I cleaned out one of the drawers beside my desk yesterday. Buried at the bottom was a copy of a provocative comparison of stereotypes of male and female employees titled He Works, She Works: But What Different Impressions They Make. I had seen the piece on a female friend’s office bulletin board and requested a copy. I find this fascinating and, no surprise, disturbing. Most disturbing because I imagine that it is based in reality. More disturbing because this piece is from a publication from 1980—over 30 years ago.
Some things just don’t change.
Recent publicity about working conditions at Walmart for all employees, but especially for women, the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act as President Obama’s first act when elected in 2008, and continuing news about substantial differences in pay for women vs. men working identical jobs have maintained focus on unfair practices that plague women in the workplace. I went to college in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s at the height of the feminist movement. I have always understood and advocated for the need to improve the status of women in America and around the world.
Here’s what the piece has to say about how differently men and woman may be perceived at work. I was struck by its simplicity and by its unfortunate and long-lasting insight.
“Have you ever found yourself up against the old double-standard at work? Then you know how annoying it can be and how alone you can feel. Supervisors and co-workers still judge us by old stereotypes that say that women are emotional, disorganized, and inefficient. Here are some of the most glaring examples of the typical office double-standard.”
|Family picture on his desk:Ah, a solid, responsible family man.||Family picture on her desk:Hmm, family will come before career.|
|His desk is cluttered:He’s obviously a hard worker and busy man.||Her desk is cluttered:She’s obviously disorganized and scatterbrained.|
|He’s talking with co-workers:He must be discussing the latest deal.||She’s talking with co-workers:She must be gossiping.|
|He’s not at his desk:He must be at a meeting.||She’s not at her desk:She must be out shopping.|
|He has lunch with the boss:He’s on his way up.||She has lunch with the boss:They must be having an affair.|
|The boss criticized HIM:He’ll improve his performance.||The boss criticized HER:She’ll be very upset.|
|He got an unfair deal:Did he get angry?||She got an unfair deal:Did she cry?|
|He’s getting married:He’ll get more settled.||She’s getting married:She’ll get pregnant and leave.|
|He’s having a baby:He’ll need a raise.||She’s having a baby:She’ll cost the company money in maternity benefits.|
|He’s going on a business trip:It’s good for his career.||She’s going on a business trip:What does her husband say?|
|He’s leaving for a better job:He recognizes a good opportunity.||She’s leaving for a better job:Women are undependable.|
Obviously, this may not be so true for all work places or for all men or all women. Certainly things have changed for some of us at some jobs. But, if on average, women doing the same work in 2012 were still paid 71 cents on the dollar in comparison to men, then somebody still has some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy.