The UK government has just published that companies over 200 in size will have to declare earnings brackets between genders in offices to help close the divide between men getting paid more than women generally.
Today I was sent an invite to an management course being run by the firm. Most of the attendees are management barring four of us. Three of us I suspect have been primed for development the fourth is a thorn in my side. His unobtrusive blandness and ass kissing combined with lack of actual ability has meant he does a lot more ‘management’ than actual work because he lacks the skills to do the hard graft. He is also on the list.
I know it sounds like sour grapes on my side but as my old boss pointed out, I am essentially bad at politics but very aware of them. I know the reason I am on that list is because I fought tooth and nail through every assessment that I wanted better skills to manage myself and others and this is a concession to shut me up.
I know that that other guy who started after me and is almost a decade younger will possibly trump me on the next step up the corporate ladder. I know that this will be because he comes from the same country as the founders of the firm, that he is vanilla and inoffensive (unlike me who will instigate change but also ruffle feathers) and that mostly importantly, he is male and can be moulded into a mini-me.
I never thought gender played a part in jobs initially. I was granted my first real job because I tenaciously stalked my boss for an answer to my job interview after he said he’d review it. He figured that this ability would stand me in good stead against any difficult clients we had and I would follow through. And in fact, although the industry is geared to men, I was taken seriously despite being a woman and very much junior and inexperienced.
A friend in the UK pointed out that as long as we show signs of viable childbearing, there was always a possibility our climb in the ranks would be slower or paused. It is true in this industry it is very hard to be a part timer and not completely married to the job. Unfortunately I am starting to see her point.
My salary has surprisingly not been overly handicapped by my gender or the fact that I never bothered to recertify my qualifications in the UK. I could earn more but there are many earning less so I feel fortunate. But I have begun to realise I will always have to fight harder to be given a chance to be at the top.
Part of this is because I am a volatile personality but I suspect part of this is also because I am a woman. I see middle aged Caucasian men who run the companies look sceptically at me. Not the clients or the team, but the directors. They can’t always visualise a board in which they would have to sit dealing with me being temperamental or hormonal or trying to take maternity leave. It’s not even conscious but they can’t figure out how to relate to me. I can SEE them struggling to think of small talk when they sit near me socially. Which is ironic because one of the things that annoys me about the social climber is he doesn’t really relate to the client and consultant team. Whereas given the opportunity, I will be out with them til the end in the pub, being one of them and I will be professional as hell the next day at 9am. But it is a fact impossible to prove this without the chance to interact with these people and this is something that has been deemed ‘unnecessary’ in my position. The position of someone who is good at their job but is almost too good at the mundane stuff but not seen as being good enough to be trialled for better because when you have people who can do leg work and people who can’t rather oddly, you give the management to the people who can’t because that is all they can do. But this curbs my chances of attending the right meetings in the right places to pick up skills and connections.
This is not perhaps fully a gender issue but I can’t help but wonder if I had been a man if my ambition and bolshy attitude would be better accepted as a fighter than because I am a woman.