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.

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