Friday, September 26, 2008

Women's Roles in the Workplace

I recently went to a local company and spent three hours lecturing on the topic of workplace etiquette, which includes dress, behavior and sexual harassment.

The company is just starting up but, as with all start-ups, they are growing and people are being introduced daily who will always have the potential to put the company in a liable position if ground rules aren't laid out and abided by.

So, I was asked to do an hour's presentation and provide additional materials which employees would need to sign in order to establish a base level of understanding.

Sadly, the employees who needed the workshop the most were the employees who were noticeably absent. They will not be allowed to return to work until they read and sign the policies.

During the workshop, employees would chime in with various comments and suggestions. Every one had something valuable to contribute, and I considered it to be a huge success as it got everyone talking and more aware of potential problems and difficulties.

But I found it sad when one sweet woman quietly confided that she has eczema and can't wash everyone's dishes. She said it reluctantly, as if admitting a failure. And when trash duty was mentioned, it was determined that everyone would take turns although another woman willingly volunteered to do it for everyone.

Why is it assumed by so many women (and men) that the women in the workforce must act as surrogate mothers or servants?

I quickly put a stop to that, telling everyone that they must be responsible for cleaning their own cups and dishes, and cleaning up for themselves. As for trash duty, everyone needed to take a turn. I also pulled the women aside later and let them know that as the company is being established, the last thing they want to do is to create a role of servitude in the work place.

All the men that were present have excellent reputations, and are very fair-minded, educated and practical. They would not have taken advantage of these women, but others would.

I realize that women are supposed to be equal in the workplace, and firmly believe it can be done. But it cannot be done when women are willing to settle for less.

And they wonder why there still isn't equal pay for equal work.


Anonymous said...

Haha....if only the guys at my work tried to get me to wash their dishes, they would have a very rough day at work indeed! :-)

It has never been a problem for me, starting out in IT I had to stand up for myself, but really I am so Alpha anyway it never mattered.


Saur♥Kraut said...

Ange, HA! Me too! But Alpha females are rare. Like you, I've usually been in a man's industry, so I've learned to hold my own among the boys.

The Lazy Iguana said...

The solution to "wash all the dishes" it to be clumsy. OOPS! Dropped that coffee mug! Oh well! Its broken, so in the trash it goes!

And so on till all the dishes are "clean".

Including the coffee pot.

I just brought a french press to work with me. It makes better coffee than the automatic drip things anyway. And when you are done you do not really need to "wash" it at all. Just dump the coffee grounds out, then rinse the thing. CLEAN!

since I am the only one using my mug, that can just be rinsed too.

I kept all my stuff at my desk in an insect / rodent proof container - once it was dry of course.

In fact, my office was a self contained cubicle of solitude. I had a little 12v fridge in there that would keep 6 cans of soda (in my case seltzer water) cold, I had a nice wooden box left by the previous cube dweller that I kept my tea in, I had my own sugar in a proper vermin proof container, the french press, a small hot plate that could bring a cup of water to a boil in a few minutes, and because I had a 6 gallon fish tank I always had several gallon jugs of distilled water.

I could get a cold drink of fizzy water, room temperature non fizzy water, hot tea, hot coffee, and room temperature non fizzy water with some vitamin powder stuff added - all without leaving home.

I also had my own personal pharmacy, stocked with such things as Alka-Seltzer - regular and cold plus, Dayquil, Advil, Goody's headache powder (powdered aspirin and caffeine - perfect for a work day after a long overindulgent weekend), Alieve, and a bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol. And paper towels.

Now that I think about it, I am surprised I had room for actual implements of work!

Break room!?!?!? Who needs that? Well except for the microwave.

Paul Nichols said...

What kinda antiquated company is "just starting up" with such a large group of employees?

Our break room has no sink. So if you want to use one of the utensils, then take it down to the rest room and wash it first. There's a list on the refrigerator; we always know when it's our turn to clean it and the microwave. The cleaning service wipes down the table and takes away the trash.

I don't mind cleaning here and there. Nothing wrong with giving out a little extra. Doesn't hurt. Besides, I usually do a much better job than everyone else.

daveawayfromhome said...

"I realize that women are supposed to be equal in the workplace, and firmly believe it can be done. But it cannot be done when women are willing to settle for less."

Interesting, and here I thought men held the sole blame for keeping women down (as the sole male in an all-(but-one: me)-female household (even the cats are female), I've never thought that females were oppressed. Quite the opposite.

A friend of mine was telling me about her sister, a high-powered lawyer who loved her work and was very well paid for it. But, because of her religious upbringing, when she had a baby after marriage, she quit her job to be a housewife, even though she hates it (and her husband would love to switch places with her).

Never underestimate the ability of human beings to harm themselves due to strongly-held convictions planted in childhood.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I used to do that sort of thing frequently before I retired. I hope you charged as much as I did for the information/ lecture/ discussion.