by Ines Quandel
The topic for July is gender discrimination, which kicked off with an article about the discrimination women face in the workplace and the roadblocks to cases of sexual discrimination at work addressed. We also decided to add a couple of perspectives from our WomenIN volunteer bloggers, Stacey Stateler and myself.
After I gave myself this blog assignment I had one of those “oh carp” moments. My experience with gender discrimination has been, from my point of view, much milder than what I hear about from friends and colleagues, or read about online. For example, there’s the issue of men hitting on women on LinkedIn via the Messages feature. I’ve seen the topic discuss on LinkedIn and also had a friend ask “what do you do when that happens?” I’ve never had that happen to me. I jokingly blamed it on having a no nonsense, grumpy expression in my profile photo. In reality I have no clue why I’ve been spared such behaviour, though I’m grateful that I have.
My experience may also have been mitigated because I’ve never worked in any male dominated fields. I prefer business advisory roles, in professional offices, and areas that tend to be female dominated. I have worked in contracts and risk management before, and now work in social media marketing. For much of my career my colleagues have mostly been female, with just one or two token males. The majority of managers and team leaders I worked for were women. I suspect this created a good buffer from the discrimination related to pay and promotions.
In my personal sphere I establish what I consider to be acceptable behaviour in any and all relationship and am clear about enforcing my boundaries. My parents encouraged me from a young age to stand up for myself and not put up with crap from anyone. Something I suspect my Dad may have occasionally regretted, since it led to more than one shouting match. I can be very forward and I push my point regardless of the gender of the person with whom I’m dealing. Does that make some people react? Yes. Do I notice or care a whole lot? Mostly no. Unless someone really makes a fuss, in which case I point out that I’m German and we are just a very direct and somewhat pushy people. I don’t need to use this excuse much at all, people don’t often make a fuss. Would I get those some reactions if I were male? Good question.
Overall my experience with direct gender discrimination has been limited to the odd bad quip about my driving skills, penchant for shopping, and my place in the kitchen. My response in those cases is to own it. I will shamelessly “girl park” when I can’t be bothered to straighten out the car, am happy to spend the money I’ve earned on whatever I want, and kicked my boyfriend out of the kitchen a long time ago. It lets me cook what I like best.
Thinking through this I realize that just because I haven’t experienced it personally, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening to someone else. We all have different experiences when it comes to gender discrimination, but we should all have the decency to speak out and speak up against it when we see it happening.