Why It Can Suck For Women In The Business World

There is always talk on various online ‘spheres about “male privilege” and “female privilege”. The only examples of male privilege I can say are real and true is that of respect, especially in the business world. If you think I’m lying, bear with me…

When you’re a female bodied person in the business world, you have to get used to;

-Men kissing your hand instead of shaking it. They may think they are being cute, but it does nothing except single you out. It is even worse if it is done during initial introductions to a group of new business partners who are all men. Automatic loss of respect for you as a person…now they see you as “other”, or worse, unworthy of a handshake.

-Men coming over to a booth you are setting up, and introducing themselves to the hired muscle instead of you. My most noted example is when one of my coworkers boyfriends insisted on carrying the last box of product (a whopping 30lbs) up the stairs instead of on the elevator to our booth. I knew it was a masculine display for her benefit, and so allowed it. As my coworker and I are setting up the tables and displays, the manager of the convention hall comes over, gives the boyfriend a hearty handshake, a clap on the back, a huge smile, and guides him over to meet one of the other vendors. I watch this with amazement, as he’s not even wearing a staff uniform like I am…he’s in filthy pants and a hole-filled shirt. Luckily he’s not stupid, and as soon as introductions are finished, he points at me and informs them that I am probably the one he should talk to. This type of scenario has played out many times in similar ways.

-Bringing your looks or relationship status into conversations happens a lot as well. I can’t tell my readers just how many times my coworkers have been invited out to drinks by new business partners, and I receive a patronizing smile and a question of whether my boyfriend/husband would be angry if I “came along”. When I point out that I don’t have a relationship like that, it takes up even more of the conversation than it should…normally because it then turns to “oh, but that can’t be true”, “you’re too good looking to be single”, or “well, maybe we can find you one tonight”. Yes, because it’s inconceivable that I’m happy as is and simply want to finish talking about the product list for the year over drinks. Note that my coworkers who are male are not asked if their wives/girlfriends are fine with them going out, nor are they given false flattery if they’re single.

Then of course there’s little things, like being told to sit down before the men do, restaurant staff serving you before everyone else, the check never automatically being given to you, men standing up to give you their chairs in a crowded room, and being pat on the head like a child while your male coworkers are clapped on the back. It is worse if you look younger than you are…I’m currently 29, but get confused for a 21 yr old constantly. Potential business partners will make references to life experiences then say “but you are too young to know that” or “maybe you’ll find this out one day”. They are less likely to take your opinion seriously, and will consistently second guess your facts but not your male coworkers. They will talk over and interrupt you without apology, but not over your male colleagues, and spend about half the time looking in your direction/making eye contact as they do to them. And no, I don’t mean they stare at my chest although that happens sometimes (even when I’m in a fully buttoned polo shirt). I’m talking about standing directly in front of someone I’m discussing shipping costs with, and the entire time they are looking at Coworker Dude X instead of me.

It’s little wonder that so many businesswomen are called bitches. We have to be louder, more up front, and more assertive than a typical female if we want the same results as our male coworkers.

*The majority of men don’t act this way, I’d say it happens about 25% of the time I go to conventions/meetings. My point though, is that it shouldn’t happen at all, and that business people who were born female should NOT be treated differently (whether that means preferential or inferior treatment).


24 thoughts on “Why It Can Suck For Women In The Business World

  1. Hi Tarn

    I definitely wouldn’t equate kissing your hand as signalling that you are “unworthy of a handshake”. It’s rather more trusting of your hygiene for one thing. But I get that your sex is not relevant in that scenario and so they shouldn’t do anything different.

    Some of the partner status thing is men not wishing to cause problems for you or them. I would regularly make a comment about my wife early in a conversation with a woman just to set things on the right path (not saying they were lusting after me, it was a quick and easy way to keep things above board). Having been told that you’re single, they might very well wish to drop the subject without causing offence – they have to make a response or there’s going to be an unpleasant pause. Does a simple “not a problem” work?

    A man doesn’t compliment another man on how handsome he is…it can cause complications…

    Generally speaking, I see what you mean and agree with you over effect. I’m just a little more willing to allow them the (partial?) excuse of social clumsiness (the first time).

  2. I’d agree, if it didn’t have the effect of making me out to be different…think of it this way; 4 men, 1 woman. Handshake, handshake, handshake, kiss, handshake. It means that the first thing they noticed about me was my sex, and that sets the tone for the rest of the meeting.

    As for the partner thing, it just doesn’t make sense to even mention it. When your job sends you to a business convention or retailers expo, there are people from all over the world…most of whom traveled there with coworkers, not spouses or significant others. I am all in favor of keeping things “above board” as you say, and I appreciate professional discussions. However, this question is usually asked in such a way as to presume I’d cater to the whims of my “husband” rather than staying a part of the group. It’s more of a snarky “is the woman allowed to keep up” than anything else. That’s why it gets under my skin.

    It’s true that a man doesn’t usually compliment another man on his appearance…yet they still find socially acceptable ways to break the ice. I’d prefer the same treatment, instead of fake flattery to an aspect of myself that has no relevance to my work.

    Rant over. 🙂

  3. I’m actually not that surprised that you think that the only way that male privilege exists is respect. After all, when you are born into a world, the way things are feel natural and normal. Privilege becomes invisible. So whites typically think they don’t hold privilege over people of color either. (Culturally, we are more likely to see privilege when it comes to color than sex though. Largely because people of color are all united whereas women tend to be disunited with some saying that men have privilege and others saying that they don’t — or they don’t care if they do. So the message about male privilege tends to get more confused.) It’s just that it is so hard to see privilege. And yet it arises in these ways, among many others (and the issue of respect affects a lot of them):

    . Only 15% of fortune 500 companies are run by women
    . Only around 15% of Congress are women
    . We’ve never had a woman president
    . Most religious leaders are men
    . Most of media is run by men
    . Many more articles in media are written by men
    . Because of all of the above the perspectives of men are much more “Out there” than perspectives of women
    . In media portrayals men are much more likely to be portrayed in multidimensional ways
    . In media portrayals women are much more likely to be portrayed as sex objects
    . It’s okay for men to age– They gain character. It’s not okay for women to age
    . Men can have as much sex as they want and they aren’t labeled sluts
    . Men can be attractive without being harmed by either slut shaming or by losing a job
    . Women feel put down whether they work outside the home or choose to be stay-at-home mothers. Men have at least one good option: they can be good providers for their families
    . Men can be leaders. Women leaders are often seen as bitches, pushy, etc.
    . Hate radio has a huge focus on misogyny
    . There is no hate radio that has a huge focus on– We don’t even have a word for it– The hatred of men
    . Common words for women on college campuses these days are bitches and sluts. Common words for men on college campuses these days are guys.
    . If the man dominates a woman, that’s normal and to be expected. If a woman dominates a man then he is whipped, pussywhipped, henpecked.
    . In medical research men are usually the ones studied. That’s a problem because what helps men does not necessarily help women. Some and get much better medical care in general health advice.
    . The law tends to be written and interpreted through male eyes. For instance, A class action lawsuit of sex discrimination was made against Walmart. The women of the Supreme Court agreed with the women. Most of the men on the Supreme Court agreed with Walmart. Since the men outnumber the women, Walmart won. There are many more examples of this but I’m not going to go into all of them here.
    . Right now many people are arguing that male bosses ought to be able to limit the reproductive options of their women employees, because for some reason the religious conscience of these mailboxes is more important than the religious conscious of their female employees. Same for women who want to get various types of birth control from their pharmacists.

    I could go on but this would take all day.

    I’m hoping that this will help people to see a few things that are likely invisible.

  4. I’ve been completely ignored at a business meeting, from being passed by in the initial greeting to dismissed when I attempt to speak. It’s frustrating, and, really, it inhibits the flow of business when one member of the team is deemed unworthy of the position at the table.

  5. PS: I made one glaring omission (and likely many more that haven’t popped into my head) and that is blaming women for being raped. And that leads women to not report rape. And that leaves more rapists out there. Which leaves many more women and girls being harmed.

    Alongside this, many young men rape women in an attempt to prove their manhood–that they can dominate someone, demean someone (creating male superiority), that they have power over someone. That wouldn’t happen if men didn’t have a higher status they had to prove they deserved.

    (It’s true that rapists are really demonstrating they’re sub-human. But that’s not how the culture largely sees it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t rape a woman and post it to Facebook in an attempt to brag about their power over a woman, and how they have put a woman down to raise men up.)

  6. There certainly is a word for the hatred of men and you certainly need it. Misandry Seriously, how can you not know it except by deliberate will, in your job?

  7. @Melanie

    I haven’t ever been completely ignored, but I’ve been talked over more times than I can count. What’s worse is when you have a good idea that you try to discuss, the meeting plows on to a tangent topic, and then some guy gets everyone “back on track” with *your* idea. Gods, that is truly infuriating.

  8. @So unfair

    Good point. Misandry *is* a word for the hatred of men…in fact, a few online dictionaries have it listed, and it was a readily available term in my phone’s quick-words. Even if it wasn’t mainstream a year ago, it most certainly is now.

  9. TS,

    Sorry to spoil your Rant in A Minor – I apologize in advance, believe me -, but I am having trouble refraining from seeing the implied humour element.

    Let’s see if I understand from this and previous posts/comments:

    1. You’ve a curvaceous figure;

    2. You’re blond;

    3. You’re 29 years old, but look like you’re 21 years old;

    4. Men pay tons of attention to you because of this, even if it’s not welcomed; and

    5. You’d rather not be a woman at all.

    It’s a good thing you don’t use your real name when blogging. You might get lynched if you did. And not by a mob of men.

    If you choose to be an optimist, you can look at men assuming that the guy(s) that your with being the boss can be a benefit in an Assassin’s Creed sort of way. If your competitors decide to hire an assassin to take out your company’s booth, odds are they’ll target the wrong person. Lucky you.

    Okay, that was lame and probably didn’t help.

    Must be culture. Don’t see this in the Cdn military. Although shiny gold stripes on the shoulder are hard to miss.

    Love you just the way you are. Only even more so.


  10. Hey Nav.

    Believe me, the irony is not lost on me. The only thing I can say is “the grass is always greener on the other side”.

    If I wasn’t curvaceous and an early maturer, maybe my stepfather wouldn’t have abused me for 7 years.

    If I wasn’t a natural blonde, maybe the jealous girls in middle school wouldn’t have given me a neck injury from yanking my hair as I walked down the hallway nearly every day.

    If I didn’t look and sound younger than I am, maybe customer service reps would give me better help, and stop asking to talk to my parents when I call for assistance.

    Maybe if men didn’t pay as much attention to me, I’d be able to get more work done, not have to worry about sending incorrect signals, not have to be afraid that their girlfriends/wives will complain to my boss that I’m “flirting”, and not have to feel like a piece of meat when a rude male customer decides to critique my body as I ring him out.

    I can’t help feeling like my body is wrong, and I’d give up nearly anything to have been born as a male. It hurts to look in the mirror everyday and see breasts that you want to cut off, shoulders you wish were broader, hips that are designed for a task (childbearing) you’re both terrified of and revolted by. It pains me to look at myself, see what others say is an attractive woman, and just feel like it’s all a big joke that everyone gets…except for me.

    The grass of my life looks green to most, and I’m so very thankful for my health, intelligence, and job, but I’d cut off my right hand if it meant I could be born in a body I could feel at home in. Being a stranger in your own skin is not something I’d wish on anyone…

  11. No, it’s not any more than what I usually feel. Sorry if my tone seemed harsh or cold…I didn’t mean for it to be. I get immensely frustrated by how difficult it is to explain my emotions, and I end up speaking more bluntly than I should. Do you forgive me?

  12. @BroadBlogs

    Well, I do understand how privilege can become invisible to those who always have it, and I try to understand this from a “racial” perspective since I’m white. (I hate the term “race”…humans are a single race with subtle differences.)

    But let me address your points as best I can;

    -I agree with your stats about women vs men in leadership positions. However, I think this just shows that women as a whole need to work harder at becoming the change they want to see. There aren’t any laws preventing women from doing any of these things (except possibly some religious “laws”), and there are women who are already in these positions. I don’t think that we will ever see a 50% to 50% ratio…there *are* many women who are happy being housewives or part-timers, and some who are motivated but not quite capable. I think it’s great that there are women who are willing to make sacrifices, work full hours, stay dedicated to their careers, put up with leftover sexism in the workplace, and have proven themselves capable of doing the job. But if we want to see more women like this, then they need to do so.

    -Actually, most TV shows I used to watch showed men as being bumbling fools, overly crass, immature, and overweight. Women were typically portrayed as more tolerant, smarter, better at multitasking, and generally the glue holding the family together. I admit that I’ve not watched 98% of recent TV shows though, so if it has changed I’d like other readers to weigh in.

    -I agree that older women are not seen in the same way as older men. This needs to change, and society needs to regain it’s respect and admiration for the elderly who have much to teach the younger generations.

    -Perhaps it is different where you teach, but in my high school, 2 year college, and 4 year college, men who slept around were called “sluts”, “manwhores” and “boy toys”, but only rarely were they praised for high numbers of partners. With women, it could go either way…”slit” or “empowered”. Maybe it’s different according to what area of the country you live in?

    -True, but men aren’t seen as attractive the same way women generally are. This in turn can affect their self-esteem, and make them feel unsexy or not physically attractive…which is also a problem that needs to be dealt with.

    -Women need to do what is best for themselves/their families, along with the support of their husbands, partners, or other family members. Trying to do so while *also* attempting to please random members of society will only lead to unhappiness and failure. Women are adults…they need to stand up for themselves when people question their choices.

    -Yes, I mentioned in my post that female-bodied people encounter issues when in positions of authority, and need to be more assertive in order to do the same job. It’s unfair, and I don’t like it…but that’s why we need to call it out when we see it.

    -I do not know what you mean by hate radio. What is this? And yes, we do have a word for hatred of men as S.G. pointed out; Misandry.

    -Again, I don’t know what campuses these are. Certainly not the ones I attended. I find it sad that people would use such names for each other…

    -As an egalitarian, I don’t believe anyone should dominate another person without their permission (like in sex play, or in a mutually agreed upon dominant/submissive relationship like I described in my previous post).

    -Men are still studied more, this is true. However, they are also less likely to go to the doctor or get vaccinated for preventable illnesses.

    -I’d need to know more about this case before commenting on it.

    -I don’t believe that bosses/pharmacists/organizations should be able to limit the reproductive health care given to their employees or customers. Either give health insurance or don’t…stop half-assing it, and let people decide if they want to work for you once your position is clear.

  13. I can’t reply to this whole thing right now, but I hope you don’t mean to insinuate that “many young men” actually are rapists? You mean of the very few young men who do rape, many of this small number do so to prove their dominance, right?

  14. Thank you Tarn, thank you very much.

    Next time remember to smile a little at the good person in the mirror. Because that’s really what it’s all about. Even better if you can be that person without taking on the pain of the world, my friend.

  15. That is infuriating – like anything we say is automatically social, be it about business or not.
    I have been ignored. It was a city council member and he passed his hand right over mine to go from man to man and never did come back to me. I got mine because I left him out of all the photos of the event.

  16. Ha! I probably would have gone up to him in front of everyone, put out my hand, and somewhat loudly sad “Hello, sir. I’m Melanie. It seems we missed being properly introduced just then. Let’s rectify that.” With a big smile, of course.

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