I was in a meeting the other day and looked around and realized I was the only woman out of eight men. It was a construction meeting for our new office building and I was representing the end user. Everyone was nice. Everyone gave me the floor to speak. No one treated me with disrespect because my profession is museums and not construction management. No one was chauvinistic.
But I realized sitting there that I present myself differently in meetings where I am the only woman. I prepare myself for those off-handed comments I have received in similar meetings, or the patronizing tones, or treating me like I’m a five year old girl who has innocently stumbled upon this meeting of “gentlemen”. I may be soft spoken but I’m not a bimbo.
When I was on a work trip recently installing an exhibit, I was helping a co-worker hang framed prints from the Museum’s collection down a corridor. These were big frames– like 4′ x 5′. At two different occasions, two men walked by us while we balanced on ladders, holding screws, levels, and drills in our hands and made comments about the fact we were female and using power tools. I almost lost my marbles, shouting after them that we are perfectly capable of doing this job!
Several years ago I asked a past male employee during their annual review what additional support I could provide him and his team. He told me that everything was good, and that he felt like we had a good working relationship even though I was a woman. I calmly asked him to clarify what he meant. He was flustered and muttered something about how its great he doesn’t have issues with a woman being his boss and we can work well together…
Oh, ok. Cool.
I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say but it was all twirling inside my head the other day. I know things have come a long way, but I do just fiercely wish that it wasn’t a thing. Why does it even have to be a thing?