I have a confession. Are you ready for it?
I’m not a feminist.
A lot of the really great bloggers I know are. So I read their posts about toy aisles on pink steroids, the marketing of anorexic bodies and inequality in the workplace. And I…
Okay, I have another confession.
I sort of roll my eyes. I’m sorry blogger friends. You really are great. I just can’t relate.
I’ve never been told I’m less capable or have less options because I am female. I’ve had quite the opposite experience actually. I sort of feel like I was subtlety pushed into engineering by well meaning parents and teachers. In fact, I wish we would stop “encouraging” girls to choose careers in math and science. Because, hey, they might be happier doing something else.
I went to a college where the boys out numbered the girls 3 to 1. And I’ve worked professionally in a predominately male environment. I remember standing in a tent during a major maintenance event as a two-year engineer, looking out over a sea of contractors, and realizing that of the hundreds there I was potentially the only woman. I couldn’t spot another one. Now that was an exceptional case. Still, the numbers quickly dropped from equal outside of my immediate group.
And I never felt like I was treated as less than because I was a woman. If anything, I felt like I was at times treated as greater than. Not in the, “Here’s a great opportunity for you!” sort of way. But in the, “I’m going to be nice to you because I haven’t seen a girl in awhile,” sort of way. So when I hear about this discrimination in the workplace thing I usually think, “Yeah… doesn’t really happen.” At least it hasn’t happened to me.
Or has it…? (You knew I was going there, didn’t you?)
I’m now in the process of maybe returning to work. I’m having the conversations. The complex conversations wrought with corporate politics. And it’s been a surprisingly eye-opening experience. It all started when a former co-worker contacted me to say, “There’s a job opening over here. What do you think about applying?”
She went on to say that typically they only accept people of a particular high-pay level into the group. But that they’re looking to bring in someone of a medium-to-slightly-higher-than-medium-pay level for this position. She thought that I could be a good fit.
So then I went and talked to this other manager to see if there were any open positions in a couple other groups. He went and talked to yet a few more manager types and came back to say this – a position previously filled by a guy of a particular high-pay level had recently become available. They were thinking of filling it with someone of a medium-to-slightly-higher-than-medium-pay level, and they all thought I could be a good fit.
I’ve been sitting with this news for a couple days now. Digesting it. Because here’s the thing.
It’s abundantly clear that nobody even realizes I’m at a NOT-QUITE-MEDIUM pay level!
And so, naturally, I am now asking myself, “WHY???” At the beginning of the last two years I worked my supervisor said something along the lines of, “You might get a promotion at the end of the year.” And then I didn’t. Twice. What did I do about it?
Exactly nothing. Not a peep out of me! Not at the beginning of the year. Not in the middle. Not at the end. Not once did I ask why I hadn’t gotten that promotion or what I could do to get it the next time around.
And I’m kicking myself over it now. Why didn’t I EVER bring it up? I’ll tell you why.
Because I AM A WOMAN.
I don’t mean I thought to myself, “I better not ask about that promotion because I’m a woman.” Of course I didn’t think THAT. But I did think things like:
- If I ask about a promotion I will appear ungrateful. In this economy I should just be thankful I have a job that, admittedly, already pays well.
- I don’t want to be presumptuous. Or braggy. My work product will speak for itself.
- I definitely don’t want to come across like one of those people who’s just trying to get ahead. Those people are so annoying. (They are.)
- I just don’t want to be that needy employee always asking for handouts and extra favors. I don’t want to be DIFFICULT. I want to be AGREEABLE and LIKABLE.
There are probably men out there that think these sorts of things. But really, I think they’re the woman’s mantra.
Let me be clear. I know with certainty that nobody’s sitting in a board room grabbing promotions out of our tiny, female grasps. I did this to myself. And this lesson is coming, quite literally, at a price.
Advocating for yourself doesn’t make you a bitch. I think this belief is what sexism looks like in today’s world.