Working for Men in a Female Dominant Office
The Challenges of Patriarchal Hierarchy
I work in an office of fifteen people, and nine of us are women. Two of the men are part-time only, so this leaves four men that work in my office full-time. All four of these men are my bosses. There is only one woman in a position of power.
This dynamic creates an issue of "male to female culture," as one of these men would say. It isn't that there are stark differences that can be noticed between the work of the men and the women, but that there are things that these men call "women's problems." You might think that they mean menstrual cycles and babies, but they don't. They mean the organization of the company, the cleanliness of the office, and the order of the women. To them, we're practically a cult. They can't seem to understand where we came from or why we do the things we do. They happily accept that we, as women, take charge of certain tasks.
We do this, not because we feel that it is our duty as women, but because we are acutely aware that the males of the office have no intention of taking care of it. They seem content to sit back and leave the office out of order. If the women weren't around, I'm sure that the space would be both filthy and disorganized. There would be no reasoning behind where things are or the processes of the office. This is part of a "woman's problems."
Besides this, there are clear indications of the separation of the sexes. If a client calls in tears, it is handed off to one of the female members of staff. If there is an aggressive man, the male office members take it upon themselves to take over the call. This is not to say that I don't respect them men putting a foot down with aggressive clients, because I do. The issue is that they will remove a female staff member from a call without much thought to whether or not they are capable of handling the call themselves. That is "a man's job," as it were.
With this, you should know that there is not a timid member of our staff. There is no woman that I work with that is less than capable of putting anyone in their place. We are more than capable of rescuing ourselves from any situation that might arise. We are all strong and independent. We have all led hard lives, and with hardship comes perseverance. None of us need a man to handle our issues for us.
As previously mentioned, there is one woman that is in a position with authority. She is the owner, but her father is the founder. Her founding father still works in the office, and while she is in charge, he makes her life much harder than it needs to be. He actively ignores her requests and advice. Though he is half-retired, he actively attempts to pull rank. He is an avid believer in the idea that those above should not consort with those below. As a young woman, I find this idea to be most common in older white men.
My boss, my female boss, chats regularly with everyone. She takes genuine interest in the lives of everyone in our shared space. She likes to quote studies on how the interest of managers has direct correlation with staff moral and output. Her father tends to disagree. He cites that it shows a lack of professionalism in the work place. He discourages then other men to follow the new path that his daughter is setting in her controlling partnership of the business. There is a clashing of heads that comes from both a generational and gender separation. While this is understandable, it is not acceptable that he feels that it is acceptable to belittle the head of the company in front of staff. He does not attempt to hide that he feels that she is soft because she is a woman. In fact, he makes semi-regular comments that list the flaws that he sees in the ability and characteristics of women. This is a challenge of its own.
I know that I am strong, just as I know that all of them women in my company are, but it is challenging to keep up my spirits when the eldest man in charge is slowly indoctrinating the men below him. It becomes a habit for them to just agree with him. They eventually start to mimic his behaviors, he's their boss after all. It eventually becomes part of who these men are. They take on his flaws and project his views on the subordinate women around them.
This is the struggle of working with women in a male controlled office. Even with having the now-owner being a formidable woman, it is still an oppressive environment. The hierarchy of old to young, male to female, and boss to staff is constantly reiterated to every member of our team. It is us versus them, and they intend to win every time.