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Green eyed lady

May 31, 2011

There's this idea out there (stereotype?) that women are our own worst enemies. That when it comes to disagreements or getting along with our bosses we tend to fight amongst ourselves. I've only seen the result of this attitude (my last female boss who told me she had trouble working with female bosses, though I had no problems working for her, or male bosses who have assumed females would not get along) rather than the actual playing out of this. I suppose because it's on my mind a lot I struggle with it. When a man and a man don't get along, they are just people. We women don't have that luxury, so I make an effort to speak positively about other women and get along with them in the few instances I get to actually work with another female.
 
Over a year ago, a more senior female engineer left my group and company for a job where she's doing something that at the time was more "fulfilling" to her. She took a significant cut in pay to do so and left behind a higher level position, pay and respect than someone with her experience would normally achieve. Because of what she accomplished while here, she has a reputation of awesomeness. So when she had an opportunity to take some time of work recently, she suggested coming back on a temporary contract basis for a number of weeks.
 
I was going to go into the more personal reasons, that I suspect the significant cut in pay she took is hurting her. That the money she could make here could potentially be a lot more, maybe even more if they'd pay her the money they offered her when she tried to leave. But maybe all that's irrelevant.
 
The problem is me, and my attitude. I feel like in order to get half the level of pay and respect she got I've had to work twice as hard. I've been with the company a lot longer and really had to force my way into positions and demand higher pay while she was sort of guided into a higher level role. So despite the fact that we got along well when she was here, I now resent the fact that she's coming back. That my company would make the exceptions to get her a whole lot of extra money while I struggle to get paid the same as entry level engineers with far less experience. It's tough because I don't want to discourage another woman engineer. But I feel like I've finally staked out my space in the time she's been gone, and her reputation and how well-liked she was could outshine me in a matter of weeks. Even if it was a permanent move, it could undo all the prestige I've been working away to earn in the last year. I could be pushed back to a lower rung on the ladder while the higher level tasks get handed back to her. And it doesn't help that the powers that be would probably never give another female engineer the same chance they gave her. Just because they made her the token female engineer isn't her fault even if it does hurt me and even if her coming back hurts me.
 
I wonder if it's the attitude of male superiors and the token-ism that really contributes to this idea that women don't get along. We're lucky to get one seat at the table, and then we're expected to compete over it because we won't get any more seats than that. It'd be easier for me personally to rail against this behavior if it was a guy they were doing this for. I wouldn't feel like I'm sabotaging myself when I rage against the differential treatment.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2011 10:21 pm

    The problem is NOT you. It's the system. It's musical chair. One chair. The dudes control who they like, how the music goes, yadda yadda. They only need 1 woman to show that they aren't sexist asshats by their own definition of discrimination (1 woman=no discrimination!). If they treat 1 woman well, then your and everyotherwoman's concerns about mistreatment are invalid in their pea brains. My advice, which sucks, is to try to be friends with The Other Woman, as best you can. Yes, tokenism does contribute to the cat fight mentality. My own personal circle area of hell calls it Alpha Female syndrome. One dominant woman that we women all must obey. Sadly, the Alpha Female usually gets a big head from the attention, and the women wind up hating her for being an asshole to them. I've seen it enough times to know which way the wind blows. Good working environments don't have these problems. There is a serious lack of good environments, which is itself a problem. jc

  2. May 31, 2011 10:24 pm

    jc put it beautifully. Especially about the Alpha Female starting to believe she's all that and owed worship.

  3. June 1, 2011 3:15 pm

    So, just to be clear, your expectation is that there are certain jobs that managers mentally assign to the 'female engineer' category, and now she's going to get them instead of you? Are you sure that's how it's going to work? It seems like your real competitors here are the "entry level engineers with far less experience" (presumably male) who are getting the good jobs, not a "senior female engineer". I know there's probably a lot more going on here than I can understand from your blog post, but I don't really understand the hostility towards this one other woman in particular, compared to all the shit that's going on with your management and co-workers who have actually been preventing you from progressing as an engineer.

  4. June 1, 2011 6:22 pm

    BLG- I think I already admitted I was part of the problem here. The thing is in my managers' eyes I'm not competing with the entry level engineers, I'm competing for the one spot. I don't think I thought seriously it was her fault for coming back, more a problem with my attitude and the way management has rigged the game.Thanks jc and GMP, it helps to know this is kind of a standard issue rather than something wrong with just me.

  5. June 1, 2011 7:43 pm

    Thanks for the reply. I think my privilege was showing there – I work in a field where there are always at least a few other women, so I've never been in your position. I hope everything works out for both of you, and hopefully in the future there might be more than two women working there at the same time. Good luck!

  6. June 18, 2011 1:02 pm

    Your post really helped me to understand the Article. It has great details and yet it is easy to understand.Thanks for sharing. Buy Essays

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