Ladies First

I am going to start this piece by going back a few years ago to when I was in my first job as a trainee recruiter. I remember greeting a Senior Engineer who had come into our offices to meet with me to discuss a confidential role I was working on. I greeted him with a firm hand shake and took him through to the interview room. I then left him to get us a both a coffee, maybe I should have left him with one of my business cards to mull over, it may have stopped him making a complete and utter fool of himself. Oh and he also lost any respect I had for him as a Senior Professional within our shared working industry and network.

When I returned with our refreshesments, I sat down and began to thank him for taking the time to meet with me while I pulled out his CV (which I had to edit for him), however he interrupted me with;

“Sorry, are you doing this? I thought you were the coffee girl! Do you even know what I do?” he questioned while giving be a long and drawn out examination.

I felt sick. I didn’t really know how to react. I had never been spoken to so rudely before in my career. Had he no respect? Even if I was a coffee girl, since when was it ok to doubt someone’s intelligence simply because they are female? Regrettably, probably because I panicked, I just ignored his comment and continued. He must, however, have noticed he had offended me as I received an email quickly after he had left with his… Wait for it… his ‘sincere’ apologies.

Let’s go back further, to the Victorian times, when this was deemed by the majority as socially acceptable. I spent some time researching into this, to try and establish why some men were so narrow minded. It turns out that a large number of women in Victorian times in the UK carried out both household duties and managed to look after their families with a substantial income. However, their primary function was to act as full time mother or wife, so some woman kept their earnings secretive from their husbands. An increase of new ideas and technologies provided many new jobs for woman in a mid-Victorian boom, as men frowned upon change. Basically, we were offered the jobs that men didn’t want, lucky us! This was great for employers too, as woman provided much cheaper labor. Whereas all the sought after careers were not in our sight, let alone reach.

If this was in the 1840’s surely it can’t be going on? Sadly, the figures show that a large amount of woman in the UK today feel like they have been looked over for promotions, and training opportunities because of their sex. The term ‘glass ceiling’ is used frequently when discrimination against females is studied in the news and online.

In the UK we now have several laws to ensure equality to men and women. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, The Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations of 1999. These have been put in place, and that’s great that some of the ways woman were treated have been noticed. However we can’t change everyone attitude it would seem.

More recently I was encountered again by a Senior Professional, who it would seem, had an ego which was even bigger than his wallet. He approached me and asked me if I was looking for or ‘needed’ a man with a lot of money. Cringe. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t interested and his attempt to show off and attract me actually had the complete opposite effect. I didn’t need to crush his ego more by rejected his interest in front of his friends, he had already embarrassed himself.

Genetically, we don’t think alike, men and women. Us females are more inclined to listen to ideas from others and like to analyze our own thoughts as opposed to just throwing suggestions out there, could it be that our perfectionism and patience doesn’t serve us as well as it should?

I really feel for all the sexist men in the business world today, it seems that they are not capable of understanding that there is room for both men and woman to succeed. However I feel even worse for the unfortunate, if few, women who have had to deal with such discrimination. I would like to think that my male colleagues respect me and appreciate the knowledge I can share, regardless of the fact my own a handbag and wear high-heels to work. Getting up the career ladder should be just as easy for us as it can be for men. Looking into the future, if I was to have a family of my own, I would like to think I could fit work successes around this. If anything I would think that having children would encourage me to work harder in the office to ensure I can provide for them, similar to the Victorian times, with the only difference being, I would definitely not hide my successes. So if anyone comes across a shallow, sexist male ego, challenge it! I know I will, you have nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain.