Wednesday, April 21, 2010

(Stereo) Typical

I blinked when I walked in the room, smiling instead of speaking my greetings since I was late and the speaker had already started. I settled in a chair someone pulled out for me and quietly placed my laptop on the conference table before crossing my legs and focusing my attention on the presentation.

We paused for questions and I glanced around again, quickly counting attendees. I made an even dozen by appearing late and was the only female in the room. I also happened to be the tallest person there as the other 11 participants were of Asian descent. But we discussed highly technical details - coding and modeling and simulations - until, despite best efforts, I was thoroughly befuddled.


We have had several Big Events of late, with mine leading the way. We had invited leaders in our respective fields, being both social and sciencey as we discussed potential endeavors. I glanced around the table at one point during my meeting, feeling no small amount of awed pride that I, Katie, was sitting at a table with such brilliant and reputable men.

"Why no women?" a colleague asked after my meeting, hovering in my office doorway.

"I know," I winced. "I invited four! But none could make it. So we ended up with 20 men." She tsked teasingly before walking away, leaving me frowning.

"It is a problem," I offered at a group meeting this week. "We've had four Big Events and, out of about 70 attendees, had a single woman. One." Then I held up my index finger for further emphasis.

"I didn't notice," Adam mused, forehead wrinkling as he thought through who had been invited.

"Well, I did," I replied. "Even internally, we had people on this team sitting at the head table but that was the extent of the female representation. And other people noticed too!"

"I bet they were women," he grinned, obviously teasing, and I felt my lips curve before I could help it.

"They were," I confirmed sheepishly, "but that's not the point."

"Are there women who are powerful leaders in our fields?" Sibling asked and after staring at the other young, powerful woman in my group and seeing her look sincerely confused, I sighed with defeat.


"She had nice eyes," Adam offered and attempted an innocent expression when I gave him a look.

"Those orange shorts are too small," Sibling decided, ignoring his statement and sipping her water as we waited for margaritas. "I mean, she's very thin, but her outfit is so small that it's pushing the fat out the waist of her shorts. If she just had one size bigger, she'd be better off."

"Will you stop!" I demanded, feeling myself blush as our group turned to examine our waitress while she faced away from us to place our order. "I've never been to one of these before," I offered of the chain restaurant in an attempt to change the subject and save what little modesty our waitress retained.

"No," Adam breathed in reply, faux-shocked and I stuck my tongue out at him before using it to lap salt of the edge of my glass.

"I couldn't work here," a colleague - just slightly younger than my own 31 years - noted. "My breasts aren't nearly big enough - they just don't make bras that good." When she drunkenly assessed my chest, I decided that I didn't care how good the wings were - getting tipsy with colleagues there just wasn't overly smart.


I would say I'm 60% professional. The other 40% of the time, I'm either openly angry or obviously offended. I also give hugs and kisses and sit too close to people to show affection. I manipulate in any number of ways to get what I want. I tell secrets when I shouldn't. I gossip even though it's a terrible indulgence. I'm trying to get better and make progress in fits and starts.

One habit that's actually grown worse over my time in Industry is a tendency to flirt. Given that it is a male-dominated environment, I long ago decided I wanted them to like me - whether that be in a friendly or flirtatious or protective way. And so I send teasing emails. I gush and flatter. I get mild crushes and giggle too often on those phone conferences. I work harder on some presentations so I can be intellectually attractive. I fetch and carry in an attempt to be helpful. I do paperwork and take notes when nobody will volunteer.


Ladies, I believe we still have a pretty large problem in the corporate sector. And I'm sincerely sorry I'm not doing much to help us here.


Krazy Kitty said...

Your there, and conscious of the problem. That's pretty good already.

Krazy Kitty said...

Hmm, I meant "you're". Gah!

Anonymous said...

I hate hate hate the concept of that chain restaurant you were talking about.

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