Men have often been inclined to dismiss claims of gender biases in the workplace — take the debate on the wage gap, for example — but one male worker recently experienced firsthand the challenges that women run into in his line of work.
In a series of tweets, Martin Schneider, a writer and editor at an entertainment publication, detailed the pushback he faced when his email correspondence was accidentally signed with the name of a female colleague, Nicole Hallberg. When he corrected the error and told a difficult client that he had "taken over" the project for Hallberg, he was immediately met with a much more agreeable attitude from the client.
Realizing that something might be amiss here, Hallberg and Schneider decided to switch places, signing emails with each other's names. "I was in hell," Schneider wrote of the experience. "Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single."
Nicole had the most productive week of her career. I realized the reason she took longer is bc she had to convince clients to respect her. By the time she could get clients to accept that she knew what she was doing, I could get halfway through another client.
Schneider's tweets quickly gained traction on social media, and many shared it to illustrate an example of the blatant sexism that working women face.
Shortly after, Hallberg posted her own account of the experience on Medium. She first touched on the experiment that she and Schneider conducted, but pivoted to the larger issue of sexism she encountered in the office. At one point, she said her boss — the one who didn't believe Hallberg or Schneider on the takeaway from their email experiment — tried to pay her a compliment
After a few weeks, I survived the rigorous training process and another male coworker, hired at the same time, did not. My boss complimented me and himself, saying that "I wasn't going to consider hiring any females, but I'm glad I did. You should be proud, I had thousands of applications but yours stuck out to me, and made me decide to give hiring a girl a try." Interesting. "Why weren't you considering hiring any women?" "Oh, you know. We've always had fun here, and I didn't want the atmosphere to change."
Hallberg also noted in her piece that Schneider was frequently complicit in casually sexist behavior, often talking over and ignoring her, but unlike their boss, he listened and actively tried to elevate hers and other women's voices in meetings. Hallberg wrote about her boss' refusal to acknowledge the sexism that Hallberg faced after she and Schneider brought their experiment results to him.
He didn't believe us. He actually said "There are a thousand reasons why the clients could have reacted differently that way. It could be the work, the performance… you have no way of knowing." For the first time in two years, I *almost* lost my cool. I wanted to grab him by the arms and shake him, scream in his face until he heard me, stress cry and scream at the sky until the world made sense. But I did not cry. That would be breaking The Rules that had kept me alive in this company for this long. But I will always wonder. What did my boss have to gain by refusing to believe that sexism exists? Even when the evidence is screaming at him, even when his employee who makes him an awful lot of money is telling him, even when THE BOY on staff is telling him??
Hallberg ended up quitting her job, and is now a freelance copywriter and craft blogger. And with her newfound internet popularity, she seems to be using it for good.
Now, she wrote in her Medium post, "In an office of one, I can finally put my walls down."
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