I’m on my way to work and I notice the words, “Suck Up and Be Nice” had been chiseled into the sidewalk above a smiley face. It got me thinking about the subtle and not so subtle sexism I’ve experienced on the job as a GS (Glorified Secretary).
My job title has never been secretary of administrative assistant but I have found myself fulfilling this role anyway in addition to other duties. Is it my fault? I dress very feminine and like to take care of people. I do the menial tasks in my small office consisting mostly of men. I bring cupcakes, take notes at meetings, fetch, take care of pesky paperwork for people, take the interns under my wing, and answer the phone.
Joan Williams who wrote the better book than Sheryl Sandberg, What Works for Women at Work calls these jobs, “office housework” and she says it is going to burn me out, limit my access to higher valued tasks, and basically do nothing good for my career whatsoever. Williams says that women are often not considered team players unless they take on this particular position.
In my previous role as an associate consultant, I learned by example that flirting was the same thing as good customer service. In my current position I’ve been kept out of client meetings when my male colleague is invited in and chastised for not having a, “brighter attitude.” Still, I think that my current situation at work is largely my fault. I stay because it’s easy and convenient. If I don’t like schmoozing I could find a different job. I admit to resting on “helpful” and dare I say, “pretty” sometimes. Did teaching (time in the pink collar ghetto) for so many years soften my career ambition? Must a woman worker, “suck up and be nice?” IS it my fault?
I have more questions than answers today.