I remember this being a popular saying in elementary school. Of course the boys’ version was different. We were listening to the news this morning and it was a segment on Jennifer Lawrence’s essay. K asked me what they were talking about, and I was honest with him. I told him she and many women were frustrated that the men they worked with made more money. In simple three year old fashion he said “that’s silly…” and on he went with playing. If you haven’t read the essay, I highly recommend reading it. She discusses the gap in pay between men and women in Hollywood. And with all things in life, I find you can relate to this to “normal folk” like me.
If you have read any of my previous posts you know that I worked as an industrial engineer at a large aerospace company. Now, I actually have a degree in International Business and Spanish, but the way the company differentiates pay between engineering and business is fair. The degreed engineers make more on base pay per salary. But, we did the same work, and unless you told people, no one other than yourself and your boss knew if you held an engineering degree, or a business degree. Side note, I realize after college, engineering should have been my field of choice, but I thought they were all “nerdy” and “boring”. Now I realize how “nerdy” and “boring” I am. I digress…
What stood out to me working at the company I did, in the field that I did, was that I needed to work one hundred percent harder, and one hundred percent smarter than any and all of my male counterparts if I wanted to be respected. And it wasn’t due to the mysogynistic attitude of the people I worked around or with. It was just “facts of life” there.
I’m okay with working smarter and harder. See, if we’re being honest, my dad treated me as if I was one of the boys. I am the only girl, and I am the youngest, so by way of life, my dad probably never even thought about how he should treat me. I was expected to help out in the yard, help carry my moms luggage, and I wasn’t allowed to drive alone until I knew how to change a tire and replace the oil in my car. I have always appreciated that of my dad. Looking back, he probably did think about how he was going to set me up for success, and he probably knew I would be living “in a man’s world” so I might as well learn some things along the way. So when I went out into the big bad world, the thought never even crossed my mind that I would be treated differently solely based on the fact that I carry two X chromosomes, rather than just one.
Isn’t that so cute and naive wrapped up in one big and shiny bow. Not really, but the things I am about to tell you, have taught me a lot about who I want to be in the corporate world, should I return, and the type of boys we want to raise. When I first started working on the production floor, I had older men tell me to be careful, that it was like “working in a prison if you’re a decent looking female”. At first it didn’t bother me, because I thought the novelty of me being new would wear off. But it didn’t. It just continued to get worse. I would have guys jump in an elevator just to talk to me. Even though I only had to ride the elevator up five floors, they would ask me questions like “your husband lets you out of the house to work here?” “If you were my wife, I would never let you work.” And the list goes on. In fact, when I was an intern, I had a “mentor” that was supposed to drive me to multiple locations, and at one point on a drive he took a shortcut. Needless to say, I prayed my way through an entire phone call with my dad, when the driver didn’t realize we were on a dead-end.
And then I got pregnant with my first, and I really thought, “great, now they’ll leave me alone!” Boy was I wrong. Strangers, complete strangers started to touch me. And then men and women would stop me to tell me “how huge” I was getting. There were days when I would go home and cry my eyes out at the things people said to me. And when I would tell people just how degrading and hurtful things said to me, they would laugh in my face. “Oh don’t worry they just say that to you because you’re young and beautiful.” Wait, I’m sorry, did they just justify sexual harassment based on the way I look? I’m so confused how that even remotely makes that right…
And the list goes on. When I got back from my maternity leave, I had people chase me down to ask details of the birth. People I had never seen before! And I had men who actually told me that they were “disappointed I came back to work, because nothing is more important than your son.”
While my lead was gone on a business trip, my boss asked me to take over his position. I was on a managerial development list for strong and ambitious candidates whom were considered to be management material. I graciously accepted this task, and was really humbled they considered me. All the while I continued to do my job and more, while pregnant and puking, pumping on my breaks, and stayed later than most of my colleagues.
After the birth of my second son, we had changes in our group. The lead position was open, and a coworker of mine was telling me how my boss wanted me to take the position. I was a wreck, because I was really honored, but I knew we had been considering me staying home, so I figured, let’s just see what happens. This was the week before I was set to return, and my boss hadn’t contacted me. Well, you know how this story goes. A guy got the job. And when I returned to work, my boss brought up the situation. His words were basically this ,” well you were the first choice, but then you had a baby, and you know how that goes…” The politically correct me said “so because I chose to had a child, I’m no longer eligible for leadership positions?” What I said in my head was “listen here f*****, I have saved your tail and this groups tail countless times, and this is the s*** I am forced to listen to?!!!!”
I chose not to go to Human Resources, why, because I didn’t want to start a fire… how insanely stupid is that? I didn’t want to start a fire… I didn’t add the fuel. Why was I scared of backlash for sexist crap I had to deal with. I should have. And here’s why. In a field where women barely exist, some day, some where, some girl like me will want to start a family. Or maybe she’s already pregnant. And I want her to know that decision should not affect her like it did me.
I know I can’t change the mind of the world. But my hope is that my husband and I can raise two strong willed boys to treat everyone as their equal. I can only hope our boys treat people with the respect and dignity until proven otherwise. Life is too short to only see the world in one way.