Don’t make eye contact

My cats perceive direct eye contact as hostile and aggressive; apparently bosses do as well


I found yet another reference to the study about how women are criticized for being “aggressive” while men are praised. (This time in Everyday Sexism.)

I found the original study and I am more cranky than ever.

A few years ago, Kieran Snyder, who, based on the LinkedIn profile I found, has a PhD in linguistics, dug into the issue. (I think it’s the same Kieran Snyder.)

She wrote (the original article was in Fortune, but it’s behind a paywall – I found this at,

Not long ago I was talking to an engineering manager who was preparing performance reviews for his team. He had two people he wanted to promote that year, but he was worried that his peers were only going to endorse one of them. “Jessica is really talented,” he said. “But I wish she’d be less abrasive. She comes on too strong.” Her male counterpart? “Steve is an easy case,” he went on. “Smart and great to work with. He needs to learn to be a little more patient, but who doesn’t?” I don’t know whether Jessica got her promotion, but the exchange got me wondering how often this perception of female abrasiveness undermines women’s careers in technology.

She asked people to give her copies of their performance evaluations.

She analyzed them.

And guess what she learned?

This will not be a surprise to any woman who has ever had a performance evaluation.

Women are told to shut up way more than men are.

Men are given constructive suggestions. Women are given constructive suggestions – and told to pipe down. 

The kinds of observations my friend offers about his reports Jessica and Steve are pretty common. In the 177 reviews where people receive critical feedback, men and women receive different kinds. The critical feedback men receive is heavily geared towards suggestions for additional skills to develop. A few examples:

“Constructive feedback on your performance as a feature crew tester can be summed up by saying that you still have some skills to continue to develop.”

“Hone your strategies for guiding your team and developing their skills. It is important to set proper guidance around priorities and to help as needed in designs and product decisions.”

“There were a few cases where it would have been extremely helpful if you had gone deeper into the details to help move an area forward.”

“Take time to slow down and listen. You would achieve even more.”

Women receive this kind of constructive feedback too. But the women’s reviews include another, sharper element that is absent from the men’s:

“You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.”

“Your peers sometimes feel that you don’t leave them enough room. Sometimes you need to step back to let others shine.”“The presentation ultimately went well. But along the way, we discovered many areas for improvement.

You would have had an easier time if you had been less judgmental about R—‘s contributions from the beginning.”

This kind of negative personality criticism—watch your tone! step back! stop being so judgmental!—shows up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.

I had a phone interview yesterday. My interviewer was a young woman, maybe in her late 20s? (Her photo was on the company’s website.)

Five minutes and ten seconds exactly after we finished our conversation, she sent me an email telling me they were “going in a different direction.” That is, thanks but no thanks.

I am trying to figure out why. I hope it’s not because she thought I was Too Loud. She asked what my weaknesses were and I told her.

I am being completely honest these days because I don’t want any more jobs where I am stuck doing the things I am bad at or where my personality isn’t a fit.

Well, I was being completely honest in this interview because I don’t really want to work at this place anyhow, but I applied because it’s good practice to interview as much as possible. Their website is all about how they have fun together after work drinking and partying and there is nobody in their company photos who looks to be over 35 years old. Culturally, it would not be a fit. I don’t want to hang out with my co-workers and drink. I want to go home after work. I work for money.

The first weakness I told her about is that I am not strong with details and numbers. A few years ago, one week after I started a new job, the man who hired me quit. He was in charge of all the financial reporting. His boss told me I needed to do these reports now. (But Big Boss did not give me Quitting Man’s salary and when Big Boss replaced Quitting Man, he did not ask Replacement Person – at $30K a year more than I was making – to take back the financial reporting responsibilities. I am still a little ticked off about that.)

Anyhow, I can do financial reports but I hate doing them and it takes me three times as long as anyone else because I have to build in so many checks to make sure all the numbers (which are usually fiction) tick and tie.

The other weakness I told her about is that I am outspoken.

This company was founded by a woman. It’s run by a woman. It’s mostly women who work there.

One would think that other women would embrace outspoken. And would understand that “outspoken” does not mean “abrasive” or “judgmental” or rude or mean.

Sometimes, “outspoken” just means, “eager to contribute ideas” and “doesn’t sit meekly while everyone else talks.”

But maybe not.

Men sure don’t want outspoken. Unless it’s from other men. Then it’s perfectly OK.

Words like bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive are used to describe women’s behaviors when they lead; words like emotional and irrational describe their behaviors when they object. All of these words show up at least twice in the women’s review text I reviewed, some much more often. Abrasive alone is used 17 times to describe 13 different women. Among these words, only aggressive shows up in men’s reviews at all. It shows up three times, twice with an exhortation to be more of it.

Maybe I should just sew my lips together.

(Read more of Snyder’s work:

It’s the Culture, Bro: Why Women Leave Tech

The Gender Resume Gap and How to Close It)







Maybe binge-watching “Vera” counts as being productive?

My cats are very happy to watch TV productively with me

Shirl tv
Usually, I have the blanket over me, Shirley, and the space heater. It’s her little spa. As soon as she hears me turn on the TV, she bounds down the stairs and glares at me until I put the blanket on top of the space heater.


Things I have done since I lost my job

  • Visited my 98 year old great-aunt
  • Visited my 96 year old friend in Madison
  • Watched every episode of every season of Vera and why aren’t there more than eight seasons?
  • Watched the last two seasons of Longmire and got really ticked off at the ending. What happened to Travis? He just disappeared. And no – come on. Vic and the sheriff do not belong together. I would never have written the story that way.
  • Watched season five of Blacklist and cheated and read ahead about Red’s secret and now I am not sure if I want to watch season six
  • Started and stopped watching these shows either because I had already seen them before and forgot or because I started watching and realized they were stupid
    • Covert Affairs
    • Blood
    • Looking
  • Watched several movies and realized that movies have gotten really bad and really crass and that Mr T and I are in danger of moving into Get off my lawn! territory but really, NORMAL PEOPLE DO NOT TALK OR ACT LIKE THIS, MOVIES!
    • Booksmart
    • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
    • Long Shot (also – blessyourheart Seth Rogen – but yeah)
    • Get A Job
  • However, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont was sweet
  • Read several feminist manifestos and have gotten even more ticked off than usual
    • Everyday Sexism
    • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud
    • The Vagina Bible
    • BITCHfest: Ten years of cultural criticism…
    • Toilets: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing
    • Dear Ijeawele, or A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions
  • Applied for about 60 jobs
  • Had five phone interviews, which are great because you don’t have to be showered or dressed well for a phone interview
  • Spent hours every day on my friends’ blogs:


Things I have not done

  • Visited my mother (except this is an awful time of year to fly to Denver because so many flights get delayed or cancelled and then once we are at my mom’s, we can’t go outside because it’s too darn cold, although not as cold as here, where we have -2 today)
  • Worn makeup
  • Showered often
  • Put on clothes other than elasticized items appropriate for exercise for a person who exercises but for me just make it easier to flop down on the sofa and eat
  • Gotten into amazing physical shape or even exercised more than 30 minutes a day
  • Caught up on my sleep. Thank you, unemployment for giving me the time to sleep but stressing me out so much that I can’t
  • Organized the basement, although in my defense, it’s not my stuff that’s the problem. I have almost no stuff in the basement but SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS HOUSE DOES AND HE JUST OPENED A BOX AND FOUND HIS LEASE FROM 1986
  • Volunteered every single day for a worthy cause
  • Learned new skills like programming or mechanical engineering, both of which would get me a job immediately
  • Networked. Everyone says to network, but I have never gotten a job that way. I have always applied to posted job ads. I am so envious of the people who Know People and who find out about and get hooked up with jobs via networking. It sounds like such a better process than looking at LinkedIn or every day to see what’s new and what I should be applying for and spending 30 minutes writing a cover letter and then going through the usually awful online application process that asks what country I’m in and makes me go to the bottom of the list to find “USA” although really, Acme, how many people are applying from Antigua?
  • Learned Mandarin
  • Created elaborate gourmet meals
  • Cleaned the baseboards
  • Made a book of the photos from our trip to northern Spain last fall, even though that item has been on my list for four months
  • Figured out what we are going to do when we retire. Where do we want to live? When should we move there? What is the meaning of life? Why are we here?

When you think you won’t be lazy but you are

At least I am not as lazy as my cats


Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were unemployed and suddenly had hours and hours of time to fill every day?

It’s not relaxing time, mind you. You spend the mornings looking for job postings and then writing cover letters and sending them and then wondering what on earth happens because it’s like you’re sending an SOS into this giant void and guess what?

You are.

It’s a giant void – a cold, empty space that goes back to eternity and light disappears and nothing happens.

So you wait and you wait and you wait.

And you wonder if you will ever have a job again and why doesn’t anyone want you and it’s not as bad as not being invited to a single high-school dance but it feels like it.

And actually, it’s worse than not being invited to a single high-school dance because not being asked to a dance is not on the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy. It isn’t. It might feel like it at the time, but you do not die from not being asked to a dance.

You can, however, die from unemployment and its effects.

Don’t worry. Mr T and I are nowhere near death. WE ARE FINE. But it’s the psychological part of this and the uncertainty that is (not really) killing me.

So maybe you have wondered – have wished for – vast swaths of uncommitted time? Time where you could do nothing but catch up on those projects you’ve been meaning to get done? To write that novel? To get in shape? To finally get things done?

I am here to tell you that it might not work out that way.

Or maybe I am the lazy outlier and everyone else gets things done and gets in shape?

Because here is how unemployment is working for me:

It’s been since January 1 and I am not yet in shape.

I have not written a novel.

I have not completed The Projects.

I have all the time in the world but I am not using it for good.

I am not working out six hours a day.

(What would that even look like?)

(Who does that unless they are being paid to do so?)

Instead, I spend most of the time that I am not writing cover letters (which takes way more time than I would like, but I am applying for jobs that involve writing, so I need to be spot-on) goofing off and, occasionally, diving into existential crisis.

I do work out, but I am resting on the laurels of 30 minutes a day, which – my future self I know is going to judge. Even my current self is judgy about that.

I never thought I was a Lazy Person but now I have learned that I am.






Would you rather be rejected by someone really smart or by someone who is in charge of “corporate highers?” Asking for a friend

When you have a hard time interviewing because the person who is interviewing you don’t know geography, which should not matter but it does

Do these guys have the best job in the world er no? They get to make people happy all day long by serving them churros, chocolate, and cafe con leche.

I’ve been looking for a new job, a task that might be even more demoralizing than trying on bathing suits in a dressing room fitted out with fluorescent light and a five-dollar mirror.

I have applied for about 50 positions in the past six weeks.

I have gotten five phone interviews.

I have gotten no in-person interviews. Yet. I hope that’s just a “yet.”

But this morning, I got a rejection from one of the places where I had a phone interview.

I have to admit that I don’t seem to do well interviewing with young men in their 20s. Maybe it’s me? Maybe it’s them? I don’t know, but my attempts to establish rapport fall flat.

[The women I have spoken to – the other phone interviews – have been fabulous. They made the experience nice and easy and they were absolutely lovely. They represented their organizations well.]

This guy who rejected me got on the phone last week and pretty much jumped straight into his prepared questions. Barely any “Hi how are you doing? Isn’t this weather awful? Do you think spring will ever come?”

Just straight to his questions.

Which I guess I answered wrong.

He is my second data point for interviewing with young men.

The first time was years ago when I had an in-person interview on site.

I got to the place and was waiting in reception, which was a two-story atrium. Recruiter came down the stairs to get me – and stopped on the landing midway between the first and second floors.

“Texan?” he called as he looked around reception.

“Hi!” I said as I walked toward the stairs, waiting for him to descend completely.

Which he did not.

He stayed.

On the landing.

So – I climbed up to him.

He shook my hand and turned to lead me upstairs.

We went into a meeting room.

He did not say, “Would you like something to drink? Do you need to use the restroom?”

These are always my first words to anyone visiting me at work.

The “Would you like something to drink?” are the first words to anyone who crosses my threshold at home. I also ask if guests to my home want something to eat.

It is my intention that nobody ever leave my house hungry or thirsty and I certainly don’t want them hungry or thirsty while they are in my house.


It gets better.

He did try to establish some rapport with me.

But BlessHisLittleHeart.

He asked, “Where did you go to high school?”

Well OK. High school was before college and college was before grad school, but whatever. He was trying.

“My dad was in the military,” I answered. “I went to high school in the Panama Canal Zone.”

I didn’t expect a detailed conversation about it, but – that is kind of unusual for someone in the upper Midwest to have gone to high school in Panama, I think. Isn’t it?

“Oh!” he answered brightly. “I love Florida, but I usually go to Tampa!”

What do you even say to that?

What do you say to that when the person who makes such a statement is the gatekeeper between you and possibly employment?

You don’t say what I wanted to say, which was, “How do you even have a job?”

I swallowed, took a breath, and said, “Yeah! Tampa’s great!”

But. I did not get another interview.

I hate this process.

This is Panama. This is not Panama City. It is also not Tampa. It is not Florida.



A brief primer on business meetings

We can talk about sex and we can talk about work, but not in the same conversation

This is not a place for a work meeting. Honestly. We should not have to explain this to anyone.

I have been reading the stories at Elephant in the Valley and I read a comment on Ask A Manager from someone who was surprised that a woman had been told to smile because the commenter thought that sort of thing was way out of fashion and – dang, y’all. It just doesn’t stop, does it?

The past is never dead. It’s not even past. Look at these stories (from Elephant in the Valley).

seat at the table
Left out are the stories about men talking in the men’s room and getting deals done. But that’s so common that maybe we don’t even think about it as a way we are excluded.


Let’s talk about what a proper business meeting looks like, shall we?

A proper business  meeting does not take place at a venue where women are scantily dressed. This includes but is not limited to Hooters and strip clubs.

I am thinking this should not be a difficult concept to grasp but apparently, it is something that has not sunk in, as 22 years after my own Hooters and meetings conversation with my VP, Hooters meetings are still happening.

Here’s how it happened at my old job.

I was working in corporate finance and strategy (do not do this unless you love working until 10 p.m. every night and no they do not pay you enough to make it worth it). One day, in the locker room at lunch, some women from another group were talking about how their boss had held a work meeting during work hours at Hooter’s.

The women were furious and their male boss didn’t understand why.

That afternoon, I told the story to my (male) VP, thinking he, who was only 42, would get it immediately.

His brow furrowed. “But – I like Hooter’s! And their wings are really good!”

“You think it’s OK to have a work meeting there?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Why not?”

I hate resorting to this argument because I shouldn’t have to, but sometimes it’s the only way.

His daughter was seven years old at the time.

“Do you want your daughter to grow up to work at Hooter’s?”

The blood drained from his face.

“Oh,” he said. “Oh. Yes. I see what you mean.”

We should not have to resort to, “But your daughter/sister/mother/wife” arguments. Sheesh. But at least now he understood.

My first job out of college, I was in sales. My male co-workers took customers to strip clubs and expensed it. Nobody questioned it (except my female co-workers and I). Hey, if it makes money, do it, right?

The first time I went to a trade show, I was astonished to see half-dressed women dancing in front of the equipment used to transport scalded, eviscerated poultry corpses across the processing plant floor.

(NB I am not hating on the women who do these jobs. I like sleeping indoors and so do most other people. If someone will give you a lot of money to do this kind of thing, go for it! But men in the business world? SAVE IT FOR YOUR OWN TIME.)

I couldn’t figure out the connection between poultry-processing equipment and semi-nude dancing women. I felt quite overdressed in my suit.

I was walking with a VP. Perhaps this is not the language I should have used, but I was so shocked at what I saw that I blurted out, “Is there a booth where they are giving blow jobs?”

The VP was stunned but honestly, in retrospect, I am more ticked off that to him, half-naked dancing women was a perfectly unremarkable sight.

And to answer the blow job question, no, I don’t think there was such a booth, but one of my company’s salesmen told me that there was a lot of after-hours entertainment that he chose not to provide for his customers because it made him so uncomfortable.

I don’t think anything has changed since then except in some places, it’s harder to see.




A room of our own

Is it wrong to hide in the bathroom if you are stuck at a party you really didn’t want to attend? Asking for a friend.

We had a long layover at Charles de Gaulle airport. I wanted cold water to fill my water bottle but all I could get was hot. I asked the other woman in the bathroom if she knew if there was cold water or not. Me: Vous savais si il y a d’eau froid ou c’est tout chaud? Frenchwoman: What language are you speaking? Me: Umm. French?

I feel as if I write about bathrooms a lot.

I guess I do.

But – they are a big deal. The ability to find a toilet when I am not at my house? It matters. If there isn’t a public restroom for me to use, I drink less water. When I drink less water, I get dehydrated, which can cause either a migraine or an irritated bladder or both. Yay.

Or there is a restroom but the line snakes out of the room and into the hall and I spend the entire intermission waiting. (Looking at you, Tom Jones concert when there was a guard by the ladies who would not let anyone use the separate handicapped restroom even though nobody else was using it at the time.)

And I am concerned only for myself. Add children or another person I might have to care for and it would be even worse.

So yes – potty parity is a big deal and I care about it because without it, I am literally in pain. And because other women are also in pain and are greatly inconvenienced.

So that’s the main reason I want more women’s rooms.

Not more restrooms.

More women’s rooms.

Because there is a social component to this as well. I don’t think men have the same sort of experience in the men’s room. At least, based on Mr T’s reactions to my stories, Mr T does not and does not know of others striking up conversations with strangers in the restroom.

But it’s pretty common for women, I think. We bond over our shared experience of waiting. And of our mutual frustration at the state of the restroom world. And you know – just being women in a space that is women only. There are not many spaces like that in the world.

I don’t want to share my bathroom space with men.

So today, I don’t feel like complaining about potty parity. I am just going to tell you a quick story about an encounter that baffled Mr T but made perfect sense to me.

Mr T and I went to an art gallery for a guided tour with a curator. The tour was about to start but I thought it would be wise to run to the ladies first as one does.

When I came out, I reported to Mr T, who was concerned I was late and that the tour would start without me.

But I knew better.

Me: I knew there was no toilet paper in the stall next to me, so I handed some to the woman who had gone in there.

Mr T: Without even waiting for her to ask?

Me: I knew she was going to need it. I had tried that stall first but there was no paper so I changed.

Mr T: Men don’t work like that.

Me: She said, “Thanks! I’m about to give a tour and I thought I better pee first.” I told her, “I’m about to go on your tour so at least now I know I won’t be late!” She said, “I’ll wait for you! You’re my guardian angel!”

Mr T: Men really don’t work like that.

Me: We often admire each other’s shoes, too.