Yesterday we had a visitor to our office. He’s an older gentleman and a bit of a legend in the industry. I’ve spoken to him a couple times on the phone and he’s always seemed both polite and affable.
However when he arrived I realized that he’s still living in the dark ages.
He immediately called me “sweetheart” and complimented my appearance. He then asked me to get him a coffee. I can only assume that he addressed the request to me because I was the only woman present. At a glance he dismissed me as a glorified secretary, simply because of gender.
Never mind that I oversee the finances, manage human resources, as well as supervise both the purchasing and shipping departments of a multi-million dollar company. Never mind that I’m a member of the management team that makes decisions on behalf of the company on a daily basis.
Welcome to the 21st century where sexism is alive and well. I’ve read numerous articles by folks loudly proclaiming that gender inequality in the workplace is a myth. Boys and girls, I’m here to disabuse you of that notion. Folks who deny wage gap, glass ceiling, harassment, and gender bias obviously have never been asked to fetch coffee based solely on the fact they were wearing a skirt.
In addition to the assumption that I must be a receptionist, I’ve had men try to explain math and science to me as if I were a toddler. A vendor once asked me if I worked because my husband didn’t make enough money to support me. I’ve had clients make inappropriate comments and inquiries about my appearance and private life that they wouldn’t dare address to my male peers. I have handled payroll at a company where the wage inequity was alarming.
I even once had a male coworker slap me on the a$$ with a file folder while I was standing at the copier. No. I’m not joking.
The unfortunate thing is that many women are conditioned to accept this. We don’t stand up for ourselves, we don’t make waves. It’s just the way things are.
And it always will be, unless we challenge it.
For the record, I sent an intern for the coffee.