Sexist Supervisor

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Latest post Thu, Jun 30 2016 10:53 AM by karen2222. 8 replies.
  • Mon, Jun 27 2016 6:32 PM

    Sexist Supervisor

    What are the options for dealing with a sexist supervisor?

    Background:  Everybody knows this guy is a lovable, affable old time male chauvanist.  He's such a nice guy and has so many other great qualities that everyone just sighs and starts mentally calculating how much longer until he retires.  This is not just one person's opinion (that he is sexist) ... its, I dunno, common knowledge.   But the thing is, he's basically got a good heart and a great work ethic, and most of the time he's a great supervisor too.  But he's also living in another century.

    I work for this guy.

    I realized he was sexist almost from the day I started working there.  He used to be a co-worker before he was promoted.  But he'd been there a long time and I was new.  Then he got promoted and now is my supervisor.

    Most frustrating manifestation:  Employee goes to supervisor with a difficult and complicated issue that doesn't have any obvious solution.  When the employee is male, the two men put their heads together and engage in problem solving.  When the employee is female, the supervisor sees his primary task as getting her to "calm down" and "stop worrying about it."  Then he does something to try to solve the problem himself (sometimes without telling the employee what he's doing to try to "help" - which often causes even more difficulties).  I recognized this pattern long ago and stopped going to him with thorny problems.  I look toward my co-workers for help when needed, and my supervisor is happy that I can "work independently" so often.  (I am not the only one -- I'd say this is a pattern for all the male and female employees that he supervises.)

    Now to the point that caused me to post this:  Annual performance evaluations.  There is a quantitative and a qualitative part.  The quantitative part I aced.  I have the highest "productivity metrics" of anyone in our work group.  On the qualitative part I also got "outstanding" ratings in 5 out of 7 categories and "exceeds expectations" (which is lower than "outstanding") in the other two.  I'm satisfied with that, and think its pretty accurate.

    The part that made me furious was the part where it talked about goals and professional development for the coming year.  For the male employees (yes, we compared notes) the supervisor set high goals that would advance their careers.  For me (I didn't ask any other female employees) the only "goal" he set out for me was to "focus on achieving work/life balance."  

    HUH?

    What kind of an employment goal is that?  It sounds to me like a nice way of saying, "A woman's real place is in the home.  Don't let work get in the way of that."

    I am not happy. 

    I can put up with quite a lot from an affable male chauvanist with other good qualities, but not when it comes to dead-ending my career while promoting those of the men around me.

    I'm guessing that any kind of legal action (like an EEOC complaint) is going to have an evidence requirement that is likey too high for anyone to ever be able to meet it.

    I know that if I go to HR to complain, they will just talk with my supervisor and tell him that I have complained.

    So what are the other options?

  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 6:46 AM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    Based on your history of helping others sort out their problems ..there 'might ' be something to boss' comments about work /life balance .

    I get your point that men might be singled out for advancement  and women singled out to modestly improve the status quo ....but you are going to need a lot more ammo to have any odds of making the point ....and I don't know of a low key low risk way to do it .....perhaps others have better suggestions ...

    ( And it's not one sided, other places....its not rare that white males get dead ended or worse so as to advance XX persons ....no nice neat answers to make everyone happy. ) 



  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 10:50 AM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    LegalSecy:
    So what are the other options?

    Before we get into that, answer the following questions:

    1 - Is your salary level reasonably equivalent to the salary of male employees doing similar work with similar education and experience?

    2 - Do you get annual raises that are reasonably equivalent to the annual raises of male employees doing similar work with similar education and experience?

    I use the word "reasonably" because I realize that no two employees have identical education and experience. I'm asking about BIG disparities not nickels and dimes.

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 1:44 PM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    adjuster jack:

    LegalSecy:
    So what are the other options?

    Before we get into that, answer the following questions:

    1 - Is your salary level reasonably equivalent to the salary of male employees doing similar work with similar education and experience?

    2 - Do you get annual raises that are reasonably equivalent to the annual raises of male employees doing similar work with similar education and experience?

    I use the word "reasonably" because I realize that no two employees have identical education and experience. I'm asking about BIG disparities not nickels and dimes.

    Yes, and yes.

  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 3:26 PM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    LegalSecy:
    Yes, and yes.

    3 - Has one or more male employees under his supervision been promoted above your level even though he or they were not obviously better candidates for promotion than you (or other female coworkers) were?

  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 4:00 PM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    LegalSecy:
    For the male employees (yes, we compared notes) the supervisor set high goals that would advance their careers.  For me (I didn't ask any other female employees) the only "goal" he set out for me was to "focus on achieving work/life balance."

    Now you have me burning with curiosity:  what goals did he set for the other female employees?  Please do compare notes with the women as well.

  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 7:23 PM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    karen2222:

    LegalSecy:
    Yes, and yes.

    3 - Has one or more male employees under his supervision been promoted above your level even though he or they were not obviously better candidates for promotion than you (or other female coworkers) were?

    Promoted, yes.  "Not obviously better candidate" -- I don't know that I can be objective about that.  I obviously think I was the better candidate, but stepping back and looking objectively I think its more accurate to say that each of us had different strengths and weaknesses and it could just be "management preference." 

    On the other hand (and, again, I'm not sure I can really be objective about this, so take with a suitable number of grains of salt) ... I do think there is a preference for a certain "male style" if there is such a thing. 

    Namely, a male who leans back in his chair (at a meeting, for example) in a semi-detached kind of way and speaks very rarely, but when he speaks he speaks so softly that everybody else has to lean forward and listen extra hard in order to even hear him.  I (female) "talk with my hands," lean on the table, have facial expressions rather than a poker face, and am just more generally animated, speak with more vocal inflection, etc.    I am also very, very aware of the number of times when I offer a solution to an issue under discussion and everybody totally ignores what I said, but then 20 minutes later when a male co-worker offers exactly the same solution, everybody falls all over themselves marveling about what a brilliant solution HE just came up with.  (Grr.) 

    I am the most senior non-management employee (with the most education too, I might add) in my department, but senior management and people from outside our department typically go straight to my male co-workers for advice and information (often when they don't even have the right answers or information because the question is about something in my particular area of responsibility).  On the other hand, new employees almost always come to me (not my male co-workers) for help, training, explanations of things that nobody else has bothered to explain to them, questions that they're afraid might sound "dumb," etc. 

    Okay, having said all that ... it all seems too subtle to rise to the level of a specific formal complaint.  But that doesn't mean its not real. 

     

  • Tue, Jun 28 2016 10:58 PM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    LegalSecy:
    Okay, having said all that ... it all seems too subtle to rise to the level of a specific formal complaint.  But that doesn't mean its not real. 

    Yes, it's real.

    I had a similar situation before I retired. A couple of incompetent female claim reps got promoted to supervisor and didn't much care for me as I was outspoken and shot from the hip. (You might have noticed that about me. LOL)

    They would gig me on the subjective stuff in my performance reviews but they couldn't do anything about my numbers which were tops in the office and I got raises and bonuses every year.

    My philosophy: As long as I got the money, I didn't care about their little games.

    I'm suggesting you adopt that philosophy, too.

    Develop a thicker skin about the male BS and you'll be fine.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • Thu, Jun 30 2016 10:53 AM In reply to

    Re: Sexist Supervisor

    LegalSecy:

    karen2222:

    LegalSecy:
    Yes, and yes.

    3 - Has one or more male employees under his supervision been promoted above your level even though he or they were not obviously better candidates for promotion than you (or other female coworkers) were?

    Promoted, yes.  "Not obviously better candidate" -- I don't know that I can be objective about that.  I obviously think I was the better candidate, but stepping back and looking objectively I think its more accurate to say that each of us had different strengths and weaknesses and it could just be "management preference."

    That's a long way of answering my question with a "yes."  Has it only been one man?  One man is bad enough, but more than one would be worse.  Do you know how much more this man (or men) is making than you are?

    Please let me say that the goal your supervisor gave you in your evaluation CLEARLY shows he has absolutely no intention of ever promoting you.  Whether it's because of sexism or because he doesn't respect you for some other reason would be clearer if you could see what he set as goals for the other women under his supervision.

    LegalSecy:
     I am also very, very aware of the number of times when I offer a solution to an issue under discussion and everybody totally ignores what I said, but then 20 minutes later when a male co-worker offers exactly the same solution, everybody falls all over themselves marveling about what a brilliant solution HE just came up with.

    If you are not the only woman at these meetings, especially if the other women are treated similarly, you could use teamwork as described in Sheryl Sandberg's book, "Lean In," which I strongly recommend reading if you haven't already.  You can't speak up about your own snubs without looking bad, but if Jane exclaims, "hey, wait a minute, Barbara deserves the credit for that idea, she made the same exact suggestion 20 minutes ago!" everyone in the room will remember the idea as being Barbara's then.  If you are the only woman at these meetings then you'd have to try to enlist male friends to do this for you, which would be harder because it could pose a risk to their careers unless a lot of them do it.

    LegalSecy:
    I am the most senior non-management employee (with the most education too, I might add) in my department, but senior management and people from outside our department typically go straight to my male co-workers for advice and information

    Ouch.  Sounds like your problems go beyond just your supervisor, unless he is responsible for this phenomenon (e.g. these others first went directly to him, and he steered them to one of your male coworkers, causing a relationship to form so that they would continue to go to the same coworker again and again).

    Anyway, big picture, what to do?

    Suing and filing complaints about discrimination can do great good for society and for other potential victims, but tend to be painful and career-damaging experiences for those who do it.  That said, many government employers are pretty serious about combating discrimination so if your employer is in that category and you collect clear evidence (male employees urged to strive for leadership, females urged to do everything but), complaining might work out OK.

    Of course, your easiest option, if it's available, is to jump ship.  Find a better job with an employer who sees your value and is willing to hire you into a management position at an appropriately higher pay rate.

    I'd say all your other options fall into the category of playing office politics skillfully, and depend on a good understanding of the personalities involved and a willingness and ability to cultivate friends and allies throughout your organization.  If you can get someone powerful in the organization, above your supervisor's level, to mentor you, that can trump anything your supervisor does to thwart you.  Is there anyone you like and respect in the higher echelons?  Maybe think about ways to develop a closer personal relationship.

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