Work Equality

I was watching videos of people debating feminism, which inevitably got lumped in with racism and LGBT rights. All the statistics that are being quoted and/or refuted, and information about how inequality exists today, got me thinking about my work place.

My employers are pretty darn good at equality. The guy in charge of our department is gay and the director before him was also gay. The other three managers are ethnic (African American and Hispanic) and one of them is a woman. In fact, there are several ethnic supervisors and women supervisors. I’m a woman and I was promoted from the floor (tech support phone rep) to being a trainer.

As a trainer, even though I’m not a supervisor or manager, I get to participate in hiring new agents for the floor. My opinion matters just as much as the supervisors. While in the interviews, I have never witnessed a supervisor or co-trainer ever value men over women, or white over ethnic. If a white man showed up late, wearing trashy clothing, or acted inappropriately, they would not get the job over a well dress, well mannered, punctual black woman, or presumably gay man, or whatever minority you can imagine. I have to say, I’m proud of my employers for how diverse they are.

There’s a few spots that may feel like female vs male inequality, but if you looked past the surface, you’d see it has nothing to do with “being a woman”. We have an advanced network team that often has only males on the team. However, it has nothing to do with inequality. Once upon a time, I was on that team with three other women. We all promoted up to better positions. A few things to understand is that this team is the same rate of pay as regular tech support, so it’s not a promotion. It also banks on volunteers, as most floor agents don’t want the extra challenge without the extra pay. Also, you have to excel in performance with your current job. Lastly, recommendations help! Often times when I conduct a new hire class, I keep an eye out for those who are highly technical or who learn really well and have a strong teamwork attitude. Those are the names that I pass along to the supervisor as potential candidates for their team. All they have to do, is do a good job with the team they were hired for, and volunteer when there’s an opening. It doesn’t matter what their gender, race, or sexual preference is. They just have to qualify for the position.

One employee came out as trans-gendered and the management staff was incredibly supportive. The director took a strong stance that any discrimination or harassment would not be tolerated in any way. While most of the restrooms are male or female denominated, there was a unisex restroom in the front lobby. She was free to use whichever restroom she felt most comfortable, and if she wanted to go out to the front lobby, they were understanding that it was further away from the floor than the gender-specific restrooms. Keep in mind that she started here as a male and transformed well after everyone had come to know her as a man. She seems fairly happy at work and no one has made her feel unwelcome. I’d say that my employers are very accepting.

People talk about strong women being pushed down, but in my case, being a strong woman has been valued. There’s an executive director of the company that visits often from the head quarters, and I’ve never been afraid to ask him the hard questions and voice my honest opinion on what I feel is a problem. In response, he has spoken highly of me. I’ve been just as boisterous with the director of the solution center (on a local level) and he still hired me as a trainer. By no means do we always agree, but I’ve always been able to walk and talk like a man (so to speak).

I even asked my boss “I read an article online that says that women get paid less than a men for the same job. When you hired on <male co-trainer> after me, did you give him more money than you gave me?” He said we were given the exact same pay when hired on as trainers. He said that the other male co-trainer makes more money but that was because he’s been a trainer longer… which is perfectly acceptable. That other mentioned trainer is a close personal friend of mine and he was in that position for 5+ years before I joined the team. He also used to do all of the technical training, as I was hired on to take on some of that load for him. I understand why he makes more than I do. I just wanted to be assured that a man who was hired on a month after me was not given more money, and I was assured it was equal.

How would I know he’s telling the truth? I don’t. However, I have no reason to disbelieve him. He’s shown me in his actions that he’s a fair man and I believe him. Of the past year, my co-worker hasn’t given me any reason to believe he’s rolling in the dough any more than I am.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve never felt undermined as a woman at work. When a male coworker asked me to do his scheduling and called me “sweetie”… I was pissed. More than once, I was made to feel like a secretary, when in truth I was a senior trainer to him. I told him that he needed to learn to do his own scheduling, because I have my own work to do.We managed to work things out. He acknowledged that I was a superior organizer and scheduler and that he simply wasn’t very good at it. I showed him how to do it for himself and he dropped the unprofessional pet names. Now, we help each other out and I no longer feel like he thinks I’m his secretary. Now, I feel more like we’re a team.

Don’t get me wrong… in a normal situation, I don’t get offended at pet names. My issue was the context. We were in a professional environment and I was his senior. It was undermining and made me feel like he thought of me as his secretary. To me, this was inappropriate and offensive. If I’m in a grocery store and a man asks me for help and in turn calls me “sweetie”, it’s just endearing. It’s not the same situation. I don’t mind being cat called on the streets, it makes me feel sexy… but it’s not appropriate at work. It’s just like how I swear like a sailor at home, but it’s not appropriate at work.

Considering that I’ve been there five years and this was the only incident, I’d say that’s pretty awesome. I’ve never worked at such a diverse place before. We have people of color from all over (Brasil, Congo, Morocco, Canada, Germany, etc). There’s bald chicks, long haired dudes, afros, and even green and pink hair. There’s straight, gay, bi, and trans people. There’s men and women, girly men, manly women, skinny and fat, athletic and not so much. There’s Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists. There’s disabled folks from physical to mental ailments. The director knows about my anxiety disorder and I’m not treated any differently… yet they do treat me with understanding. I feel like our employers care about us and value families.

Not all employers are evil and they’re not all straight white male dominated.

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