A work friend of mine went home after a client dinner we’d hosted and told his wife how I had made a joke suggesting that since we had no table plan we sat boy-girl-boy-girl – his bemused wife asked why that was funny
My friend explained that in a room of 22 people, I was the only female so we couldn’t even start to…
Thing is that that sort of male/female ratio isn’t all that unusual in my working life – it is an unusual day when I have meetings with another woman in the room
Women just seem to have quietly disappeared
When I started work I was in the graduate intake my accountancy firm had where women outnumbered men – back then we were supposed to be living in a brave new equal world (let’s gloss over the rules about having to wear skirts on the first day of a project in case the management didn’t like women in trousers and at least one wine bar not admitting women in trousers…)
I don’t know where things have gone wrong between then and now – yes lots of women take time out to raise a family but surely not every single one wants or can stop working?
Asking around, it seems to be the case that whilst firms will give lip service to flexibility and being family friendly the reverse is true
Maternity leave seems to be a common reason to be treated poorly compared to your male peers, even ones who are new fathers and having to deal with similar issues from a lack of sleep
Flexible working seems to equate to your career stalling and having to see colleagues overtake you on the career ladder
Even just being female, even if you don’t have children, can mean people start to make assumptions about your future life choices
The recession seems to have made the workplace more male – have we reached a place where we are in a negative spiral?
Economic threats make people act more aggressively to protect their jobs, women begin to feel uncomfortable and edged out (especially if other demands mean they can’t or won’t play the presenteeism game), women leave, the atmosphere gets more like a boys club, women feel more uncomfortable and leave and so on and so on to an inevitable conclusion
I regularly find myself sitting in meetings listening to the latest puerile phrases and mentally rolling my eyes (this week’s top one was a colleague suggesting that we could do something but it would mean putting our c*ck on the block… obviously a challenge for me) and wondering how I have ended up here – I don’t want to spend the rest of my career in a room full of testosterone being put to poor use
I struggle to find alternatives and I struggle with the concept of giving up and becoming another vanished woman – perhaps I am just stubborn but I don’t want to be edged out, I want to turn this tide of invisibility
The question is, other than just turning up to work each day, where do I start?