Am I being paranoid about the way people treat me and putting it down to my gender? Or more troubling do people at work actually treat me differently because I’m a woman?
Case in point; a few weeks ago I was involved in a customer meeting. I’d never met the guys before, they were from overseas. They seemed ok, perhaps little brash for my reserved nature but nothing obviously unpleasant about them. We were meeting to discuss a range of products some of which had recently undergone a rebrand.
The rebrand had confused the customers and they were referencing the old names and trying (without success) to match each product to its new name. As Marketing Manager I stepped in to explain the new brands and their former names. The guys looked at me patiently and seemingly attentively. When I had finished they turned their backs to me to face their account handler and said:
“We’ll need to ask Will* [director of that particular product range] which one is which as I’m confused.”
So valiantly I tried again this time augmenting my explanation with a peppering of references to each tech spec.
This time I got cut off by them “we’ll just ask Will*” and support from my colleague, the Account Manager, came in the form of this comment to the customer. “Yes, yes we had better wait for Will*”
When Will* arrived they did indeed ask him and guess what… He offered a near verbatim of my first explanation. Furthermore the customers and Account Manager nodded sagely and thanked Will* for enabling their understanding.
Then they all went for lunch together at the end of the meeting. My invite must have been lost in the post.
I recounted this tale to another male colleague who shrugged it off and put it down to Will* being the director of the range rather than my being a woman. So I do wonder, am I paranoid? But then why wouldn’t they listen to the Marketing Manager on a topic that is marketing, I.e. Brands?!
Don’t get me wrong I am happy to pitch in and do those extra little jobs that seem to be orphaned without a particular remit, especially in my role as Marketing Manager where events play a part. However there are a few roles I find myself assuming or being asked to perform that have never been asked of my male counterparts. Here are the top five:
Recently I was assigned the role of receptionist at an overseas customer event along with the IT specialist (also a lady). I almost refused to go until the male population on the team apologized and told me I was there for my marketing and networking skills. I am still dubious as to how effectively these were put to good use when I found myself sat at a desk at the entrance handing out name badges.
2. Party Planner
Whenever there is a team dinner I am often the only lady (I work in a very male dominated industry). This means I am often assigned the task of booking the table and transport for everyone. Oh and not to forget, keeping a spreadsheet of the pre-orders. I have no idea why I am deemed most qualified for this job, as a person I am actually fairly disorganized. Well on their heads be it!
I often find myself as the one tidying up whilst others ‘network.’ Company hosted events which serve food are the classic. I am often collecting plates napkins and used drinks. No one asks me to do it but in the absence of any of my colleagues assuming this role someone has to ensure our customers don’t get the impression we are a bunch of slobs who haven’t improved our living standards since graduation.
There is nothing wrong with being a secretary if that’s your profession. But linked to the party planner role above I am often the one who needs to organize the meetings and take the minutes. Again I am not sure why its my role more than anyone else’s, I can only assume its my literary prowess in creating minutes so engrossing each attendee is hotly anticipating the next installment.
5. Token Totty
This is the most frequent infraction on the list. I’m not bad looking which can work in my favor, but its amazing how much it actually is a hindrance. So many times I have been asked to do things to ‘attract’ customers. The most outrageous to date was to dress in a cat suit at an event. Needless to say I politely pointed out I am not one of the professionals on Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) and therefore did not deem a cat suit necessary attire to carry out my role.
Maybe it’s just because us ladies are famed for our ability to multi-task! I’d love to hear from other ladies out there what additional roles they have been assigned…