Most of the people I work closely with are male. And almost 100% of the time I’m happy with that situation. But lately I’ve been musing a bit about what our male-heavy staff means for workplace dynamics.
By way of explanation, here’s the breakdown:
- Three office/administrative employees, all women.
- Seven program staff members, who are responsible for large ministry areas consisting of
– two male pastors (we could have female pastors, we just don’t happen to at this time)
-four program area directors – three males and me
-director of music, female, but present infrequently
-finance/stewardship person, female, also present infrequently
On paper, the male to female ratio looks pretty balanced. But in practical terms, the bulk of my work is done almost exclusively with the male program staff members.
But there are times when, yes – I do feel like the odd “man” out. Small, subtle things. When I have to work just a little harder than everyone else to make my voice heard. When my perspective isn’t deemed quite as valid. When my work, in the area of children’s ministry, is given a sort of figurative pat on the head and “oh, isn’t that nice.” Not often, and not to a great degree – really, I get a whole lot of respect. And I’m given a significant amount of responsibility for congregation-wide matters. But every now and then I feel it, in a very low-key way.
Recently I’ve been paying more attention to my own reaction to this issue. For example, this week five of us (four of the men and me) were to go on a tour of an important metropolitan charity’s operation. It turned out I was too sick to go, so the guys went without me. I couldn’t help but consider how my missing this event affected my standing in the “boy’s club.” Missing out on a shared experience, a lot of joking, probably some planning for future work. Did the fact of my gender make a difference in the loss of this experience? Maybe only in my mind. But that’s where I have to live, so there it is.
One of the other guys, the one I work most closely with, asked me about the gender unbalance recently – whether I noticed it, how it affects me, whether there was anything he could do to make things better, whether it was a subject I thought we should all discuss. (I told you these guys are actually pretty awesome.) I’m not ready for a group discussion about it yet, but I think the time is coming. The fact that this guy has my back on the issue will make it a lot easier when it does happen. Not that I think it will be a difficult discussion. But, again, I will feel like the odd “man” out.
Possibly the fact that I come from a teaching background affects my perspective. On the whole, education is a female-dominated profession, though it’s still true that administrators tend to be men, which I don’t think is necessarily a healthy situation. With one of our daughters about to begin her teaching career, I’m wondering what kinds of gender bias and workplace dynamics she’ll be dealing with. Our older daughter is definitely in a male-dominated field, biological research. Lately I’ve read several articles about the sexism and sexual harassment that’s common in labs. Thankfully so far she’s experienced quite the opposite, but it’s still early days in her career.
Sometimes I’m angered that I have to consider this stuff. Bottom line, women are still significantly hampered in the workplace by the circumstance of their gender. Thinking politically, I have to admit that though I love Bernie’s message, I long to see a woman as commander-in-chief.
It’s a funny old world.