Saturday, May 1, 2010

I'm not your sweetheart

I want to be taken seriously at work. Who doesn't? And when you're a woman working in a male-dominated industry, it's even more important to be respected.

Most of the women that work in construction are in support positions. They enter and pay bills, schedule employees for jobs, file, open the mail, etc. Many of them are also married to the owner of the company.

Now since I work for a pretty small outfit, I do complete all of these tasks (although I'm clearly not married to the owner of the company) but I do so much more than this. My title is operations manager (or COO, depending on the day) and my responsibilities extend beyond menial office tasks.

Which is why I was so insulted yesterday when a potential client called me a "sweetheart" after I was able to get something he needed. As in, "Thank you. You're such a sweetheart." Sweetheart? Sweetheart? If I were a man, would he have called me sweetheart? No. He would have said, "Thanks, man, you're awesome." Or "Thank you, sir. I appreciate it." It was a subconscious (I hope) way of him putting me in my place and it felt really demeaning. He may as well have just called me a little lady.

Did I say anything? No, of course not. For one, it happened so fast and then we hung up so I didn't really have a chance. And for two, I don't want to make a big deal out of something that he probably meant harmlessly. But maybe I'm just conditioned to resist causing contention and sticking up for myself. Maybe that's the "little lady" in me.

Has anyone ever said something demeaning to you at work? How did you respond/handle it?

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