Welcome to another exciting round of sexism at work.
Today’s story will take place over the course of several weeks. Enjoy.
Here’s what happened:
Remember how I’ve been the sole lady working at a few of my past companies? As the person in charge of all things marketing, I felt like women were greatly underrepresented prior to my arrival at one of these said companies.
I made an executive decision to highlight female entrepreneurship in all facets. I covered everything from the types of industries women tend to go into, limited funding options, highlighted some stellar female entrepreneurs, etc.
As someone in marketing, I do nothing haphazardly. There’s always a plan. There’s always a method to the madness.
During the initial week in which I was focusing on women, International Day of the Girl Child was happening mid-week. I was so prepared to discuss this topic and encourage women to start their own businesses. A man in the office
A man in the office had asked me about the topic of the week/day and when I explained it, this particular man was delighted. He thought we should be encouraging women to start their own venture. This reaction almost surprised me in the most welcomed of ways since this particular office is very much aligned with bro culture.
Enjoying the moment was cut short. The comment didn’t come from bro culture though. It was deeper than that.
Another man in my office was muttering under his breath about the topic of discussion. When I stopped to listen I heard him talking about how ridiculous it was that we were entertaining the idea that women should run their own company.
I could blame it on the fact that he was raised in the Middle East. I could say he didn’t truly mean it. But the comments came from this deep place of misogynistic views.
I very quickly addressed the ridiculousness of his statements in front of everyone (it was an open office) and I went back to my computer.
I thought it would be the last of the conversation. I was wrong.
Less than two weeks later during a company-wide meeting that happens weekly, I was asked, as per usual, what the topic of the week is so everyone is in the know. I mentioned that we were focusing in on an area of female entrepreneurship I found alarming. Women start businesses on less than 5k in funding and while women own 40% of all businesses now, they’re only receiving 10% of the capital available. An alarming statistic if you ask me. I wanted to find out why and shed some light on it.
Mr. Misogyny reared his head during this meeting. This time he decided he would make it known his feelings on how insane it was to cover women twice in one month.
Well, I had about enough of his commentary and I let him know that I was tired of defending myself. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of justifying my work. I was no longer willing to tolerate his sexist comments.
Naturally, the next day he apologized and things had become less awkward. More on this apology in the next section.
Here’s why it matters:
That apology I got, did not come from his own guilt. While he did appear in the moment like he wanted to crawl under the table and never come back out, he did not truly feel remorse.
I later found out that a co-worker had encouraged him to apologize to alleviate tensions.
He found no offense in what he said. He thought it was totally justifiable to disregard women who owned businesses. It was normal to think that women shouldn’t own businesses nor should we cater to them.
This thought habit doesn’t just exist in this one office. It exists in many offices.
The problem is that only one person got offended when he said it, me.
While another did encourage him to apologize because he too thought the comments were inappropriate, in the moment, the only one to jump up was me.
It reminds me of this episode of Boy Meets World back in season 1. Cory is teaching the class about prejudice during a deal he made with Mr. Feeny. No one was listening to his lesson so Cory called his best friend Shawn a racial slur. Only Shawn jumped up.
This is what Cory had to say in that moment. I think it’s time we all jump up.