“They can’t scare me, if I scare them first.”―Lady Gaga
“I work with all men on a trading desk and the job itself gives me a rush of adrenaline, but the fact that I am the only woman also gives me this major sense of empowerment. Absolutely.”
That was said by a female trader who works only with men. According to the 2006 Gender Issues in the Workplace Survey, she may not be alone in this sentiment. Women prefer to work for men rather than for other women. When asked if they would prefer a male or female boss, more women, 28%, picked a male boss rather than a female boss (9%), while the majority of both the men and women surveyed had no preference. Women in the workplace don’t just prefer male bosses over female bosses; they also feel more comfortable with male co-workers. Again, although the majority of men and women had no gender preference, the next choice for women was men, as 24% prefer male co-workers and only 11% prefer working with other women. Men’s choices were more evenly split, with 17% choosing male co-workers and 16% choosing female co-workers.
From interviews we did it seems that if women are in the minority they feel more empowered by virtue of the fact that they get a high from saying I can keep up with the boys and maybe other women can’t. Mona Pearl said:
“Imagine this: Having lunch with a European’s client executive team of seven people where you are the only woman, or presenting to a board of 23 and only two other women in the room, which are mainly in a support role. Working with men in a global business arena has been a story of my life. I never thought about preferences in terms of men or women, since it was never an option. It has been a man’s world and in many ways, still is. It does give me a sense of empowerment since I made it to be viewed and accepted as a businessperson, regardless of gender.”
Megan Rhodes work as an art consultant for new commercial developments. This often requires her to visit a project site during the construction phase and determine where art should be placed.
“Being a woman in a traditionally male workplace is very empowering. Aside from wanting to staple the next man’s mouth closed who calls me “honey” or “sweetie” on a job, there is a level of awe and respect when I pull out my toolbelt and hard hat and jump into the work like the rest of them. I first get the glaring stares – people wondering who is this person and is she going to trip over an extension cord and sue me. Then I get the curious ones who want to know why I am there and who I work for. When they realize that these are my tools and it’s my company and I work as hard, if not harder, than the rest of the men there – that’s when I get a level of respect and acceptance. They still call me ‘sweetie’ and come up and give me hugs and will probably continue to do that until I follow through with my above stated threat. However, they treat me like I know what I am doing and in a world in which women usually do not venture that, in itself, is a compliment.”
Some women feel that an office with a lot of women can bring out a lot of competitiveness, back-stabbing and basic “mean girl” behavior. According to a nationwide poll by the Employment Law Alliance, 45% of American workers say they’ve experienced workplace abuse. Now men also do this but unlike women they distribute their abuse equally to both men and women while women tend to focus only on other ladies. The 40% of tormentors who are women tend to pick on other women more than 70% of the time.
Amanda Bate, Director of Integrated Marketing for Open Connection Media, said:
“As the only woman at the office, it’s four guys and myself, I enjoy the lack of drama and constant chattering. I no longer have to worry about backstabbing and gossip in the office, either. It’s so much easier to be productive and stay on task. I have also found that my thoughts and opinions hold a little bit more weight, as the only woman in the office I can provide insights from different angles.
At this point, I am not sure that I would be able to work in an office setting of mostly women. To go back into a woman dominated setting would be a hard adjustment to make after working with all male co-workers.”
Tina Scogin, Senior Capture Manager for Govplace, said:
“Work is for working. There is no drama, no high school antics, no backstabbing, just work. You get to work, you do it, you go home. There is some socializing, but there is more of a focus on the job and working hard. I don’t overhear hour long conversations over the cube walls about Kim Kardashian’s divorce from the men. The clutch of women in my office are late to meetings talking about the latest TMZ scandal. When there is a problem, you talk about it and move on. I have worked with women in the past who immediately escalate to HR every perceived slight.”
Some women of course think it is great to have other women to work with and consider them friends, business allies and confidantes. It all depends on the environment you think helps you thrive the most in your career. And if that means working with 100 men, then go for it but don’t feel like you are less powerful if other women are in the room with you too. They fought just as hard to get there and if you automatically tear them down, you will just be making it harder for other women.