Man experiences a week at work as a woman, is horrified | Ladders

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Office Culture

Man experiences a week at work as a woman, is horrified

You can add this to the list of everyday hazards of being a woman. Even just having a female name can be a disadvantage.

Martin R. Schneider, an editor for Front Row Central, explained how on Thursday. On Twitter, he talked about an experiment he did with his female co-worker Nicole Hallberg when they worked at an employment service firm and had jobs dealing with clients. Hallberg was noticeably slower in her client interactions.

When Hallberg and Schneider switched email signatures for a week, he found out what exactly was causing the hold-up.

In his hellish week of being perceived as a woman, Schneider found that clients wouldn’t listen to him: even when he was giving the same advice he usually did, he was underestimated, interrupted, disrespected, and even asked on a date by a client.

It became very clear to him the “invisible advantage” he had as a man, in which his conversations were faster and less fraught.

But when Hallberg and Schneider took this evidence to their boss, they saw how hard it is to convince some people that women are treated differently: he didn’t believe it.

“There are a thousand reasons why the clients could have reacted differently that way. It could be the work, the performance… you have no way of knowing,” their boss said, according to Hallberg.

While Schneider was shocked, Hallberg wasn’t.

She detailed how this wasn’t her “first time at this rodeo” in a companion essay on Medium after Schneider’s story went viral.

When the boss hired Hallberg, he disparaged how women work. The boss put down Schneider by comparing him to a woman: “he tends to get over emotional about things and let that get in the way of his writing. He’s kind of a girl like that.”

In response, Hallberg said she put up walls, swore more and developed a tough exterior, saying she had to act  “‘like a man’ to be found funny and be accepted in male spaces.”

Hallberg, for her part, had enough of the indignities and eventually quit to start her own web copywriting business. “In an office of one, I can finally put my walls down,” she wrote.

Women share their stories of being patronized

Reacting to Schneider’s story on Twitter, journalist Tasneem Raja tweeted that she had, “100% experienced this as a reporter. A male colleague recommends a source, I call/email, they talk to me like I’m a child.”

Evidence of female identity holds back a career, science shows

Experiments and studies going back over 70 years show that markers of female identity — from female names to feminine clothes — work against women in professional settings.

In the music industry, for instance, ‘blind auditions’ were common in which players sat behind a screen. Still, the Boston Symphony Orchestra noticed that blind auditions didn’t result in more women getting hired.

They realized that, even if a musician was behind a screen, he or she had to walk to it — and the jury was being influenced by the sound of the women’s heels. Orchestras started adding carpet to muffle the sound of auditioning musicians’ footsteps. Other orchestras around the world widely copied the method in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After that, the percent of female musicians in the five top U.S. orchestras increased from to 21% in 1993 from 6% in 1970.

But even if people can’t see or hear you, having a name that identifies you as a woman will still hurt you. A 2015 study on online instructors showed that when an assistant instructor identified as a female, students would rate them lower in their evaluations than for instructors who identified as male. Since student ratings are a significant factor of teacher evaluations, this gender bias can significantly impact teachers’ careers.

But educators can be prejudiced too. In a 2014 study, researchers sent out identical letters from prospective students to professors to test whether bias was a factor in getting a response and a leg up in your academic career. The only difference in each letter? Whether the email was signed by a fictional Meredith Roberts, Lamar Washington, Juanita Martinez, Raj Singh or a Chang Huang. In emails to business schools, 87% of white men got a response compared with 62% of all women and minorities combined.

Organizations and bosses should treat all of their workers fairly, but when they fail you, it’s unfortunately all on you to fight back. In her interactions with her co-workers, Hallberg persisted when they ignored or underestimated her, writing, “When they drifted off and stopped paying attention while I was talking, I’d rewrite it in an email and force my words in front of their eyes. When my boss Pinkwashed my writing to make it sound more ‘feminine,’ I snuck in and changed it back.” That boldness is how women can survive and overcome these situations until they can find a more acceptable workplace.