Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Feminism, and other topics guaranteed to start a fight at a dinner party

Last week at work, I had a tremendous opportunity, to attend a meeting for my project with the local planning permission board with several other members of my firm, including a partner and the ceo.

When I was called in and asked if I was available to attend the meeting, my supervisor made it clear, though he had plenty of other false reasons he could have used, that I was being asked to attend to be the token female.  I put this down to slight awkwardness on his part, and tried not to be offended - title ix or not, this was going to be an important opportunity for me, and I was going to make the most of it.

When he then announced to the team that I had gone, he again mentioned that the reason I had gone was because I was female, and the rest of the team that had to go was male.  I have definitely heard of sexism being an issue in my field - there is still a large divide between percentage of women graduating from accredited schools (just over 50%) versus women practicing (something like 35%) versus women who are principals (something like 20%).  I understand there are factors involved that women are removing themselves from the field, not being forced out, but still - I am not sure how I feel about the whole thing.

Should I be appreciative that my supervisor did not try and sugar coat things for me?  The truth is that I am at least competent, or there was no way they would have risked me at such an important meeting, and I did benefit hugely from the trip.  But is that really all I am worth?


  1. Um, that sounds like TOTAL CRAP to me. Sorry your boss doesn't have any filters? I definitely understand not necessarily wanting to say anything because you want to protect your career first, but for the record, I think it was lame that he chose to basically insult you in order to protect the pathetically fragile egos of other people in the office who might have been slighted about not being invited. :( Maybe a well-placed joke down the road would make the point without drawing too much fire?

    (this is Michelle from APW, BTW)

  2. Also working in a predominately male field ... being the token female? Oh yah, been there. And boy, in corporate real estate, you better be able to drink with the boys, too. (I thank my Hungarian heritage for my alcohol tolerance.) And of course, no qualms were made about making sure I KNEW I was the token female.

    That being said ... good on you for working hard enough that he selected you to go. Even as a "token", you still had to earn your place on the team.

    THAT being said ... there is absolutely NO reason he had to belittle you in front of your coworkers. Like Michelle said, if it was to protect their egos ... ugh. I hate that type of office politics. Heck, I hate ALL office politics ... but that was especially foul.

    I'd take it as a compliment ... chances are he knew YOU could handle it (both the meeting and the ego-stomp) while your co-workers couldn't. Either way, your first big project meeting (SUCH a great experience) is worth celebrating.

    Your drink is on me when we get dinner. Got it?

  3. I'll drink to that.

    I thought I had a good handle on where I wanted to stand, as a modern woman in a modern world. But sometimes, I am less than sure. I grew up with every priveledge, every oppourtunity, and with family who believed I could accomplish anything. It makes me sad to think that I might be letting someone else limit what I can do.

  4. I'm sorry you're so upset for the rationale that your boss gave for you going on the trip - your spelling shows how upset you are - but look on the positive side. You got the experience of going to the planning board meeting where you were not seen by others as the token female but as a member of the team who was valued enough to be brought along. You also had some great time to interact with the owner of the company. In the end its not why your boss said he brought you along that matters, but what you did with the opportunity. And I'm sure that you showed yourself to be very capable of dealing with the public, the review board and the customer. And you took advantage of the travel time to establish yourself with the principle of the company. The only person who looks bad out of this is the boss who wasn't willing to commend you for your skills.

    Although it doesn't look like things have progressed that much in 30 years, you graduated in a professional class that was almost 50% female, my graduating class had 10%. You can accomplish anything so don't let anyone play mind games with you.

  5. Hey! Just discovered your blog from APW (I was the Megan in Megan and Paul's wedding that Paul planned.) This a good blog. I think I shall follow you.

    P.S. In terms of your supervisor warning you...well, the whole thing is just shit. Warning or not, bringing it to light is crap without the recognition of the shittiness of it. Does that make sense? It's like enabling.