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To want to be treated the same as the men at work?

18 replies

whosiwhatsit · 21/04/2013 08:54

I'm a professional at a new job in a field that's male-dominated. At my old job, though, there were a few more females about which made things a little, but not a lot easier. In my new job I feel I'm not getting the same respect as the men are and it's pissing me off.

Just one example - I was in a training course last week with a few men and a male instructor. Some of the guys were being complete know-it-alls even to the point of the most ignorant one saying he shouldnt have to take the course because he knew the material already (he blatantly did not). Yet when I tried to correct one small error the instructor had made he (the instructor) did his best to shut me up and then pretty much ignored me for the rest of the course.

In the meantime almost all the rest of the females in my office are admin and they're really nice so far. But I feel like maybe I shouldn't have lunch with them all the time because I want to be seen as a professional by the bosses. AIBU for that? Also I feel awkward asking for admin support while the men seem to get away with just demanding it.

In a previous male-dominated job I was frequently told I was "too argumentative" while the men got away with being much more pushy and forceful than I was.

So AIBU to be sick of having to be so careful about how I'm perceived and having to nod and smile while being "mansplained" to for fear of making enemies and not being sen as a team player? Or should i just give up and bring in home baking, talk about my cats and make tea for everyone. Or is there another way?

OP posts:

chaime · 21/04/2013 09:03

Read Karren Brady's book about how she got on in a male-dominated business sector. Her attitude is brilliant, she basically tells them what they're saying and how they're behaving is unacceptable if she takes issue with something.

How's your friendship with the guys in your workplace? Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you have to stick to making only female friends.


bringmeroses · 21/04/2013 09:11

Can't really help but having grown up in seventies/eighties when women were encouraged to feel equal and empowered while in education, I am disgusted workplaces can still be such sexist mysoginistic (sp?) environments. I'd try and behave as if you are one of them (the ones you admire if any not the shouty mines bigger than yours types) and yes be friends with them if poss, relationship building seems to be 40% of the battle in success at work.


NoWayPedro · 21/04/2013 09:28

YANBU I work in an all male team (actually i'm their manager :)) although overall the company is more 50/50 (except the directors of course!).

I'm girly (ish) and don't try to be one of the guys. I'm friendly with them and will have a chat etc. but don't feel the need to be alpha female to be respected.

Re. your argumentative comment, its annoying if the guys get away with it but I'd say no one should behave like that, so don't. You might find you're appreciated for not doing that and it highlights they are even more. There is a big difference between being assertive and 'shouty'. When I'm in mtgs and all the guys are going on with themselves and arguing, I observe and wait to make a really poignant point that isn't majorly off topic. Tends to shut em up/realise they were off point and that I know my onions.

Re. the admin help; I am sure if you delegate appropriately, ask respectfully and acknowledge the admin girls work - you'll soon prove who is the professional rather than the guys who are barking orders.

GL :)


NoWayPedro · 21/04/2013 09:30

Also re. lunch, I find chatting to people at all levels of a business and in all the departments is the best strategy and makes for more interesting lunches too (plus you get gossip from all so are generally pretty well informed :))


TiggyD · 21/04/2013 10:40

Work somewhere that has more women in it already. I know it's not easy being the first/only one of a sex in a place. Be professional(more than anyone else) and pick your fights.
Are there any outside support bodies you can join? ie Women In Engineering?


LessMissAbs · 21/04/2013 10:47

Is it engineering, OP?


HazleNutt · 21/04/2013 11:03

I'm quite high up in a very male dominated company so I understand how you feel. When I first started (coming from a more mixed environment), men would simply talk over me and expect me to be nice and shut up, as I guess most women in management before me did. First I was shocked, but then thought that fine, if this is the way you want to play it.

So - while I don't participate in the silly "mine is bigger than yours arguments" - I also did not shut up when I had a point to make and someone simply started talking over me. I made sure I never started my sentences with "i'm sorry but.." "This might be a stupid idea but.." Men never do. If it's my area and I know it, I will say so. I will tell people talking over me loud and clear that I was not finished yet.

Now it was their turn to be shocked Grin. But it worked. Yes I'm sure some see me as argumentative, but doing my job well is more important than being seen as nice and fluffy. And if you're generally professional and reasonable, people will still like you.

Of course you don't have to stop having lunch with other women, but I would not limit myself to their company exclusively.


EeyoreIsh · 21/04/2013 11:12

I work in a 50/50 place, but my current team is very male heavy. And some of the boards I sit on have some very 'strong' men (aka loud and bolshy) on them who love to talk over the women in a slightly sneering way.

my approach is to now my stuff backwards. I won't take people talking over me, I hate hate hate it! I'll ask them kindly but firmly to let me finish speaking. That always works better than shouting over. In a meeting, it can be effective to make eye contact with the interrupter, put your hand out and pause in a way that makes it clear you were interrupted and have more to say.

I joined my industry at the bottom as admin and worked my way up. so I have no problems talking to admin or Senior colleagues. They are all important.

generally, I try to just sit back and internally giggle at the men when they behave stupidly.


whosiwhatsit · 21/04/2013 11:19

Thanks, all, this is helping a lot. LMA, yes, it's the energy sector and a lot of my colleagues are engineers.

OP posts:

neunundneunzigluftballons · 21/04/2013 12:03

All I can say is I have been there. I am also in a professional role which is completely male dominated and in every job I have worked in I have more than once been asked to carry out admin tasks that they would not have dreamed of asking the men to do. Nothing wrong with admin tasks obviously just the fact that they were only asking me to do them because I am a woman. I have worked reception for every job I have worked in even though there would be men in less senior roles with less high pressure tasks to attend too. I have always just sucked it up and have done everything I could to get along with the people around me and to let my work speak for itself which I am happy to say it has.

Also I have also been able to use the fact I am a woman to my advantage. While the men were nearly always too proud to ask questions for fear someone might realise that they did not know something I have always been happy to ask as many questions as it took for me to get the job done in as prompt a manner as it could be done. I would say that my example in one company completely changed the culture there and when the men there saw I was happy enough to go around asking questions they started too.

I have made many good friends along the way in admin. I did have to take the admin boss to task at one stage because he loved ordering around the admin women and decided to extend his bossiness to me because I was female even though I was absolutely in no way answerable to him dickhead that he was. Another time I worked for a guy who terrifed all under his reign, he way tiny but hugely intimidating he had a way of making anyone in his presence feel a fraction of their size. When he started that shite with me I took him on and we had a massive row in front of the whole office. It was a long standing joke after among the men because they basically knew they would never have the courage to do it and my boss totally respected me because I stood up to him.

I don't really have any good advice but I decided early on that I had enough to be doing without trying to change the world and in the end I chose trying to get on with people as best I could as the tactic that got me to where I wanted to be.


Trillz · 21/04/2013 12:07

YANBU at all.

When men are pushy they are "leaders" or "assertive", when women are pushy they are "aggressive" or "bossy".


MurderOfProse · 21/04/2013 12:24

Have been there before I became a SAHM a few years ago. Most men were fine in the offices where I worked, but it only took one or two arseholes, often in a management position, to make things quite miserable. I left one fairly prestigious job shortly after graduating as I lacked the confidence to push the issue (my one attempt had my manager patronisingly asking if I thought it was a "girl/boy" thing and when I said it was, he immediately stopped being friendly to me and I ended up with even more babyish work than before) but later on in my career I would have put up more of a fight.

I made some great friends over the years at all levels - I really don't think being friends with the more admin-based women made me appear less professional. After all, many of the men, including the managers, were as well. It's often wise to be friends with such people anyway as they're often the best clued up on office politics and better placed to put in a good word for you etc! In several cases I was quite sure the brains and talent behind a manager was mostly due to his smart (er!) assistant Grin


whosiwhatsit · 21/04/2013 13:10

Yes, neunundneunzigluftballons, I too have been asked to do admin tasks such as sort out the filing system for our team which I suspect may be due to me being female rather than simply "new". I managed to push back a bit on that by stating at another meeting with teammates that I want to dive in right away so please share part of the workload with me - and that I would prefer that the work they share deal with our topic area so I can get up to speed quickly.

NoWayPedro, I take your point about not being argumentative. I think it comes from having feelings of resentment build up and then I kind of lash out in order to try to be heard. I have to play it cooler than that, I know.

Chaime, I have started reading the Karen Brady book on your recommendation and the major difference between her and me is confidence. Not to be whiny but I suppose I am still recovering from a difficult childhood where I was abused and constantly told I was stupid. It's therefore hard for me to come across as confident even though I do know I'm smart. I also have less experience than most in my position so I sometimes feel like an imposter but I know I need to at least fake confidence until I start to feel it.

HazleNutt, great point that I need to watch my language and not be too self-deprecating. It's difficult to resist being self-deprecating, though, because I want to be liked and not come across as bossy.

I do think women have a very fine line to walk in a male dominated professional environment and its absolutely exhausting. I just wish I could prove myself solely by the quality of my work!

OP posts:

StealthOfficialCrispTester · 21/04/2013 13:19

Trillz is, depressingly, right.
That said, it's not th case where I work, but I consider myself extremely lucky


NoWayPedro · 21/04/2013 13:27

I think its just little tricks tbh and once you've nailed one (say handling people talking over you first), move on to the next one and so on. Before you know it, they'll be a minor irritation to laugh at and you'll have a load of experience under your belt.

Where I work, its turned out to be my advantage because I'm not seen as hot-headed, emotional and argumentative like a lot all of the other bolshy men and can be relied on to be profession and objective.

You'll be grand :)


tourdefrance · 21/04/2013 13:43

Hi. My company is 80% male but it often feels more than that. I am frequently the only woman in a meeting if 10 people and I'm not admin either.
That Karen Brady book sounds interesting. I have recently been reading "Nice girls don't get the corner office ' and "Hard ball for women'.


HazleNutt · 21/04/2013 14:58

whos, I understand it's difficult, we women have been raised to be nice and please people. But you were hired because of your skills, experience and knowledge, so people actually need to hear your opinion.

According to some studies, if men and women were given the exact same information, men expressed their conclusion based on those as "I know." Women - "I think.."

Once you are aware of this, you'll see it everywhere. But for men, if we express our opinions in the typical female way, this just sounds weak, like we are not sure and don't really care. When asked for my opinion and approval, I used to write something in the lines of "I would suggest that we might also consider changing x to y." This was seen as a suggestion and often nothing was done. Now I write: "Change x to y." Things get done.


chaime · 21/04/2013 15:00

Well Karren Brady's book can be summed up as "work hard and believe in yourself and don't let anyone give you shit" but all the faff inbetween is interesting and I read it when I'm feeling a little powerless myself. OP I know how you must feel as I didn't start out with the greatest levels of confidence either and being the youngest in my workplace leaves me feeling like I'm starting on a back foot too. You're new, but after a while you will realise how far you've come and relish the opportunity to build your skills - because confidence (if not innate) is a very very valuable skill to have. Good luck!

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