Yes, Really - It's 2020 and Still a Boys' Club

One graduate's surprising experience of the professional world

Yes, Really - It's 2020 and Still a Boys' Club

The country I live in is First World, progressive and encourages freedom of speech. I am from a privileged background, my parents are together, and I don’t consider myself to be part of any minorities. I should have nothing to complain about, yet here I am.

There’s no denying I have relatively few obstacles in my life, and so I’ve grown up assuming equality in every aspect, as I was fortunate enough to be raised by non-discriminatory parents. That song ‘This is a Man’s World’ meant nothing to me. “No it isn’t”, I’d think to my seven year old self as it played on some perfume advert, “Women are always in charge”. Or, at least, they were in my house. Unfortunately, I’m no longer seven years old. I’m twenty-three, live away from my parents, work in a city and have an ever increasing understanding of what it means to live in a Man’s World, as do the rest of my generation… or so I am usually led to believe.

Since graduating from university, I have had two jobs. Both entry level roles, yet for two very different companies. The first liked to think it was highly corporate and had around four hundred employees, run by middle-aged, male CEOs. The second was much more familiar with around seventy employees, all working for a founder aged below twenty-five. Sound pretty different, don’t they? Yet, in both cases I have found with hindsight, that what they both had in common was a ‘Boys’ Club’ culture.

From the pretentious corporate firm, this did not surprise me, as it was a toxic workplace anyway. Everyday sexism rather went with the territory. But it was the second, smaller company run by young people which surprised me. Their supposed ethos is one of ‘workplace equality’ and ‘openness to suggestion and criticism’, alongside which, one might assume, would be egalitarianism. Surprisingly to me, this is not the case. Last year, as the company gained traction and status, they moved a step away from their sub-twenty-five year old workforce and employed six new Heads of Departments, each of whom brought age and experience to the office. Every single one of them was a man. The intelligent and cosmopolitan CEO ought to know better than to make such a move in the current ideological climate. In his defense, perhaps there simply were not any suitable female candidates, but this arouses suspicion of subconscious sexism regardless.

Once this had struck my notice, the rest followed. As is often the case, there was a clear inner circle within the body of employees. Fair enough – they were there first, I won’t argue with that. Except that these members, too, were all men. I learned not to expect to hear of any developments in business or our processes, as this information was rarely publicised further than this group. Normally, we mere mortals had to make a secretly defined mistake to find out we were doing things wrong.

Something which was considered ‘wrong’ was a short but thought-provoking article written by a colleague for the company blog surrounding an aspect of the Gender Pay Gap. It was refused for publication for being ‘too politically aligned’. The article in question stated statistical fact, not opinion. The patriarchal inner circle rejected the piece because they were concerned that outwardly agreeing with any ‘political stance’ would be harmful to the young business. But, with the Gender Pay Gap being something so universally considered as wrong, why was this seen as political? If an opinion at all, it’s one we all should have unanimously. I was horrified that this subject still made the men in the equation squirm with discomfort before shutting down the suggestion of the article, met with faces of disbelief from female colleagues.

If the gender bias here is true, the men in charge here should surely know that women talk! We have experienced the same thoughts concerning this issue. We have discussed them. That cannot be good for the firm’s reputation should the discussion extend beyond the office.

The point I am making here is that the battle for workplace equality is far from over. If my boss, who is young and well-located enough to have his finger right on the pulse of feminism’s complaints, cannot achieve even representation in his office, then there is much more emotionally and physically exhausting work to be done. Young women going into their first job should be aware of this, as should young men who are equally important in the measures to dissipate the Boys’ Club.

gender roles
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Diana Osborne
See all posts by Diana Osborne