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the 'girls' in the office

(49 Posts)
BerylStreep Thu 15-Dec-16 18:00:23

Please, I need to vent, and also to somehow gather my thoughts about a culture within my workplace that I really object to.

I work in a very large, male dominated public sector organisation. I am in a middle management role. Our admin office has a team of about 10 women, most of whom are in their mid-50s. No men in the team.

The (female) line managers in the admin office always, always, without exception refer to the team as 'the girls'. I'll ask 'the girls' to do that, I'll talk to 'the girls'. I absolutely hate it, but the women in the team all seem to be quite comfortable with it. I make a point when I am speaking to the office managers of referring to them as 'your team' or 'your staff', but it seems too subtle to have made any difference.

Because it is so persistent, I have noticed that other people from other teams also refer to them as 'the girls'.

It really annoys me. I do not have direct management responsibility for them, but I feel really strongly that this is an inappropriate phrase to use in a professional setting. I think it is patronising, and infantilises grown women, and somehow demeans them, but I'm not sure if I am explaining it well. It eventually stopped being ok to refer to women as 'love' in the workplace, so how is it ok to refer to women as 'girls'?

As a women in such a male dominated sector, I know how difficult it has been over the years to be taken seriously.

Do you think I am over-thinking it and should just get over it? I'm contemplating raising it at our next management meeting, but given I am not their manager, there is potential to be seen as meddling and militant. But I do think there is a need to challenge this lazy and unprofessional way of referring to women in the workplace.

I've hard a hard day and am tired, and I know I am not expressing myself well, but what do you think?

VestalVirgin Thu 15-Dec-16 18:13:24

I think you are right, it is sexist shit, but I have no experience with this sort of thing, so can't help you there.

... is there an all-male team you can refer to as "the boys" to subtly make a point?

BerylStreep Thu 15-Dec-16 18:22:44

I wouldn't do that as I think it would be equally unprofessional.

It is the fact that the admin team seem to be so content with it which makes me hmm

GunnyHighway Thu 15-Dec-16 18:27:19

Calling a team of blokes "the boys" is fairly normal isn't it?

70sDinnerPartyClassic Thu 15-Dec-16 19:28:09

That would get on my nerves too.

All you can do is refer to them as something else yourself. I wouldn't raise it personally - if they don't mind - I don't see what the mileage is.

I am bad at this stuff though.

70sDinnerPartyClassic Thu 15-Dec-16 19:28:59

Actually when it happened the first time I might've laughed and said "aren't they all about 40" or whatever but that would have been genuine and it's probably a bit too late to pull that off now!

Violetcharlotte Thu 15-Dec-16 19:29:56

In my team we quite often say 'the girls' and 'the boys' but we all get in well and it's fairly laid back. Would never refer to women in another team as 'the girls'

Childrenofthestones Thu 15-Dec-16 22:20:14

GunnyHighway said -
"Calling a team of blokes "the boys" is fairly normal isn't it?"

Of course it is but don't let that get in the way of a good moan.

70sDinnerPartyClassic Thu 15-Dec-16 23:14:34

I would never refer to a group of men at work as "the boys" and I've not heard anyone else do it. Probably depends in what industry you're in etc

Whathaveilost Thu 15-Dec-16 23:25:28

I don't know if it a regional thing but it perfectly acceptable where I live. A group of women from early adulthood to their 80s ( my nan and her friends) refer to themselves as girls. Same with the men, refered to as boys or lads.
Same at work. No one cares but it doesn't diminish the standard or respect we have for each other.
Women's night out sounds too formal, girls night out sounds more fun.
'Girls' 'lads' at work sounds more approachable in my opinion.

WomanFromAnotherPlace Fri 16-Dec-16 05:29:09

I've been in your position. Many of the staff would refer to our department as 'The Girls'. Used to annoy most of us, but the assistant manager did address it. Whenever it was said she used to say "Not Girls.Customer Service Department, or at least 'The Women', please". She'd always say it with a smile on her face and never showed how pissed off she was.

We were talking about this and said what pissed us off was because we were the only female team (1 or 2 other women dotted in other depts), we were identified as a collective on EVERY occasion, whereas it was always "oh, Kev will do that for you", "Does Peter want a cake?", "Jane will know(one woman in another dept) However it was always "I'd see The Girls about that".

Lucy7400 Fri 16-Dec-16 06:50:55

I've been on the receiving end of this. I worked with another woman doing all the admin for a team. We were always referred to as 'The Girls'. I challenged it once and explained how patronising it was. They didnt get it but it did reduce it.

TheBogQueen Fri 16-Dec-16 06:59:47

Yes we have had this - I work in a male dominated public sector organisation too.

Could you have quiet word with the manager? Non confrontational by just - is this the sort of language we should be using? Especially with the push for equality etc?

Scrumptiousbears Fri 16-Dec-16 07:06:31

I work in an place where I think it's fairly equal male/female. We have a pink and blue table in our office. It's just the way it's worked really. The pink table are by far the most productive and actually give a toss. The blue table not so much. We have named ourselves (well it just evolved). I personally don't see it a sexist or an issue unless the names are used in a derogatory way.

Datun Fri 16-Dec-16 07:39:00

'The girls' trips off the tongue, doesn't it? Saying 'the women' sounds clunky and point making for some reason. I can see it being subtly changed to become 'the wimmin' with an inward eye roll.

And the more I think about it, the more I think it needs to change. Let's make the damn point.

EvenTheWind Fri 16-Dec-16 07:41:42

Oh stones, what boyish charm you have!


<eye roll>

WomanFromAnotherPlace Fri 16-Dec-16 07:47:13

Datun she said 'The Women' sarcastically, sorry should have made that clearer.

EvenTheWind I know this has nothing to do with the thread, but is your username in reference to the film Even The Rain? A favourite of mine smile

Trills Fri 16-Dec-16 07:52:03

I agree with WomanFromAnotherPlace regarding being identified as a collective.

If they are a team and any one of them will do, use the name of the team.

More likely they each have their own specialities and, if they were not all women people would refer to them individually much more often.

Joinourclub Fri 16-Dec-16 08:00:19

I think it's less sexist and more about being condescending to people in a more menial role/ below them. The group of males in the 'workshop' may be referred to as the boys or the lads, but the group of male senior managers wouldn't!

Datun Fri 16-Dec-16 08:08:34


Ah. We can't win, can we?

PenelopeFlintstone Fri 16-Dec-16 08:27:34

I'm in admin and we are 'the girls' or 'the ladies'. The men are known as 'the boys' including the senior management

treaclesoda Fri 16-Dec-16 08:29:46

This sort of annoys me because it is infantilising.

But in every place I've ever worked, the male staff have been referred to as 'the boys', even the senior ones. So I've never felt I could object.

TheMortificadosDragon Fri 16-Dec-16 08:41:45

Why refer to male and female staff separately at all though?

Whether it's 'girls' or 'boys' it's not really appropriate workplace language.

A line I once used to pull up DH when - in the context of a discussion with our DD about how he was completely non-sexist - referred to interviewing 'a girl'. To which I retorted something like, oh, I didn't know you interviewed school work experience people. DD --> grin and he accepted it with good grace.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 16-Dec-16 08:44:40

I've never since starting work in 1982 referred to "the girls" "the boys" "the lads"

I can't recall ever hearing these terms being used , except occasionally in a derogatory way "e.g the (name of section/department) boys are a lazy bunch /were plastered at the office do" (and it's always a male team that gets spoken of in that way)

I would refer to the specfic team or department or a specific person in a team or department.

EvenTheWind Fri 16-Dec-16 08:47:27

Hi WomanFAP

No, it's a lyric! I will look up the film you mention though.

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