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Thread: Women in the workforce

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Montannie's avatar
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    Women in the workforce

    In another thread last month, Michele Zone posted a reply that I was really surprised was never responded to in any of the other replies: http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...33&postcount=3.

    Basically, she was talking about how women master the art of appearing confident in themselves without being boastful about their strengths... maybe this is too political of an issue, and maybe it struck a cord with me because I have also given my opinion in the workplace and been made to realize that I was not hired for my opinion, but for my ability to keep my head down and just get the work done while male counterparts were highlighted for their great idea-making capabilities.

    Especially, I'm interested in this quote from Michele's reply: "I am still working on figuring out how a woman can own her competence without it being wildly misinterpreted." I would love to hear your opinions, either as women in the workforce who have found a style that was better received, or as men who have worked with successful (or unsuccessful women). What about their (or your) presentation do you think made them received the way they were?

    I think it is an issue of sexism that men and women are treated differently in the workplace; however, I think that acknowledging that and figuring out how to work within the gradually changing current mindset is a heck of a lot better than banging my head against a brick wall!!

    Thoughts, fellow cyburbians?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The planners in our office are evenly divided - 3 mailes and 3 females. I really have not witnessed the males strutting around owning up to our confidence and comeptence and the women meekly asserting themselves in a patriarchial society. All of our female planners are competent and respected for it. One of them is clearly the most competent and skilled planner in the office.

    What I have noticed is the female planners tend to keep their opinions to themselves in meetings, unless they are asked or it is a matter that they are involved in.

    To be truthful, I am sort of the same way (I am a male). The other male planners never let a meeting pass without putting their two cents in. By the end of any given meeting their pockets are heavy with pennies.

    Don't know why the female planners keep their mouths shut as a rule. The aforementioned female planner of great abilities is only slightly more likely to speak up at a meeting. Most perplexing is it seems part of it is a lack of confidence in her own professional judgement (which is usually on point).

    Quite often when I have a hard decision at work that I am going to make I will run it past her. If she says I am on track then I know I am.

    I see this from a male perspective, I know. But if women are failing to assert themselves in the workplace and own up to their own competence, I feel at least in part that failure is their own and not just a result of a patriarchial society.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I have never noticed that there was such an issue at my workplace. In fact some of the biggest loudmouths that I have to work with are women ! (partial sarcasm based in factual evidence)

    I have noticed that many folks in general do not take the ball and run with it regardless of sex. Race does not seem to be a factor as well. However, there seems to be more meekness among non-nationals who work here than nationals.

    This could be because in Detroit there have been more generations of women in the workplace working alongside or instead of men in traditionally male occupations. Remember back in the WW-2 it was women building the tanks, the planes and the jeeps in Detroit's factories while the men were left to get blown to bits. My grandmother was very proud to be a Rosie the Riviter, and she never left the line at Lincoln Motors. It was her who allowed her family to go to college and break out from poverty. Most here still hold those types of values and do not find women to be second-class to men.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Interesting realization... I have had six direct supervisors (directors or city managers) in my professional career: four women and two men. My perception from those experiences was that my female supervisors were more assertive than their male counterparts. Perhaps I have just been fortunate enough to work in places that do not have preconceived gender expectations, and have had the pleasure of working with strong women (which I like).

    Within the staff though I've seen a mixed bag--with both sexes equally represented in the "head down" and "assertive" categories. Over the last six years, I've noticed a declining number of assertive personalities in both sexes in my offices.

    I do know of other places, however, where the female employees lack opportunity to or are discouraged from taking assertive positions. I think this is incredibly unfortunate because the differing cultural experiences of each gender are useful in decision-making, regardless of the topic.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I too have worked with male and female planners in one office (I am female). Development is a very male-dominated profession, engineers, developers and less-often architects and LAs tend to be male. As a female, sometimes its hard to be part of the boys club, but being female has its advantages in that situation also. Its really how you spin it and what your professional demeanor is like that determine how successful you can be in planning. My current office has the opposite problem, 4 female planners and 1 male, so I would imagine he feels a little left out sometimes. In general most planners I have met are progressive-minded people and tend to be more accepting of differences.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    My sister, who is in the private sector (financial planning) in a different City however does run across this sort of stuff. She feels that sometimes she is not allowed to flourish, or to even play golf, because she lacks a penis. (Her words not mine)

    When she worked at Chrysler (here), she never felt that way but that was before Mercedes bought em.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Interesting realization... I have had six direct supervisors (directors or city managers) in my professional career: four women and two men. My perception from those experiences was that my female supervisors were more assertive than their male counterparts.
    Interesting. I had not thought of that. I have served for two female planning directors and two male planning directors. I too found the female planning directors to be more assertive. Now perhaps that perception is colored by the fact that I came into the organizations knowing no one in the case of the female directors, so it was more businesslike. The two male directors I worked with for a few years before they moved up, so our professional relationship was influenced by friendship and knowing each other.

    My first supervisor was a female and she was a great mentor to me. She was soft-spoken but by no means a milquetoast. Competent and intelligent. I had a little crush on her too.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Montannie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beach_bum View post
    Its really how you spin it and what your professional demeanor is like that determine how successful you can be in planning.
    So how have you found to "spin it" that has worked for you? Great comments too, everyone!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    GIS is about a 2/3 male field and when I went to GIS school my classes were about 2/3 male. The last week of the two months there, I realized that I was the only woman who consistently sat up front. A few women sat in various places but most sat in the last two rows and you hardly ever heard from them.

    I did have one positive "sexist" experience come out of that. I was inducted into Mu Alpha Theta in 11th grade, the earliest anyone can be inducted. It's a college level math honor society. I generally do pretty well with math. In one class, the professor was probably old enough to have a daughter similar in age to me. He was foreign. I believe he was originally from Egypt. He and I both spoke a little French and sometimes chatted in French. I think English was his third language. He was clearly very fond of me and friendly in a fatherly/platonic sort of way. But every time I answered a math question in his class, he had to ask me like three times "how do you know that???" At one point, one of my male classmates said in exasperation "She's already worked it out in her head!" He just couldn't seem to wrap his head around the idea of a woman having the answer so quickly.

    That experience made me conclude that for many people, I will be the first woman they ever met who was good at math (or insert whatever other issue comes up) and I just need to have some patience with people being agog. It's not intentional. They just sometimes need a little time to wrap their mind around it.

    I still typically sit right up front in big meetings/classroom type settings. The female VP in our department has commented on that in just such a situation. So I think even in a company where women get treated well and have no problem moving ahead, my behavior is not typical for a woman. And it gets me into hot water at times. I've actually actively worked to be less attention-getting in order to try to reduce the amount of time I spend in hot water. Not a perfect solution but it has yielded some of the results I want. Still working on it.

    PS Men are statistically less likely to be aware of subtle ways in which women get discriminated against, just like whites often don't see subtle things they do which keep out blacks and others but the folks who are kept out are sometimes keenly aware of such details. In one study, blacks were able to describe both black and white culture but whites were unaware there were differences. When the blacks realized the whites had no knowledge of what they were describing, they shut up because it's "rude"/dangerous to know something those in power don't know. You have to pretend it doesn't exist. And that's part of what keeps the status quo ...um in statis, as it were.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Montannie View post
    So how have you found to "spin it" that has worked for you? Great comments too, everyone!
    Well in a room full of males, when a female speaks she is more likely to get attention because of the dynamics of the situation. How do you use that? Do you use the attention to just agree with what is said or to say something new and meaningful. I have also found that using your feminine charm or way to get what you want works in certain situations. Females tend put their personal touch on everything, nothing wrong with letting people know what you can do. This day in age, especially in planning, females are at such a little disadvantage and there is nothing that you can't use your smarts to overcome.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  11. #11
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    an interesting thing about one of my supervisors... she was apparently a glass-ceiling breaker in the planning profession (and is somewhat known for it). She was involved in some kind of class-action suit in the mid-80s. I never got the chance to ask about her progression through the profession as a woman... probably because as a male it didn't cross my mind frequently.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Eleven people in my office - six are women and four of them are grandmothers.
    Experience wise - three of them have 25+ years and two have 15+ years on the job.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Eleven people in my office - six are women and four of them are grandmothers.
    Experience wise - three of them have 25+ years and two have 15+ years on the job.
    Older women are generally more able to get away with being opinionated and so forth. This is generally true across cultures and going way back historically. (Think of the quirky grandma in 'Mulan' and how she actively encourages Mulan's independent spirit, an independent spirit which is nothing but trouble for a young girl of marrying age.)

    One of my issues is that people tend to read me as younger than I am. When I was 30, they thought I was about 25. I turn 44 tomorrow and the most common number I have heard in the past year or so is that people think I am about 38 years old -- so, again, they read me as about 5 years younger than I am. This usually comes up when someone asks about my sons, learns that they are both adults and one in his early twenties and they blurt something like "You don't look old enough to have a kid that age!" So I think I get read as "too uppity and opinionated for such a young woman" or something along those lines. It doesn't get attributed to "age and experience". It gets attributed to "ego" and "speaking out of turn". At my current place of employment, this is made worse by the fact that I have an entry level job unrelated to my college education and career goals. I am "nobody" at work but I talk like I think I'm somebody. I have worked hard at flying under the radar at work and not upsetting too many apple carts. But it doesn't matter how hard I try to be invisible, I tend to turn heads and I do so in a way that comes with a certain amount of negative fallout. I cope better with it these days than I used to but I often wish it just wasn't like that.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I think this is an AGE thing. I have never seen men vs. women as different at work. I have worked for both, have supervised both, on an equal playing field. Even when maternity / paternity leave was involved, it was alwaysw professional and never an "oh she's leaving..."

    The only opinionated lady I worked with was near retirement and had 2 retarded (sorry) adult children.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    I think this is an AGE thing.
    Age is a factor but I have no reason to believe it's the only factor.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    Age is a factor but I have no reason to believe it's the only factor.
    What I mean wasn't AGE, but social expectations of ladies in the workforce. I think back to my grandmother working in a factory on WW2. She had a "place" and when the war wound down she was "expected" to leave her place for a returning vet. That doesn't happen these days, even with returning vets from GW2.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    What I mean wasn't AGE, but social expectations of ladies in the workforce. I think back to my grandmother working in a factory on WW2. She had a "place" and when the war wound down she was "expected" to leave her place for a returning vet. That doesn't happen these days, even with returning vets from GW2.
    Oh. Thanks for the clarification.

    I think it's less blatant these days but still a factor. Again, even a female VP (who may be similar in age to me or possibly slightly younger) commented on the fact that I sit right up front in vary large meetings. Men sometimes sit right up front. It's not commented on. Kind of like they bash Britney Spears for working instead of attending her kid's birthday party, a criticism you are not likely to hear aimed at a man. So these issues aren't dead yet.

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    My wife (along with another woman) has been in Texas the last week, cleaning up a project that the Project Manager, a male, was letting get out of control.

    Turns out this guy does not like the fact that a woman (my wife) is one of his bosses, and when speaking with clients does not include her as part of the discussion when referring to who is in charge. He only refers to my wife's colleague, who is male.

    I think his ego is getting a little bruised because two women from up norther had to come down and clean up his mess. They have been following behind him cleaning up his messes at different locations and he doesn't have a clue. It's going to be interesting when he's confronted with how much work my wife and the other woman have had to do.
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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    My wife (along with another woman) has been in Texas the last week, cleaning up a project that the Project Manager, a male, was letting get out of control.

    Turns out this guy does not like the fact that a woman (my wife) is one of his bosses, and when speaking with clients does not include her as part of the discussion when referring to who is in charge. He only refers to my wife's colleague, who is male.

    I think his ego is getting a little bruised because two women from up norther had to come down and clean up his mess. They have been following behind him cleaning up his messes at different locations and he doesn't have a clue. It's going to be interesting when he's confronted with how much work my wife and the other woman have had to do.
    If this guy is treating your wife, a boss, this way, it makes me wonder how he treats female clients and any woman who may be working for him. Some investigation might be in order. It might be time to dump his ass before the company gets embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit.
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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I've never figured out the macho egotism about working for a woman. Obviously the person is better qualified, has more experience, or any number of reasons why she holds the job and not me (sometimes it's just dumb luck, but that goes to men and women). If you think working for a woman hurts your man card status (which it doesn't) I think that's more of a reflection on you and not her. To use their own egotism against them, why aren't you smarter or more qualified than that woman?
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    My wife finds this happening to her quite often. I find it funny the inappropriate comments some people will say to her. She gets hit on a lot too, which I guess could be taken as a compliment but in the setting, it seems quite inappropriate to me.

    I also find it interesting how she is always assumed to be a lower level profession, because she is female....
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Oh yeah - hit on and mistaken for the intern in my 20's, ignored and hit on in my 30's, and who-the-f-does-she-think-she-is-that-c/wordand why-won't-she-f-me in my 40's

    overall, rising above it in my 30's has been the easiest of the 3 working decades so far - hoping next year when I hit 50 it will start a more positive decade before I hit the that-old-lady-what-does-she-know phase in my 60's

    it can be depressing but I have great faith in the next generation of women in fighting back against what I think is a scarier work environment where some men are back to not hiding their ire against women like they did in the 90's...it's like a backlash that freaks me out a little, stems a little bit from the objectification thing out there and the rape culture - don't slam me that you are not like that because I already know you guys in here are not like that but there's a lot of angry guys out there

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    My wife finds this happening to her quite often. I find it funny the inappropriate comments some people will say to her. She gets hit on a lot too, which I guess could be taken as a compliment but in the setting, it seems quite inappropriate to me.

    I also find it interesting how she is always assumed to be a lower level profession, because she is female....
    I used to work in the medical field and if I was in the same room as a female MD, patients (male and female) used to approach me first with questions or treat/assume I was the doctor (I was not an MD). This would occur daily.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    Oh yeah - hit on and mistaken for the intern in my 20's, ignored and hit on in my 30's, and who-the-f-does-she-think-she-is-that-c/wordand why-won't-she-f-me in my 40's
    She is f-ing you, just not in the way that you want
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I was taking a business trip to DC with a regional group a few years ago. While we were loading the 25 passenger puddle jumper to get us to St Louis, one of the idiots ask the gal with the uniform if we would be served snack. She said, not so politely Sir, I am flying this plane! She clearly wasn't over it when we landed at Lambert because she thumped us down quite hard. We banned that guy from making comments the rest of the trip.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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