I recently caught myself feeling apathetic towards one of my female managers. I hate to admit this because I am a feminist; I believe men and women are equal, and in the workplace they should be judged based on their actions and abilities. This seems pretty obvious and straightforward, but in the real world, we don’t always act based on our beliefs (read why that is here). So, when I had these feelings of apathy, I asked myself one question - the single question I always ask myself when I have a negative feeling about another woman.
“In this situation, how would I feel towards this person if they were a man”.
This question is my check against inequality between men and women. It’s simple and effective. Let me show you what I mean.
I report to two men and one woman. My Managers and I communicate a lot through instant messaging and one day, my female manager was being particularly blunt in the messages. Usually she would be quite casual using “haha’s” and emojis, but this day, she did not. I felt like she was very short with me and I couldn’t think of anything I had done wrong, or differently. To be honest, I held some negative feelings toward her for the rest of the day, and probably a few days after. I finally snapped out of it when she and I had a casual lunch room chat and she was back to being as friendly and positive as she normally is. At this time, I thought to myself “would I have felt this way if it were one of my male managers who suddenly became “short” with me”?
The answer was no.
I looked back at the chat history between my female manager I and realized that if it were one of the other 2 male managers who used the exact same language, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Then I thought she may have been short with me because she was tired or stressed, or a number of other reasons, and then I stop myself again. If it were one of my male managers, I wouldn’t even bother to justify their being short with me, so why do I need to for my female manager? I hate realizing my unfair biases, but I’m also happy that I have the ability to realize them because many people don’t. Anyone can easily fall into these societal inequalities and the more we catch ourselves doing these things, the closer we get to equality.
It’s not fair that I expect my female manager to be “nicer” and more “pleasant” than my male managers. Do we expect too much of women? Or do we not expect enough of men?
I can think of countless other times where I had to pause and ask myself the question, “In this situation, how would I feel towards this woman if they were a man”. I can also think of countless times where I was on the receiving end, and was being treated like the bad guy because I wasn’t as “nice” or “pleasant” as other people expect me to be.
For example, I’m usually the one at a group outing organizing and telling people what to do and where to do it. People who don’t know me just think I’m bossy, but in reality, I just really like efficiency and hate wasting time. If I were a man, people would applaud me for getting s*** done.
So, What to do about it?
My call to action is simple.
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