" and "Well, they are trying to force us to put more women out on the floor so that we are more diverse".

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  5. Yes I hate how where I work, women are cashiers and men are on the floor. And they make a big deal about every woman on the floor. Like "Oh wow, can you believe we have a WOMAN in lumber?" and "Well, they are trying to force us to put more women out on the floor so that we are more diverse".

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    1. ugh. YES! that is SOOO annoying. I also get the younger guys who think they have to flirt or flatter me in order to get me to help them with projects. I find that so offensive. I am here to do my job and nothing they say or do will change that. I am not a dog that needs treates in order to perform. arghh..

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  6. That's really too bad! Our front office staff is absolutely indispensable. I work in a physical therapy clinic, and believe me, it's much easier to have a therapist call in than it is to have one of them call in. I know they couldn't do it without you; I hope they figure that out soon!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement CM! :)

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  7. I can't think of anything nice to say about your boss, so I won't say anything at all.....

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  8. I love to see your aha moments! This was one thing I hadn't realized, too. I grew up thinking feminists were child-hating bra-burning selfish career women who rejected the idea of a family. To be honest, I think part of it is I didn't realize that so much sexism - I call it structural sexism, since it's no longer technically legal - still existed. Sure, I believed in male headship and all, but I assumed all that was voluntary and general society offered men and women completely equal chances. I've since realized why we still have feminism - because we still need feminism. And you and I, Sarah, can be part of the next generation of feminists working to make things better.

    You say you can't think of what you can do to fix this situation. Neither can I. Your boss isn't doing anything illegal. He's just being a sexist ass. And there are no laws against being a sexist ass. I have to say, if I were in your situation, I think that would all make me explode. It's MADDENING. I am SO GLAD I work somewhere where I can truly say I have never received unequal treatment (so yes, such places DO exist). Best of luck with everything!

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  9. What disturbs me more than men calling women "girls" is the women themselves being okay with that. Are they feeling flattered, as though they look younger than their age, or what? (I'm 42, so I can say that!) I'm staying home with my kids right now, but worked in a professional setting with men and women supervisors for 11 years. There are definitely jerky bosses of both genders, so I guess that's an equal opportunity trait.

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