Have You Observed Gender Equality During Your Career?

The recent women’s marches across the country got me thinking.  They seemed to originate from Donald Trump being inaugurated President, but were tied to a number of different issues.  One of the issues that I heard mentioned several times was ‘equal pay’.  It’s been well documented that women often receive less pay than do men for the same job.  This gap has narrowed over time but still exists.  The marches got me thinking about my personal experience in this area.  I’d like to share my personal experiences with gender equality in the workplace, and I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

There Is Inequality In My Field (But With A Catch)

I’ll start off by saying that I know that there is a big skew in my field.  I work in IT, and it’s always been that more men than women are employed in the IT profession.  So, looking at sheer numbers doesn’t really give a fair comparison.

I will say that I’ve worked with some amazing women throughout my career.  Just a few examples of the great colleagues I’ve had:

  • One woman ran the entire web design area of the company when companies were first developing their online presence.  She was fully responsible for developing many companies first appearance in the digital world.  I learned a lot about drive and motivation working with her.
  • I’ve always been praised for my communication skills.  I’ve been able to work well with technical teams, but also very well with people who aren’t technical at all.  This skill has a lot to do withone woman that I worked with at my first job outside of college.  I started off on a technical help desk, and the woman sitting next to me had a great ability to work with customers.  I picked up a lot from her and morphed a lot of what I learned into my own style.  My communication skills help me to this day, and I know that my random desk assignment next to this awesome woman is a big key.
  • My current cube-mate is a great woman who teaches me new stuff every day.  She’s been in the profession for 15 years longer than I have, and is an expert in our online tools.  Any time anybody has a question about this particular tool, they come to her.

Gender Equality In Management

My dad told me a story that I think is crazy, but I know it’s true.  Someone he was close with once worked side by side with a woman.  When a management position became available, they both vied for it.  When the woman got the promotion, his colleague was so incensed that he quit.

That’s right, he actually left a job because he couldn’t take the thought of having to work for a woman.

The only type of glass ceiling we should see.
Image from morguefile courtesy krosseel

This was a long time ago, probably back in the 1970’s or thereabouts, and while I’d like to think that this was more a sign of those times, you have to wonder how much of that exists today.  It’d be nice to say ‘none’ but even 40 more years isn’t all that much time.

For this post, I sat down and looked at my experience with my managers.  In the roughly 20 years in my professional career, I’ve had 13 managers (when we’ve both been in our position for six months or more).  The breakdown is:

  • 7 women manager, 6 male managers
  • Approximately 10 years under each

It doesn’t get much more equal than that.

I’ve had some great managers and some awful managers across both genders.  There’s not one particular gender that I prefer or that prefers me, if I look at things objectively.

I’m Lucky

I think that I’ve been pretty lucky as to my experience.  I never really sat down and thought about the numbers I just listed.  For me, I’ve just looked at each experience as part of my career.  But, to realize that I’ve had equal management opportunity both genders shows that I really haven’t seen inequality.  I would say that I’ve seen fairly equal gender opportunities during my time.

I also know that I’m very lucky to have been able to say that.

What Are Your Experiences On Gender Equality In The Workplace?

I would really love to see what the experiences of others are out there.  Have you had both male and female managers?  If you’ve been promoted, what are your experiences?  I’d love to hear from both men and women.  Please let me know your experiences and any thoughts in the comments below.

19 thoughts on “Have You Observed Gender Equality During Your Career?”

  1. Talking about money is one thing re gender equality. Talking about the intelligence, effectiveness and value of employees (or managers) is another. One of my most memorable bosses was rude, condescending and took credit for her department’s work…unless it was considered ‘bad,’ then it was all ours. She also sucked up big-time to HER boss (a guy), who fortunately was smart enough to see through the smokescreen. Soon after I moved to Colorado, she fired all but one of the staffers in my department. I’m sure I would have been on the roster.
    Another memorable boss was smart, clever, quick to make (good) decisions, and very much aware of everything going on around her. (She also swore like a longshoreman — not a bad trait in the newspaper business.)
    Both had huge influences on me. Am I supposed to see that one was obnoxious, because she was a woman…and the other was terrific, because…? You see the problem.
    I honestly think that a lot said about the sexes, gender-wise, has more to do with personality and upbringing than it does with sex. (I am pretty sure Boss #1 was abused as a child, and this was her way of getting back at that abuser.)
    It’s still difficult to have opportunities to get ahead, whether you’re male OR female. But I believe that those opportunities are more scarce for women — and they have to work harder and longer to prove that they should be offered them.

    • You bring up a very good point that it’s a complex issue and that each circumstance may be different. I wonder if you have more input on your last statement as to what experiences you’ve had that would make you say that women have to work harder and longer for their opportunities. I’m not questioning your statement, but curious as to why you say that. Thanks for commenting!

  2. To be honest, as a woman who has worked for both men and women, I have found men to be better bosses. But I’m sure that is not the case in every person’s career. One place I worked for is the federal government and I found that men and women were paid the same for the same job category, however, it seemed that women often got a better deal in other areas. For example, if a job required travel, many (certainly not all) women would complain that it took them away from their children and the case assignment would suddenly be transferred to a man. And the government especially is so tuned in to race and gender quotas that many times the man was often frozen out of a promotion because they needed a racial or gender person to enhance their numbers.

    • Interesting. I hadn’t thought of the angle about government jobs. I know that filling quotas has been an issue and seems to potentially fix some issues but having created others. Thanks for the input.

  3. I’m a woman who has worked for both men and women, and I don’t see any benefit to working for either sex more. The benefit lies in the personality, the training, and the fairness of the manager in question.

    As a woman who’s worked in a few different fields, I’ve observed that women are consistently lowballed and get more pushback on negotiating when they do negotiate offers. I’ve also seem them judged immediately when they walk in for an interview based on their appearance, men were not. In direct comparison, men were able to get away with more unprofessional behavior and still get hired, while women were dinged for appearing to be ten or whatever more pounds heavier than the previous candidate. These were all biases that my bosses were open about but I couldn’t prove unless I made an illegal recording.

    On the other side, I have worked for good managers who trusted me implicitly never mind what I looked like or walked like or if I wore makeup. My judgement was taken at face value as an expert’s judgement, rightfully, and my accomplishments were shared widely on my behalf in order to ensure that my reputation was known to those who hadn’t worked with me directly but might have influence over my promotions and compensation. In those cases, I can say that there was gender parity – I was treated as an equal to male colleagues on the strength of my words and not the volume or timbre of my voice.

    • You’re right. Each manager brings their own style and you work with each one differently. I’ve had some managers that I love working for, both men and women, but have also had both men and women managers that I loathed. T compatibility either way was not at all attributable to their gender.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. I’ve had only three male bosses in my line of work. It’s quite interesting hearing your take on this and this is a topic that’s definitely worth exploring. It should be a no-brainer and no problem at all to demand the same pay as your other counterparts as long as the quality and experience match up.

    • It sounds pretty simple and like common sense, but the numbers and studies and practical examples which show that there’s still a good deal of work to be done. Thanks for the comment.

  5. My career extends, I expect, over many more years than yours, into the prehistoric past. So the experience may differ.

    When I was a really young thing and wanted, more than life, to become an astrophysicist, I was told women were not allowed to do that, but don’t worry, “you can always have astronomy as a hobby.” No joke.

    Things started to change when I was in my mid- to late 20s, but of course, by then I had a degree in French (yeah) and was enrolled in a PhD program in English. Going back for an undergraduate course in the sciences was out of the question.

    In the English department (there were no women faculty in the French department) The few women tenure-track faculty (VERY few) were restricted to teaching lower-division scutwork courses. There was one extraordinarily bright woman who specialized in my period and who had a PhD from Berkeley. She was teaching sophomore survey courses.

    In graduate school, most of us worked as TAs, speaking of scutwork: we taught all the freshman comp sections. These classes started at 7:40 in the morning, as though deliberately to add to their onerousness. One semester the gentlemen of the department decided to interview us all, once more, before rehiring us all back into our TAships. In these interviews, the women were asked, in connection with the wee-hours sections, “Do you feel your duties as a wife interfere with your ability to teach freshman composition?” One of the women replied, “Why, no. Do you feel your duties as a husband interfere with your ability to teach Medieval English literature?”

    That, at least, brought a stop to THAT.

    One of my friends had a business degree from an Ivy League. She was trying to get into the management training program at a Phoenix bank. Every year, she would get GLOWING performance reviews, and then she would be turned down for management training. Finally, after several years of this, she asked the HR director, “If you think I’m good enough to deserve these wonderful reviews, why don’t you think I”m good enough to get into your management training program?”

    He replied, “We have a quota for the number of women we must put into that program. We have that number of women, and so therefore you don’t qualify.”

    For years, women faculty were consistently paid less than men. But affirmative action came along, and given the politically liberal atmosphere in universities even in overall conservative venues like Arizona, salary equity arrived on campus before it surfaced in other places.

    Meanwhile, in journalism — the site of my other career — as women began to enter newsrooms, salaries dropped across the board. This became known, among veterans, as “the pinking of the newsroom”: publishers would hire women because they would work for less, and so male reporters were crowded out. In general, people tend not to ask colleagues how much they earn. This is especially true of women. The result was that newspapers and magazines got away with offering much lower pay to female reporters and editors. Over time, that pushed the pay scale down for everyone. Today, low pay is just one of several reasons why journalism is, by and large, not the best career path — but it was the first of the reasons to come into being.

    All but one of my university chairs and most of my deans were men; all of my editors were men. By and large, the men were as fair and equitable as it was possible for them to be in those workplaces. The two whose management style was, shall we say, less than endearing were women.

    • Thanks for all your shared experiences and thoughts. The perspective on journalism is really interesting. I will have to do some more research on that area as what would be a significant shift in the industry with repercussions that will reverberate as long as journalism exists.

  6. Oh wow, your track record isn’t that bad as far as equality goes! Mine… not so much. And I’m in marketing, which tends to skew more female, which is weird. I’ve never, ever had a female manager or director. They’ve always been male. But all of the employees were female. Again, it was super weird, but the message we were getting was that we had to “be in the boys’ club” to get ahead.

    I also know I don’t get paid as much as my male coworkers currently, even though we do the exact same work. It really sucks. I had one job where it was HORRIBLE to be a woman: the boss regularly spoke down to us, made inappropriate innuendos (in front of clients), and took all the male coworkers to adult clubs on company time and money.

    Mr. Picky Pincher doesn’t see it as an issue since I earn more than he does (even though we’re in completely different fields), so I get frustrated when people use that as a way to say there isn’t a problem.

    I’m a white woman, so my pay gap isn’t that significant actually, but it’s much worse for women of color. I think we need to particularly focus on empowering women of color for raises and leadership to be truly equal.

    • Wow, that’s pretty interesting stuff. It sounds like the culture that was highlighted in the 1950’s set Mad Men is still lingering in many ways. I find it really interesting about male managers overseeing a female dominated group. You would think that this would be erased if opportunities were given to women to move up once the manager left or retired. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

  7. I’ve been a woman in the tech industry for 17 years and when I started, I heard ALL the stories about how woman were demeaned, ignored, and treated poorly in this industry. And I still hear horror stories – but my personal experience has not been like that.

    In my company, we have 2 women 10 men. At one point we had as many as 5 women and 15 men. In general, the women have been in sales/marketing or technical support roles, rather than engineering roles. Although we have had some really good women software developers, we’ve also had a couple of duds – which I always found *more* disappointing in some way 🙂

    Personally, over the years I’ve probably talked to thousands of other technical people on conference calls, support calls etc. The numbers skew VERY highly towards the fact that when I talk to a new IT person at a new customer, it will be a man.

    In 17 years I have NEVER had a single person (that I know of, anyway) question my ability to provide the technical information that was needed. I’ve never encountered the stereotypical man who tells me to “go get a man” to provide the answer, or questions my ability to do my job because I’m a woman.

    My managers in this industry have all been men. In my lifetime I’ve worked for men and women – I haven’t really had a problem with the gender of my manager – it’s always been communication issues that cause frustration – as long as you can communicate your expectations to me, we’ll do fine.

    In terms of money – I know that at least for a while, my male coworkers with the same time on the job and the same experience as I, were making significantly more than I was – but once I *asked* for a raise, I got it and am on par.

  8. Working in Silicon Valley, I’ve managed, and worked for all types, genders, races, and religions.

    Bottom line: jerks are jerks, and good people are good people. And either can come in any shape, size, or configuration.

    As for managers, my worst manager was a man. My best manager was a woman (who incidentally I asked out the day she quit, and almost ended up marrying…)

  9. I’m proud to have run a company for 18 years – in IT – where we had over 30% female staff. Some of our best people were women. Owners/managers who discriminate on gender are missing out on some of the best employees out there!

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