Monday, February 9th, 2015
REMEMBERING AND WONDERING—
Has it gotten any better?
My first job interview with GE for their advertising department asked if I was willing to take birth control pills for the three year training rotation after asking if I was going to marry. (I was and I went into the Peace Corps instead of GE)
I wanted to be a foreign diplomat and my first day in college my advisor laughed and said, “Then marry one. How about English Lit as a major?” (I said OK and went on to Beowolf.)
I taught Junior High English for three years (Oh, thank you English major)
in a tough inner city school. There was no time for gender discrimination. We were all teachers trying to survive and do some good. (Lesson–principals have no power).
My first job after divorce in social services, my boss said, “Don’t talk about your kids, never call in sick to take care of kids and no family photos?” This was Children and Family Services in Illinois. Get it? Children services!! Luckily my two women colleagues and I formed an alliance and drove the man nuts. We wall papered our offices with family photos and would go into his office before important meetings and say we had to go home due to “you know”. I received nice promotions every six months and my last boss said I was too opportunistic. (I had never applied for any of the jobs i got)
My next boss who was CEO of a local bank was quite lovely but always always always introduce me as his “sunshine girl”. (Mild. But I was in my forties and quite capable of being crabby.)
I kind of enjoyed the hazing at a public utility where I worked in HR. The union guys put me up in a cherry picker and left me for an hour until I yelled down that I intended to use it as a restroom. I wrote the policy on AIDS there and created and ran training on the topic as well but when it was discussed at the top level I was politely asked to leave the room for gentility sake!!! (I blushed and left–riiiight.)
At my next job (one I was lucky enough to make a career and loved) at an important Board meeting where I knew I was being looked at for promotion to officer, I was the only woman in the room. I was asked to get more fruit and to monitor the room temperature better by the Board members.
I did a great presentation about creating an inclusive work place and was thanked only for my managing the hotel staff. (Very fun for laughs after)
When my colleague guys got too off color with jokes and body parts i would warn them i was going to say the word “uterus” until they stopped. They did.
One officer showed me his collection of sex tools and catalogues that were in his desk drawer. I said, “Wow, that’s a really exaggerated need, I wonder why?”
He laughed and we went on to business.
In a Union meeting where I was asking to open the contract for some innovative work, the guys threatened to take off their pants. Two did. I said, “I have three sons and a husband. Let’s order pizza and get the job done.”
Then there’s the time an Officer had on a suede jacket and I rubbed the sleeve and said I liked the softness. He said, “Too bad I didn’t wear my suede pants.”
(I had to laugh at his quick humor and he became a supporter for my most progressive work.)
At my most important global Board presentation, I was two minutes late and on deck to talk immediately rather than in the afternoon. Why? At the dinner the night before I was put into the spouses van (which I enjoyed) and the guys put in a separate van (nice little wives have their separate but equal van). The men decided to move the meeting to an earlier time and re-arrange the agenda BUT forgot to let me know. (I nailed my presentation–adrenaline does that)
I worked directly with good CEO’s. Good people I would want on my jury. They couldn’t, wouldn’t monitor it all. And in my work I took care of and fired enough people for truly outrageous behavior so I knew the company’s intentions were right.
I had to know when goofiness was worth a fight, when it was a kind of inclusion into a club, and when I was truly discriminated against. Most ,in regard to me, was petty and often funny. What wasn’t fair, I now believe, was being slower to promotion, left out inadvertently of adhoc discussions, and inequitable pay.
I learned to fight better for my own cause because it just could not be seen by the male top leader blind spots. Once seen, usually fixed. That is rare.
Has it gotten any better? Have you made it any better? Or have the ladies (yea) taken over the castle?