Remember the 1985 mediocre teen comedy “Just One of the Guys” about a high school girl who feels discriminated against when she applies for a summer job at a local newspaper but loses out to two boys because she was considered too attractive for the job? She responds in the fall by enrolling in a new high school as a boy to see if she’ll be taken more seriously. A series of misadventures follows as they typically do in teen movies of that era. According to IMDB, the movie was based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” not that it gives it any artistic credibility.
However, art sometimes imitates life in the business world. A male colleague once told my significant other that he couldn’t work with her because she was too good looking. To this day, whenever she goes to client meetings or job interviews, she removes her contacts and wears glasses.
At her previous job as vice president at an engineering firm, women were allegedly treated and compensated differently from the men in the organization with similar or lesser abilities and credentials. One example was the woman with a master’s degree, as well as more knowledge and experience than a recently hired male colleague in a similar position, and she was compensated significantly less. One might posit that despite lacking similar credentials and experience, he might have been better at his job than she; however, even he was stunned when he learned of the discrepancy. The reason for the disparity, according to management, was the female employee was argumentative.
Another female engineer was constantly being interrupted by male colleagues during staff meetings. Their complaint about her: She was too timid.
The coupe de grace for my significant other at that firm was when she was reprimanded by her male boss for sending an email about a project to one of her male team members involved on that job that was deemed “too direct.” The email simply outlined the scope of the job and how to present this information to the client to manage the client’s expectations.
A few months later, during her annual review, this “too direct” email was referenced by her new supervisor. Apparently, it had found its way into her “file.” When asked if he had read the email, her supervisor said that he had not. She now works for another engineering firm””one with a different culture, particularly in how it treats its female employees.
Admittedly, these stories are from one woman’s perspective and the men may view circumstances differently. However, the inconvenient truth is that there are thousands of similar stories in the workforce, maybe even millions.
As we take the time to highlight women in our industry in this month’s Women Influencers’ issue, let’s not minimize the challenges women in our industry and other industries continue to face, even with positive advances made during the past decade. Change can be slow and arduous, but it is promising to see how the women featured in this year’s Women Influencers cover story are succeeding against all kinds of odds, despite not being “just one of the guys.”
From my perspective, it’s inspiring to be part of an organization that shines a spotlight on women in our industry, and I’m proud to say we remain committed to doing just that as we look long into the future. That’s something, our founder Frank Cannata, would say you can take to the bank.
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