It’s been six years since I set my size 8.5 high heels down in Corporate America and, in my opinion, I could really kill it at this job.
I’m talking stay up all night, slave over presentations, fly out to the middle of nowhere for a one-day meeting, be charming, quick-witted, straight up, seal the deal, then catch the red eye home kill it. I could really be a great asset for my company; I’m a serious nut about hard work and a bit of an overachiever. But I’m not a rising superstar in my company because I haven’t been given that opportunity: I am a woman.
Currently, I work directly for the most sexist man I have ever met, and this is coming from a woman whose first full-time job was in an industry where 90% of my co-workers were retired military men and law enforcement, all of whom had more respect for me than my current boss.
So let me tell you about this awesome individual! Recently I was “promoted” in my department. I use the term promoted loosely because I did not receive a raise but I accepted the position regardless because I wanted the experience. In my new position, I report directly to the department director. My promotion was not his idea; it came from his supervisor -- the Vice President.
From day one, my new boss made it apparent to me that he had no plans to help me further my career. In fact, he has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t think much of me at all.
Shortly after my promotion, my new boss suggested we sit down discuss my responsibilities. About five minutes into the conversation he informed me that even though I was working for him, a director, he had no plans to make me a manager; in fact he also told the department Vice President that I was not going to be a manager under him.
There was no further discussion about why he would not consider me for a management position, he just told me like he was commenting on the weather, and then moved on. He also told me that everything I did needed to be approved by him first, and that I was not to express my ideas in meetings, or otherwise, unless he was present. Thus began my journey into a very ridiculous period of my professional life.
It had been a couple weeks into my promotion and every day was the same. I would sit at my desk with nothing to do; I was given nothing to work on, I had no projects or assignments to complete. Eight hours of sitting bored at a computer is soul-sucking, my friends. There were only so many websites I could surf, online articles that I could read, Facebook posts and rants that I could make, or calls to my sisters during the day to ask, “Whatcha doing?” before I started feeling subhuman.
After about a month of doing nothing, I went into my boss’s office and expressed how bored I was, so he invited me to lunch to chat. For a second time, I expressed my boredom and explained that I could be doing so much more work (so much more of anything!) and he responded with, “When are you going to get married?”
I was dumbfounded. Here I was pleading for more work, telling him I yearned to be more productive for the company and he was asking me when I was going to get married? I was crushed, because at that moment I understood why I wasn’t given any substantial work -- he didn’t care if I succeeded because he didn’t think I belonged there. To add insult to injury, he followed up with, “A woman only has so much time to settle down and start a family before it’s too late.”
At the end of lunch, he quickly assured me more work was coming, and then we walked back to the office in the rain. My heart felt as heavy as those rain clouds above my head. (OK, that’s a bit dramatic but I was bummed.)
During the holidays last year, he gave his male employees a bottle of wine each -- he gave me a picture frame with pink plastic flowers. When I asked him why my gift was different, he explained that women are more emotional and therefore harder to work with so he makes it a point to try not to offend them. Really, I thought, because you offend me almost every day.
During a rare instance in which I was actually working on a project, I was offered the opportunity to do some work in a less than desirable location and earn a sizable bonus for doing so. I never got the chance to go because my boss declined the offer on my behalf. He explained to me how dangerous it would be and basically insinuated that it was no place for a woman. Instead, the company hired a male contractor to go and paid him the hefty bonus.
I am still working with this walking "Mad Men" stereotype, but I am also actively looking for a new job. I haven’t told the Vice President who hired me into this position how unhappy I am or that I want to leave the company; he may already know how this man treats me and he chooses not to interfere.
I know there are countless women in my position: talented, intelligent and hard working, who are living in the shadows of their male counterparts. What upsets me the most isn’t the fact that I am treated like a doll that might break, it’s that I haven’t even begun to show my employer my potential as an employee. Again, I could really kill it at this job.