So, I had an interesting conversation with a young man a while ago. I’m not exactly sure how the subject came up; but we started talking about sexually based discrimination in the workplace. I told him that, as a woman who looks much younger than her years, I worry that some male coworkers may not put the same weight behind my words and opinions as they would if I were male.
And his reaction shocked and pleased me at the same time. He said, “Why would you think that?” He couldn’t see how someone couldn’t have the same respect for a woman’s opinions where he worked. I told him the following story about a time my knowledge was not respected. I had written a corrective action for a technical report my company had committed to write; but had not written. A customer was asking for it to satisfy a regulatory inquiry. The engineering group responsible for that part of the design committed to providing me with the report by a future date, which I then used to provide a delivery date to the customer. When future date arrived, no report had been written. Hence a deliverable to the customer was missed. I wrote a corrective action to investigate why the report was not planned and, ultimately, get the report written.
The investigator who came to determine the cause of the missing report brought with him a report about fire loadings that I was already familiar with. I told him repeatedly what he had was not the report I needed. He insisted it was. I even explained to him the technical details of the analysis that would be necessary to meet the commitment and that were missing from the report he was holding. He still insisted that what he had in his hand was the report I was seeking.
He was trying to figure out why I wrote the corrective action in the first place when he had the report in his hands. He said, since this is the report, then why did you write this issue? I could not believe that this arrogant son of a bitch would sit in front of me, look me in the face and try to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Seriously, how stupid did he think I was? Apparently, very!
Since my words would not convince him that the issue wasn’t bogus, I sent him away to talk to the responsible manager. Of course, the manager (a male) told him what he had was in fact not the report I required, and that the report hadn’t been written. Viola! The woman might actually know what the hell she’s talking about. Regardless, in his investigation report, he ultimately put the blame on me and my tracking method for engineering missing the deliverable. I couldn’t believe it!
My chat with the younger man gave me interesting perspective. He was a young professional like me who couldn’t believe that women would be treated poorly. He expressed that women aren’t treated like that where he works. He respects the women he works with. I didn’t get into it with him about how women are paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Or that women with children are often passed up for promotions. Or how women who become pregnant or who are lactating are too often discriminated against or even fired. I think he came to the final determination that gender discrimination is a generational problem that doesn’t exist in his generation. I came to the final determination that because gender-specific discrimination was not important to him, he didn’t know about it. We’ll just have to wait and see on this one.