That one time I crashed the boys club at work
"Let’s head to a cigar & whisky bar!”, says one of the MD’s of the firm.
“Yeah, let’s do it.”, I agreed with the rest of my male colleagues (at this point all my female colleagues had already decided to leave).
“You know how to smoke cigars? Are you sure you want to come with us?”, he responded.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?”, I chuffed hoping that they wouldn’t catch my bluff.
I was 25 and working at a global management consulting firm. For months I was working 12 hour days in this “dream” job. All I knew was how to chase that next promotion and that next pay rise (probably in hopes that it would fill the void I felt so heavily on Sunday nights).
I was determined, I was competitive and I was smart. I had observed that those that got promoted up the ladder didn’t do it on hard work alone. There was a slather of "who you know not what you know” on this soul-sucking culture of a company. So yeah, that scenario above? Hell naww was I going to let that relationship-building with the big bosses pass. I couldn’t let the other guys have a one-up on me.
That night, I was the only female in that cigar lounge. Yes, I felt uncomfortable and out of place but I faked being ok, guess the whisky helped. The next week, I brushed off the experience and didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I thought I had done the right thing to get another tick in my performance review.
Looking back years after, did I realise just how naive I was. Of course, it was their way to preserve the boys club! I was so blindly unaware of what was happening because I never really thought it was a disadvantage to be a female in the workplace. I just thought this was how the world worked, who am I to change things.
The thing is, I’m not sure to this day if those men knew the extent of their actions. Can you imagine if after work drinks became afternoon high teas with cupcakes and macarons?
Anyway, I eventually realised that no matter how many rungs I climbed on that particular ladder, I always had an asshole staring back at me. I thank my lucky stars I lost that job during the GFC.
Have you ever experienced a situation at work that made you feel uncomfortable and excluded due to your gender, ethnicity or any other traits? Did you realise it at the time or only after it occurred?
Exclusion at work - whether conscious or unconscious is not okay. Being more aware of situations like this means that we can prevent them from happening in the future.
P.S. When I told my friend about my past crappy life in consulting they told me to watch House of Lies and holy moley it had me in tears, in tears!
P.P.S I know that this is not the usual positive vibe email but in light of IWD, I think it is important to bring awareness to the shit things that happen to continue to #pressforprogress in all aspects of equality.
Sheryl Thai, CEO
League of Extraordinary Women