Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Wilds of Testosterone Valley

Hooray for Madame Meow who gives us a "Daily Dose of Zen Sarcasm"! She is the winner of the Stationery Give Away! Please e-mail me, txpoppet(at)gmail(dot)com with a delivery address. Thank you to everyone who commented, y'all made this such fun!

I don't write much about my job working for Best Boss Ever, but today I've got something on my mind and I just have to spit it out. I work for a woman-owned construction company. As you can imagine I deal with sexism in all of it's delightful, varied forms on a daily basis, due to the scarcity of women working in the field. When I do encounter a woman Superintendent, Engineer or Project Manager I get a secret little thrill. Y'all I love to see them busting through the glass ceiling (or more often, concrete tilt wall).

Yesterday I got a phone call from a very intelligent and qualified young engineer. Her calls to my field supervisor were being ignored. She was being yelled at by her bosses for not being efficient. She was being patronized by the men who were supposed to answer to her, but instead chose to deal with the man under her. By the time she thought to call me, she was beside herself. I mean she lost it.

My first reaction (which thankfully she couldn't see) was to think, "Grow up and deal. When you scream and rage like this, you make all women professionals look bad. Get your shit together and handle this like a competent educated adult, not a brat."

What I actually did was allow her to vent without interruption, let her know that I took her concerns seriously and then tell her exactly what I was going to do to get her the results she needed. In short I treated her like a colleague, not a kid or a girlfriend, but like the accomplished engineer she is. The calm resolve in her voice was palpable the next time we spoke.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm appalled that my first reaction was the old girl network- 'ha, ha, been there, done that, your turn now', where I actually wanted to blame her for cracking under stress instead of rising to it. I wonder how many fine women are squashed early in their careers by cynical old broads who forget (like I did) just how long it takes to build that tough shell they need.

Don't get me wrong, all props to the ground breakers and trail blazers, but that long trail into man territory is still pretty wild and rough and maybe it would be just a mite better for all of us if we remember to turn around and reach back to the current wave of young adventurers when they start to lose their footing. Is there anyone in your past who reached back for you? How would your life be different if there had been?