Everyday Sexism – Part 1 in an Occasional Series

I work in a very male-dominated industry. I’m often (usually) the only woman on the project team, and usually the youngest by about ten years[1].

90% of the time this is totally fine. But just occasionally I come up against some proper everyday sexism. And now I’m going to share it with all of you. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me rage, and sometimes it does both. Today’s episode is a “made me rage” version.

Many years ago, my boss at the time sent round an email to the whole team saying he had a spare ticket to a black tie do that evening, and did anyone want to go. Myself and a colleague figured that a) there was no harm in being seen out by management, b) we weren’t doing anything and c) there was free booze, so we said yes.

On arriving in the room it was apparent that women were not welcome. The ‘comedian’ booked for the after dinner speech was more Jim Davidson[2] than Eddie Izzard, and the night was topped off by this spectacular interaction between a client and my colleague:

Client: So is that [gestures at me, even though I am TWO FOOT away], Simon’s[3] girlfriend?

Colleague: Err no, this is

Client: [cuts in] Well why is she here then?

Me: About that free booze. . .

My colleague made a valiant effort to introduce me as a useful member of society, but it was clear none of them wanted to know. So I made the most of the free drink, stayed until I could leave without looking like I’d run for the hills, then got a taxi home. Which I charged to the company, because I figured they owed me for not throwing a drink over the client.

I was about 25 when this happened. These days, I call people out on that kind of stuff, as you’ll see in future episodes.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Ok. Maybe more like five years these days.
  2. If you’re American and don’t know who he is, don’t google him. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  3. Names have been changed. Obviously.

About the author

Bats
Bats

Mainly nocturnal, Bats is no ordinary mammal. During her frequent roosting periods, she has ideas, which she’d like to turn into writing people will read. In the interim, she’s practicing on you via the medium of this blog.

8 Comments

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  • As a 60-year-old American female, I can tell you that although sexism of this type has diminished from the time I was your age, it is still out there and is both enraging and demoralizing. Glad you call people on it now. We all need to fight it.

    • Yes, yes we do. It’s becoming thankfully more rare than it was when I was 25, which was [ahem, mumble] years ago. One of the advantages of getting older is the ability to respond to this kind of thing without getting fired!

    • Oddly enough, I found I experienced less of this bullshit whilst in my male-dominated field. There was maybe one woman per ten men (very conservative estimate – I think it was actually closer to one in twenty+), but very few incidents like this. In fact, I clearly remember co-workers speaking out against the few sexist comments and incidents that did occur.

      It was only when I swapped jobs to a new field that these sorts of things started happening on a regular basis. I don’t know if it was to do with the industry or another factor.

      • I’m sure it’s industry-specific to a certain extent. The places I find myself working are very male environments, and not only is my skill a peripheral one to the main event, it also often holds things up, and it involves people doing things my way, which may be slower, and following instructions from me which they think are ridiculous. If I were in one of the more ‘traditional’ job roles in the industry, I suspect my experience would be different.

      • Yeah, I think it is definitely field-specific! A friend of mine in a certain sub-specialty of engineering had a FAR worse experience than I’ve observed in my fields, for instance. šŸ™

        I think it’s the sort of thing that would reinforce itself — if the culture is like that, it will encourage it from people who wouldn’t ordinarily make sexist jokes, etc. because they’re trying to fit in to the group vibe, and it will also serve to chase women away from the profession, thus exacerbating the problem.

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