Gender Inequality

Earlier today, a coworker flagged me down (on my way to the bathroom!) to apologize for what he said on a conference call Tuesday. I wracked my brain, trying to think of what he had possibly said that could warrant the apology. My brain turned up zilch. It was a routine call, with a lender, nothing out of the ordinary had been said. Then he chuckled, saying that he said something to the effect of “[the lender] had his panties in a wad” and that he felt bad for making the comment. Our partner, who was also on the call, had taken him to task later in the day apparently.

I blinked at him a few times as I thought really? You’re apologizing for that? Lololololol. Panties…. ehehehehe.

I quickly assured him that his comment didn’t even register on my radar and that, while I appreciated it, he was perfectly fine and there was no harm done.

I believe I’ve mentioned (probably here or here) that I work in a small office. We have 14 professionals, though we’re looking to add another this year, and two admins. I am the only professional female, although the two admins are also female. I’m an accountant, but I work in an industry that is also heavily dominated by men. This means that I often find myself as the only female in a meeting or on a call, even with external parties.

When I originally went through the interview process, my (future) boss went over this fact several times, wanting me to be crystal clear on the circumstances and also wanting to make sure that I didn’t have any qualms or hesitations about working with mostly men. I assured him that I didn’t and he assured me that they would all take care in creating a work environment suitable for both sexes (in other words, no keggars to celebrate victories and no strippers in the conference room …. not that a professional office would ever deem this sort of behavior acceptable).

To the credit of my coworkers, they really have gone out of their way to make sure that the environment here is inviting and comfortable. Some days though, like today, I have to laugh because they go above and beyond what’s necessary, worried that they’ve offended my dainty sensibilities or something. While I greatly appreciate the thought, it always makes me laugh and I really want to assure them that I’m not that uptight.

I’ve gotten a handful of apologies over the years, for comments that might be just on the wrong side of unprofessional. I’ve never actually been offended by anything anyone’s said here. The closest I’ve come was this meeting, but that was probably fueled by some hormones and also the envy of what life looks like for men (seriously! no yearly appointments just to get birth control, which, last time I checked, benefits both sexes! Or, while we’re at it, none of this “getting ready for work” bullshit – they just throw on clothes and go! Ugh!)

The most memorable apology I’ve had to date though came from one of the partners. In a meeting earlier that day, he had made a quip about a rather annoying third party manager and how he drove a nice car because he was compensating for … things. The entire room laughed, including myself, because that’s hilarious. On a roll, he then referred to a Hooter’s-type restaurant as a “titty joint” which, yeeeeah, probably not the best choice of words for the office setting, but the comment wasn’t directed at me and mah boobs, so whatever. However, an hour or so after the meeting ended, he stopped by my desk to apologize. My boss (who, for clarity, is actually underneath this partner in terms of corporate hierarchy) had admonished him for making the off-the-cuff remarks.

I know I’m lucky in that these guys are at least in touch enough to realize when they’ve possibly stepped out of bounds. They’re also human enough to apologize when they think there’s a need. I truly appreciate it. Mostly though, I am far too thankful to be out of the catty world of female coworkers to let a few off-color jokes get my panties in a wad.