I took a stand this week,
for myself, for the women I work with,
for my daughter, and for all women who work under implied sexism.
Let me begin by saying my current immediate supervisor is a man, and he is very empowering- especially with me.
but, I work at a place that has a lot of stereotypes about women.
My predecessor was a very traditional secretary. She used word processing only because the typewriter broke one day.
She never trusted technology, preferring to back everything up with paper- in triplicate.
She was wary of the copier, and she could not diagnosis a simple computer problem, preferring to ask the maintenance man to troubleshoot and call the repair man if he was busy.
Twenty years later, she retired, and I stepped into her role. I was asked at my interview if I knew how to use computers. Of course, I replied.
I took over the desk and quickly showed everyone I knew how to use the tools for the job more effectively. I also knew how to take care of any problems we had with the office equipment.
And there is the rub of the story. I didn’t rely on the maintenance guy, and therefore, I was a ball buster. You know the type: old school, good old boy who took care of everything for the helpless little lady. Problem was, he wasn’t always around to fix something, or trouble shoot, and I would waste half a day waiting on him to get around to checking out the equipment.
Slowly I took over my space and managed to keep costs down by troubleshooting myself, but his ego was bruised, and the die was cast. Every time I asked for updated equipment to do my job, I had to ask his permission to purchase, because he controlled the office equipment budget and therefore, he controlled me.
He stonewalled, and if I tried to reason with his supervisor, I was told it wasn’t necessary, because Mr. maintenance said so.
The last straw came this past week, when asking over and over to re-arrange the office to create more space and a bigger reception area I was told that it couldn’t be done. So I did it anyway.
Defying this person had to be done. I had no autonomy, no authority, no decision-making power at all. Everything related to my job was being determined by a peer, not a boss. And he refused to believe I was capable of performing these tasks on my own, despite the evidence. He treated the other office worker in the same manner, but she, having been there longer, had quietly given up any hope of gaining control.
The ensuing conflict resolution session was interesting. I spoke from a place of rational thought- he spoke from deep emotion, mainly anger.
In the end we compromised on the office arrangement, but management agreed it’s past time to re-define our job descriptions and establish clear boundaries.
What hasn’t changed is his overall attitude towards women. But that will someday prove to be his undoing.