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You won’t like me when I’m angry

September 5, 2010

That’s right I’m about to bring out the b-word. You know the one. It’s the one male colleagues call me when I’m not being sympathetic enough to their little problems that day. When I say “I’m sorry I’m really busy and have to work on this” or “yeah that’s a shame but there’s nothing I can say or do that will help.” They know the guys will tell them to grow a pair and suck it up. But they expect me to nod my head, tell them they’re totally victimized, and be their mommy/sister/grandmother substitute for the day.

I read Evil HR Lady a lot. People write to her about corporate conundrums and she answers them as best she can. I’m not a fan of HR as most people have reduced its effectiveness to nil. However, her advice is usually so in keeping with what I see in the working world it’s like it could have sprang out of my head the way Athena sprang out of Zeus’s skull (and you thought a c-section was rough). Until today. She writes over on BNET, women who complain about sexism are just pansy whiners and have only themselves to blame. Okay, I’m paraphrasing a little (ok a lot). She’s saying, effectively, women are responsible for their own choices and that often women choose family over career and can’t complain when they’re discriminated against at work. When discussing one conference’s failure to get more women speakers EHRL says this:

It’s not that they are discriminating against women. It’s that women are choosing not to enter into the field in the first place, and those that do choose to enter in are so busy they can’t speak at every conference.

EHRL criticizes women who complain about being discriminated against in the workplace, saying most of them made their own choices and are responsible for the outcomes. Well I haven’t met any of these women. You know who complains where I work? Old white guys. They like to talk loudly about how hard they have it. How easy it is to be a woman or a minority these days. How everything out there is to help minorities or women. There’s women’s centers, minority organization, where’s their organization for poor, discriminated against middle class christian white men? I mean what with the war on christmas and all, you just really got to feel for these guys. Positions just get handed to women and minorities, we don’t even have to work for it.

The real life me is a lot less chatty and honest than I am here. The real life me nods sympathetically and doesn’t point out there’s still a gender wage gap. That after a mere THREE YEARS of working experience, women engineers make less than male engineers. I can’t say that crap out loud. You even hint that you have it a little tough as a minority or a woman at my work they treat like you some monster that’s tearing apart life as they know it.

When minorities complain where I work they do it in careful whispers. I’ve talked about it before. And I dare not say anything. When someone higher up told me to organize and take minutes because “girls are good at that” I couldn’t say anything. Because he is a superior. And correcting a superior gets you fired, male or female. When another higher up rejected a candidate for a promotion because “she is pregant and we are about to lose her soon” I could only watch helplessly. She came back to work after the baby, and will never know she wasn’t considered due to her pregnancy. I waited over a year to get into a technical role, was told I needed to “be patient” and not get “so uppity” that they had to make sure I was “qualified” first. Only to watch several other men get transferred into the same position shortly after with way less education, and significantly less experience. Perhaps qualified was a euphemism for penis. However, if I ever verbalized a complaint I would be gone faster than you can say “at will state”.

I know the choices we make contribute to how we are treated at work. Like when I wear the magnets on my boobs that perpetually attract my boss’s eyeballs. Definitely my choice sorry. Or maybe my choice I have boobs at all. Perhaps I should lop them off if I don’t want people staring at them. Or when my boss just started rearranging his balls in front of me I made the choice not to say out loud “what the f!#^& are you doing? did you really just grab your balls right in front of me? since when did that become ok office ettiquette?”

As for EHRL thinking it a trivial matter that we worry about women speaking at conferences I ask her to think again. The engineers I work with are very visual people. And when managers make a decision about whether to hire you, promote you, etc they do it almost instantaneously. They have an immediate judgment as to who you are, how good you are, and what you’re all about. When they’re thinking about whether to hire you or promote you they flash back to “what makes a good engineer” and inevitably start thinking about good engineers they have known. If all those good engineers are white dudes they might think you as a woman or as a minority male are not “qualified.” They’ll think that white guy they just interviewed “has what it takes” without even realizing it’s because he matches up with all their previous experience. They’re not actively trying to discriminate, probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. I don’t wring my hands and call it illegal. Sometimes I write about it here, to blow off some steam and try to remind myself I’m not alone in this world.

Then some woman comes along and says “i’m not a feminist” or “i think women are just whining”. And I think she’s either completely ignorant, or is trying to fit in with the boys club. She knows men don’t like “feminists” and pictures them with hairy legs and bad attitudes. Not people who stand up for a woman’s right to get paid equally or that no woman deserves to be raped no matter how she’s dressed or how she acts. That women should be treated as equal human citizens not second class objects. By that definition many men could probably count themselves as feminists. But a few crazy people have convinced society as a whole that “women’s rights” are completely bunk and that a good woman criticizes her own kind for wanting representation.

If the women working in a tech discipline is 20% and the number of women speaking at a conference for that industry is 0% that’s discrimination. It doesn’t mean miraculously all the women are busy. It means the guys in charge are going by Ye Olde System of who you know and picking guys they worked with, or their friends, etc. Putting a few competent women up is a good way of proving to the naysayers that women are just as competent as men. Because if you keep excluding them from public speaking or from management a certain sector of society will continue to believe women are just not good at those things and not bother to hire or promote the women who do want to work in those industries.I’ve heard that bullshit before. The “we just can’t get enough women” line. It’s about as accurate as employers, in this economy, still not hiring because they “aren’t getting qualified applicants.” EHRL has never worked in a male dominated industry. Sure, maybe she worked for a company that was male dominated, but if she’s in HR she never experienced the full barbarity that is being in a technical role amongst the dudes. Industry average for my field is 10%. In my classes there are about 20% females. And yet in my department, there is less than one percent female engineers. I’m sure that’s not discrimination. Probably women whining. I’m sure the women in my classes are choosing to go do something else. Like raise their baby daddy’s baby instead of working in an industry like mine.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2010 3:00 am

    Amen, sister!

  2. September 5, 2010 3:33 am

    spot on. (I think. I was so mad after reading that link so I am going to assume you meant with your post that you don't agree on the "whining"…. since that is what I agree with. That it is something else, and not whining…)I think what makes me most sad tonight though is that I have realized how many of my fellow female grad student collegues who are now in a part time job with nothing to do with the graduate degree…. which means that they are now on the "why do we let women go through grad school if they are not going to use it" even though there might be more to it than that. but still, they are (uninentionally but still) making the argument that I am probably going to go to part time and therefore I shouldn't get that promotion since I will "probably" be home raising those babies for my babies daddy… if I ever have children that is. sometimes I long to be 45+ and be able to say "clearly no children, give me the effing job alright?!")sorry about the rant. sore subject. and I am tired of my boobs 😉

  3. September 5, 2010 8:57 am

    Chall-that's a great point, seems like there's always criticism that education/promotions are "wasted" on women. And yeah, doesn't matter whether you're not going to have kids, whether you will, or whether you're already done they'll always hold it against you, right?Nice to see I'm not alone today!

  4. September 5, 2010 6:11 pm

    I'm in the 1% club too. Mostly, I just accept this is the way it is, but sometimes I look around the room and think 'something isn't right here. This is not the way it should be.' Thanks for preaching the message, and keep it coming.

  5. September 5, 2010 9:50 pm

    Great post, FrauTech! I am in a techical field (border of physics/electrical engineering) where women are severely underrepresented, but I have never worked in industry. The situations you describe sound really terrible… In academia, I think once you are hired you no longer have a boss, so many of the day-to-day supervisor/supervisee issues you describe, which can result in firing, are not there. It looks like I should really count my blessings that I have the job I do…It seems to me that for every educated woman who does decide to leave in order to have a family, the powers that be feel more entitled to stifle the careers of 50 other women on the basis of "not worth consideration/promotion for reasons of possessing and potentially using a uterus". I have been visiting your site intermittently, but I think I have officially become a fan. Keep up the good work!

  6. September 5, 2010 10:19 pm

    I haven't clicked over to the article, as I think my head might explode. What with already in anger overload and all. I will keep the line, "it was my choice to the wear that magnets on my boobs that perpetually attract my boss's eyeballs. Definitely my choice sorry" in back pocket. Excellent post!

  7. September 6, 2010 6:07 pm

    Awesome post! I really have nothing to add, other than to second GMP's I am so glad I don't have to worry about getting fired in that way.

  8. September 6, 2010 7:17 pm

    Sorry to link to Dansdata AGAIN, but today's post might cause your safety valve to burst: summary: Trained musicians thought that formally dressed women played better, despite the audio being identical; classical orchestra's female representation increased when auditions were behind a screen.

  9. September 7, 2010 3:16 am

    Fantastic post! In response to comments from academics, I'm not sure women with kids in academia have it that much better. I do agree that women without kids in academia have the great advantage of not having too many promotions to worry about (one to Associate Prof, one to tenured prof – often at the same time as Associate Prof – and one to Full Prof.)Academia is a job that can easily take over your life, and I do feel that women who need to pick up their kids from daycare are frowned upon in some places because they have to cancel research meetings if their kid is sick, can't stay late etc. In my observations, they do finish the job once the kid is in bed, but it's easy for people to make (wrong) assumptions.The other issue is that a lot of academics in science and engineering need grants to keep their lab running, and I think white males tend to invite each other more often to collaborate on grants but women are more likely to be left out.

  10. September 9, 2010 1:41 am

    great post! Sounds like I wouldn't want to read Evil HR Lady. But maybe that's why she's Evil. 😉

  11. September 9, 2010 2:20 am

    A-fucking-men sister. *I* like you when you angry-rant. Just don't keel over from a heart attack cuz of it please. The kicker at my workplace is the focus on assimilation. We do online training sessions about diversity, with no mention of privilege, but slide after slide about assimilation. Do Not Force Women and Minority Men To Assimilate. Take your quiz and get your certificate after all that learning. So what happens? The old white dudes hire more white dudes, and definitely DO NOT have to "worry" about assimilation! They hire dudes cut from the same cloth! SIR YES SIR!jc

  12. September 9, 2010 8:44 pm

    Oh boy was that a good post. I've blogged about this on and off – and included statistical analysis. Just made me severely depressed.

  13. September 10, 2010 7:03 pm

    Well said. I actually missed this post before posting mine because I'm so far behind on blogs. Actually, I was so ticked at the evil lady I actually removed her from my blogroll. Which is totally immature, I know, but hey. (And punned on her post title as well, actually)


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