Smile and be Pretty

I get handed the dumpster fires at work. Your train wrecks, car fires, blazing inferno’s? Project over budget, behind schedule? You don’t even know what’s been done? That’s where I shine. I’m good at that. I’ll take your mess and I’ll sort it and people will be happy. Clients will like me when I’m done. Most of my colleagues will like me after everything is fixed.

I’m competent.

I was on my way to a meeting yesterday. The sort of meeting that really should be an email, but because of the way we humans are, it was going to work best if we just got everyone in a room. As it happens, it took 3 minutes to explain the issue, 5 minutes to discuss some history and 4 minutes to agree on a solution. Another 4 minutes of next steps, add in some chit chat about cars, weather and hockey and you have a 15 minute meeting to solve a problem that had been going on for a month.

Competence and dumpster fires are the back ground – the main act occurred in a hallway yesterday at about 1:58 pm. I was running late for  the meeting I just told you about. Came across a colleague and a senior member of the client staff. My colleague – a man – put his hand on my shoulder – looked at me and said “young lady, what have I said to you about always smiling for the client.” 

There are so many places I could go with this.

If you are a woman I don’t need to go anywhere.

You are with me in that hallway.

You know I felt tiny and belittled and humiliated. I wasn’t competent. I wasn’t going to solve a problem. It didn’t matter that I was tired because I solve dumpster fires for 50 hours a week and I go to school for 20 hours a week. It didn’t matter that I didn’t feel well, that I was worried about a friend losing his job and that I was trying to sort out two other problems.

None of that mattered because I wasn’t smiling and I didn’t look pretty.

I’m not stupid. I know I’m playing at a man’s game. I know that. I know that there are fewer women hired into tech and that even less of us stay. I know it doesn’t matter that Justin Trudeau said “because it’s 2015”, that the Premier of my Province is a Woman.

What happened yesterday, it’s just another scene in the ongoing drama. Another act. Following on from the time the senior developer asked if my pubic hair was the same colour as my hair. When I’ve been called honey. Had my ass grabbed. Called a bitch and offered midol for daring to tell a man he was wrong. Been asked to make the coffee, do the photocopying. The time the client thought my BA was the project manager because he was a man.

I sent an email. Told the colleague his behaviour was unacceptable. Followed up with a note to my boss.

Apparently my bottle of “very expensive apology scotch” will arrive. This was my bosses’ suggestion to make amends.

I don’t want a bottle of apology scotch. I’m not interested in washing down my demands for basic equality with a side of light peat. I sure as hell don’t want to drink with someone who thinks I should look pretty.

I’m competent. I’d like to be equal too.


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4 Responses to Smile and be Pretty

  1. a says:

    Wow – what a condescending move. The guy should probably be reprimanded for giving the client a poor impression of the company. A bottle of apology scotch should maybe be sent to the client instead.

  2. Chris says:

    I am with you in that hallway.

  3. Scientistmother says:

    Fuck. Yep. With you in the hallway

  4. loribeth says:

    Oh, ugh. I remember being at an event 30-ish years ago, where I was introduced to a senior executive, who put his arm around me as we stood in a group making small talk & referred to me as “this little girl here.” I gritted my teeth & decided that, since he was almost retirement age, I would overlook his sexist comments, but that anyone my father’s age or younger who referred to me in similar fashion would get a piece of my mind. I am sorry that things have not improved more in the decades since then…!

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