If only we had a penis, this wouldn’t be so hard

And no, I didn’t mean to do that, but serendipity

From Geena Davis’ documentary, “This Changes Everything.”

My friend, who is smart and talented, has asked her boss for a raise several times.

She has documented her accomplishments.

She has shown how she is doing work outside her job description, work that her boss considers to be strategic and important, as he is the one who is asking her to do it, sending her to director-level meetings in his stead.

Have you already figured out what part of the problem is?

Did hitting the word “he” give you a clue?

When he told her there are metrics and a path to promotion, she answered, “OK! What are they?”

[I]n performance evaluations, “Women were criticised for being ‘bossy, abrasive, strident, aggressive, emotional and irrational.’ Men were not. Indeed, men were exhorted to be more aggressive.”

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

“I have so many skills,” she told me. “I have spent a lifetime learning how to pacify men’s fragile egos. I can walk into a meeting full of men and know immediately who the alpha is and whose ego needs stroking.”

These are not skills you can put on a resume.

These are not skills we should need.

My friend’s boss backpedaled when she asked for the metrics. “Well, they aren’t really defined. We’d have to brainstorm and create some.”

My friend, who has been on this rodeo before, answered, “Guess what I came up with a bunch of ideas!” as she slapped down another page of proof.

Years ago, I was in charge of cleaning the customer and item data in three operating systems for 70 factories.

I did so and documented the financial and time benefits to the company.

I saved the company a ton of money and I had proof.

I asked my boss, who had been the manager of one of the factories before he came onto this project, for a promotion (and raise).

“But them you’ll be making more than my assistant plant manager did!” he answered.

“My work has had more of an impact than his has,” I said.

I did not get that promotion.

In my performance evaluation with a boss once, he told me I “used big words that make people feel stupid.”

I was confused. “What words? Which people?” I asked.

He could not cite any examples.

I told a co-worker the story and the co-worker laughed. “You make our boss feel stupid,” he said.

Men (women were not found to exhibit this bias) who believe that they are objective in hiring decisions are more likely to hire a male applicant than an identically described female applicant. And in organisations which are explicitly presented as meritocratic, managers favour male employees over equally qualified female employees.

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

At my last job, I was hired to create an internal document repository.

I taught myself the software, researched the best practices, convinced management to change how they did things to adopt best practices, and designed, built, and launched the repository within four months of my start date.

My coworkers praised it, telling me it was intuitive and easy to use.

Then I started internal communications – newsletters, posters, podcasts, and videos – that increased sales opportunities. My company made machinery that started at $150,000 an item. My campaigns created the possibilities of increased revenues by hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

I asked my boss for a promotion.

For context, I was two position levels lower than an engineer who had ten years’ work experience. I had more than twice that amount of experience and had documented results above and beyond my job description.

No promotion.

“What do I need to do to get a promotion?”

My boss, one of the really good guys – a great guy in every other way, could not give me an answer.

Employment procedures that are unwittingly biased towards men are an issue in promotion as well as hiring. A classic example comes from Google, where women weren’t nominating themselves for promotion at the same rate as men. This is unsurprising: women are conditioned to be modest, and are penalised when they step outside of this prescribed gender norm.

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

We are punished when we advocate for ourselves.

But this generation? Women in their 30s? They’re not taking this crap. They know they’re right and they know they’re not alone and they will make things better for the women who come after them.

Don’t stop fighting. Don’t give up.


We are not safe

Men worry about being bored, women worry about being murdered

It’s the water we swim in. It’s so “of course” that we use it as a joke.

Remember the woman who was raped while she was jogging in Central Park in 1989?

(And the five teenagers who were accused and convicted were actually innocent and not released until 2002. The fomer president – the awful guy – took out full-page ads in the New York newspapers calling for the death penalty to be brought back. Last year, he refused to apologize for the ads and for what he said about the teenagers. He said, “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.”

Their confessions were coerced. They. Were. Innocent. They might not have gone to prison if TFG had not taken out the ads.)

Anyhow. Remember when that happened?

My friends and I were horrified.

Our worst fear – that we would be attacked and raped by a stranger.

(Although as it has turned out, at least for me, it’s the men you know who should worry you more. The ones who just won’t stop trying. When I was in those days, I thought that just because a guy drove from Houston to Austin to see me, I had to let him stay at my house. And then and then. I WAS AN IDIOT I WISH I COULD HAVE A DO OVER.)

We were horrified.

This is what happens.

This is what happens to women who Don’t Follow the Rules.

So we did what women do.

We blamed the jogger.

What was she wearing?

“What was she thinking, running in the park after dark?”

All women know you can’t go running after dark.

It’s unthinkable.

It’s not done.

That is not how women get to live.

My friend Heather got angry with us.

“Why shouldn’t we go running after dark?” she demanded.

I was confused. “It’s not safe!” I tried to explain.

“It should be!” she countered.

“But – it’s NOT!” I said.

“We shouldn’t have to park under the light in the parking lot when we go to the grocery store at night,” she seethed. “We shouldn’t have to position our keys over our knuckles. We shouldn’t have to check under our cars and in the back seats before we get in.”

“But that’s how the world is!”

She shook her head. “That’s not how it should be.”

I gave up. She was living in some unattainable utopia. I was in the Real World.

That was then.

This is now.

Now I realize that she was right and I was wrong.

I realize that I should be angry that I have to think about whether it’s safe to walk alone after dark.


I realize I should be angry that it’s not safe for us to walk alone after dark.

When your rich university, which which invents things like a heart monitor woven into a shirt, can’t seem to figure out potty parity

Even the gajillionaires who built the new basketball arena (with taxpayer money) have more toilets for women than for men

The chairs are necessary why?

Mr T and I went to our college homecoming in Houston last week. Before the university president’s town hall, which was in a building that’s only a few years old, he and I both went to the restroom.

When I finally got out and found him saving a seat for me in the auditorium, I looked at my phone and discovered he had called and texted. Where was I? WHERE WAS I?

Silly man.

He thought that that because we entered our respective restrooms – each of which had two stalls – at the same time, we would leave at the same time.


When I walked out of the ladies’, I saw the university president.

I caught his eye.

“I should not have to wait twice as long as a man to use the bathroom,” I said. I was, as you might imagine, very annoyed.

“And yet that’s what just happened. Rice has the money to solve this problem. You need to fix this.”

The younger man standing next to the president said, “There are more restrooms in the next building!”

Oh bless your sweet heart.

“Yeah,” I replied. “That doesn’t really solve my problem.”

A (very smart) friend asked, “Why don’t they just make all the bathrooms unisex? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

He did not, of course, mean constructing single-unit, locked-door bathrooms. He meant converting existing multiple-stall bathrooms to unisex.

In theory, if you just do the math, this works. It’s actually a really interesting queuing theory problem: how do you minimize wait times?

In this case – by converting all the toilets to unisex, you might increase wait times for men but reduce them for women. Depending, I suppose, on the ratio of men to women, total wait time could be reduced, which is something that might matter for businesses that just want people to get back to work.

I don’t think the people who run entertainment venues care if women miss the first part of the show after intermission – they already have our money.

I, along with at least two dozen other women, was waiting for the ladies’ before the Tom Jones concert. Next to the ladies’ was a toilet for disabled persons, with a guard sitting in front of the door.

Me: May I use that toilet, please?

Guard: No.

Me: But – it’s empty. And there’s a long line. And the concert starts in a few minutes.

Guard: No.

Me: But why not?

Guard: You’re not disabled.

Me: Nobody in the line is disabled and if someone is, I gladly yield the bathroom to her.

Guard: No.

The problem with looking at potty parity as nothing more than a math problem is that you don’t include the things that can’t be quantified.

Things like high school girls not wanting to change a tampon when there is a boy in the next stall.

Things not schoolgirls not even wanting to pee if there is a boy in the next stall.

Things like boys – or men – looking under or over the stall door.

Things like men putting cameras under the partition to photograph women.

Things like women being worried that they are stuck in a stall, pants down, in a vulnerable condition, around men, who may or may not be predators. Ted Bundy was good looking and charming. We can’t tell by looking who the good men are and who the bad men are.

All we want is to pee in privacy and not miss the show.

When you had what you thought was a normal childhood

When I was a kid, Disney was for rich people

I loved this First Day of School outfit my mom made for me. The jacket was green with white piping and the pants were green and white.

I was surprised to learn that Mr T did not understand the concept of “end of the month food” and he was surprised to learn that I did.

I thought everyone knew what end of the month food was.

In case you don’t – it’s what you eat when the money has run out but the month has not.

I don’t know why I know. I don’t remember the idea ever being discussed. And I don’t know if it was even an issue when I was a kid, but I do know that having steak was a big deal at my house and that there were nights when we had scrambled eggs for supper.

I never thought twice about having eggs for supper – they’re food and they’re good.

We didn’t have a TV, so I wasn’t getting my ideas about what’s normal from what was shown on TV.

I did watch when we were at my grandmother’s or sometimes at friends’ houses, but the dinner scenes I remember are from Bewitched, when Darren would bring his boss home without warning, and Samantha had to stretch two pork chops for three people.

But I didn’t look at at that show and think, “Everyone eats pork chops all the time and we don’t.” It was a show about a witch. I took all of it as fiction.

And we didn’t use Hamburger Helper or anything like that, mostly because my mom is a really good cook and wouldn’t buy crappy processed stuff.

But until I was an adult, I could not understand why her chocolate chip cookies were different from everyone else’s. I wanted the smooth chocolate chip cookies like everyone else’s mom made.

I realized when I was an adult and actually saw the recipe for chocolate chip cookies that most chocolate chip cookies did not include oatmeal.

I asked my mom why she always added oatmeal to her chocolate chip cookie dough.

To stretch it, she told me.

Which made perfect sense.

That wasn’t a concept that was talked about in my house, but it was practiced. Of course you tried to stretch whatever. Didn’t everyone?

Mr T’s brother said that they don’t eat leftovers.

I can’t even begin to understand that mentality. They just throw food away? Who does that?

I already didn’t like Mr T’s brother, but this is just one more reason.

I hate eating out.

Let me amend that.

I hate eating out at expensive places. I especially hate eating out at expensive places with other people.

I hate eating at expensive restaurants because it’s not worth the money. I am a good cook and don’t need to spend a lot of money to eat well. I see an entrée for $30 and I think, I could cook an entire meal for that.

Eating at an expensive place with friends is even worse. Now there’s the stress of how the bill will be divided. Half and half? Even though I don’t ever order alcohol, which is expensive (and I don’t like anyhow)? I hate the uncertainty of knowing just how much money I will be spending and I hate spending the money at all.

I hate eating out.

We rarely ate out when I was a kid – maybe once a year? And it was a really big deal.

We didn’t stay in hotels on vacation – we camped or stayed with relatives.

My mom made our clothes.

(When we lived in Lubbock, she found a great deal on double-knit polyester remnants – 25 cents a piece – and those remnants became my pants. I had maybe six pairs of pants (with an elastic waist) in various colors, including the bright orange that was translucent enough that the pattern on my underpants showed through the fabric.

One time, the pants split in the back while I was at the chalkboard doing a math problem. I had to wait in the principal’s office while my mom brought me a different pair.)

I started sewing my own clothes when I was in junior high.

My mom cut our hair.

My dad repaired our car and did other home repairs. I don’t remember ever seeing a hired worker at our house.

None of this – NONE OF THIS – made us different from the people around us. This was normal. This was how everyone I knew lived.

I grew up on military bases. Everyone lived in the same kind of house. Everyone shopped at the same grocery store and general goods store. Everyone at the same rank makes about the same money.

But even when we lived off base, our lives were not odd compared to our neighbors.

People where we lived did not eat out.

They did not take their children to the hairdresser.

They did not take fancy vacations. If someone went to Disney, we knew they were rich.

Did I change? Or did the world change?