You Don’t Have To Accept What You Are Offered

What working at a for-profit has taught me that I didn’t fully experience working at non-profit and government agencies is that women are getting shafted. I knew that intellectually, I saw it across fields in the statistics, and I heard it from my friends but it wasn’t until I moved into the for-profit world that I felt knocked down by it. The women in leadership at my company, and there are quite a few, are working hard as hell, have been working that hard for years or decades slowly moving up, and are incredibly competent. By comparison, the men in leadership at my hospital are under qualified, not terribly capable, lazy, and for the most part are being propped up by women. I am one of the women propping them up.

Illustration by John Holcroft

Illustration by John Holcroft

My experiences of sexism in the workplace before were more subtle. They included the usual suspects of men calling me a girl or young lady, men standing too close or touching me unnecessarily, being told I’m “too direct” or “bossy” in situations men would be praised for being leaders or taking the initiative, being asked to manage the birthday celebrations or office parties, and managing the fragile egos of the men for whom I worked. The blatant inequality in my current job was shocking to me. It was a good lesson in the difference between knowing something is true and experiencing it. A man once asked me if I had ever actually been discriminated against in the workplace. I told him I had, of course, and listed all the sexual inequalities given above. This list didn’t convince him and I ended the conversation in an outrage. After working at this job I feel like calling him up and saying, “I’ve got another one. Try to minimize this nonsense.” 

I have over a decade of experience in my field. I have a master’s degree. I work very hard and I’m competent. I have been told by almost all the members of leadership at my company that I am doing a great job. I take the initiative and go above and beyond. I have been begging for a raise for the last year so that I don’t have to work a second job to cover my bills. I was promised a sizable raise and then given a pitiful one. I was in no way surprised by this and though irritated, I was willing to continue working my way up in my company. 

Enter the man-child. He’s in his twenties, has a third of the work experience I do—none of it in our field, does not have a degree in this field, and started at the company a couple weeks ago in a leadership training program. Although I don’t know his salary I do know that at a minimum he is making one and a half times my rate of pay.  No one at my company has been able to adequately explain this to me. When I voice my outrage at this inequality my supervisor tells me that I shouldn’t be mad at him for it, that it’s not his fault, it’s the fault of the people who hired him. While they certainly have a lot to answer for, this man does not get a pass. He always had the option to decline the job he knew he was in no way qualified for. 

Illustration by John Holcroft

Illustration by John Holcroft

I recently had drinks with a friend who is in a high level position at his company. He’s a man of privilege—all the privilege there is really. He’s worked hard his whole career and is good at what he does. On an individual level he deserves to succeed so when an opportunity to become CEO presented itself many would expect him to jump at it. He declined. That is not a typo. He declined. Although he wanted the job and could have done it he recognized that what would be better for the company was to have different representation at the top. You don’t have to accept every job you’re offered. 

Now this situation isn’t exactly the same as the man at my job being groomed for CEO because my friend is perfectly qualified and the kid is in no way qualified. But what it shows is that there are white men who look at their situation and realize that they have a choice to make. They can continue to benefit from the patriarchy and white supremacy at the expense of the rest of us or they can step back. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t work to their full potential or build themselves a good life but when they have opportunities, like my friend did, to put what is best for society ahead of them having more privilege, they should take it. 



Article by Elizabeth MacFarland