Overcoming Gender Differences: The Golf Outing Invitation

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I am a female currently employed in the legal field, at a worldwide firm. I generally consider my co-workers and organization to be relatively progressive and sensitive to unique individual needs. Therefore, it is easy to understand the surprise and disappointment I felt when the members of my team (all of whom just so happen to be male) decided to take a day off to go golfing without the thought of inviting me. To the men out there, you may wonder why this is an issue. From my perspective, this is an example of gender inequality. Discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently because of something that is outside of their control. By that definition, my co-workers, who I also consider to be my friends, were discriminating against me. With this unanticipated realization, I understood my anger in not having been invited. In truth, had they asked me to come, I cannot say definitively what my answer would have been. However, they should have included me. A problem exists when one member of the team is excluded from activities outside of work, during work hours, that others are asked to take part it. The assumption that I would either not be interested in attending such an event or that the event itself would be less fun if a "girl" was there, infuriated me. The truth is, this kind of inequality is alive and well in the workplace, and unfortunately, it is something that women have to deal with and men often do not understand. As a woman in the workplace, I chose to deal with this situation by expressing my disappointment in the team for not including me and explaining why and when this becomes an issue. Primarily, in this instance, it was an issue because it took place during work hours. Therefore, I was left to cover for all of the others who were enjoying an activity, which I felt I was excluded from for unfair reasons. While it is often difficult to express your disapproval with your co-workers and friends at their behavior, most will respect you for your choices. I chose to address the situation in a social setting, rather than in the office environment. While careful not to use the word "sexism", I spoke with my co-workers about their plans and why I would not have been included. The only explanation I received was that they did not know, but they were asked by the manager who arranged the outing. My disappointment grew in knowing that someone with even more experience than my peers did not have to forethought to understand why his behavior could be perceived as sexist. This was particularly disconcerting because the individual who arranged the outing has always been keen to avoid any conversation that would imply any sort of sexual harassment and is always explicit in his verbal intent. So how could someone who is so aware of one aspect of gender inequality be so oblivious to another? Though I cannot say for certain, I think the answer is that it simply did not occur to him that I would be interested. Some additional background may be necessary to understand the relationship I have with this individual. I was the last member of our current team to join and therefore, have been working with the group for the shortest amount of time. I have had the most limited exposure in dealing with him due to the variety of projects I current contribute to. I have never felt that our manager extended the same hospitality to me as to the other members of the team, in spite of the fact that certain others are less receptive to his approach. They are, however, as I previously noted, all male. While this might not be the actual reason for the differences in our contact and my exclusion, it felt that way to me. I realized that I had to explain that this was the true issue at hand. Whether the intent was to exclude due to gender or not, I felt alienated. I took the time to sit down and speak to the two team members with whom I felt most comfortable. I explained to each of them that while they might not understand the role that gender has played in shaping my professional life, it does affect how I react to decisions made at work. The circumstance of being a female in what is still a male-dominated environment affects my feelings on a number of issues, varying from what projects I am offered, to what outside of work activities I am asked to participate in. Not only did I get the sense that my co-workers left with an understanding of how men and women function differently in the workplace, but I later received an email from our manager inviting me to a future activity, and apologizing for not having invited me to the golf outing. While there are several ways I could have dealt with this particular situation, I feel it is important that I dealt with it at all. Complacency in my feelings about this matter would have led me to resent my team, and I had already begun to feel that I no longer wanted to work with them. Had I said nothing, I might not have stayed with a job, which otherwise, I enjoy. Instead, I chose to have an open conversation about my need to feel that I am a part of the team. Both of the team members with whom I spoke were receptive to my feelings of being left out. I know now that it was not their intent to be malicious, but rather that the implication the situation left me with, simply did not occur to them. I think it is safe to say that in the future, it will.

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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the great comments.@Don - Most of the time, companies decide on large activities. This sort of thing happens more frequently when it's an informal thing.@Roberta - Thanks for all of the information about bee colonies. I've read about some of the issues they've been facing. You're right that it does make a good analogy for the business world and how important it is to spot the things that make employees unhappy.
  • lalpri
    Really a fantastic article.well done............callaway x
  • Don B.
    Don B.
    Thank you. I am a male and do not play golf (unless miniature golf counts) so I don't think that outing would be for me, either. I wonder about how this team activity was decided in the first place. In most situations at the team level, an activity is usually decided upon by all the team to ensure it is suitable for all. An exception would be for large scale event such as a company-wide social event like a picnic or other outing.
  • Roberta Chinsky Matuson
    Roberta Chinsky Matuson
    Guard Your HiveBy Roberta Chinsky Matuson Your company has important resources that are worth protecting—they're called experienced workers. If this sector of your workforce flies out the door tomorrow, their wisdom will follow. Their staff will also follow, because they have more of a connection to these people than they have to the organization. Think about it. What will become of your organization if these people disappear? It will take years before you can replenish this valuable resource. So why are so many companies helping these workers find the door? Critical resources I'd like to relate a story about honeybees and how most of us had been unaware of the integral role they play in our ecological system. Only after they started disappearing did we realize how dependent we are on this tiny sector of nature to fuel our food systems.  An organic farmer in Wellesley, Mass. recently reported an attempted hijacking of his honeybee hives. Fortunately the attempt was unsuccessful or the farmer would have lost his ability to cross-pollinate his crop of organic vegetables. His entire business could have been lost overnight because he would have been unable to replace the honeybees in time for his crop to flourish. Suppose someone swarmed in and tried to steal your one of your most precious resources. Would your colony collapse? Could your organization survive? Here are some ways to prevent others from stealing the experienced talent you have worked so hard to cultivate: Climate control We hear managers say they had no idea exiting employees were unhappy. Perhaps this is so because they never asked. Take your organization's temperature so you can make adjustments before you have a mass exodus. There are a number of ways to do this including climate surveys or employee focus groups. Check in semi-annually or annually to track your progress as you work toward building an environment that is comfortable for all. Reassure your talent I am constantly hearing workers over the age of 40 express concerns they will be reorganized out of the company the next time a wave of reductions hit. It is difficult to focus on performance when you are worried about getting whacked the next time the big guys come to town. Before you finalize your next lay-off list, make sure you are not sending the message that experience is no longer valued in your organization.  Don't give them a reason to leave Imagine a company where people solicit the advice of those with more experience. This would be a place where older workers would have flexibility in scheduling their hours so they could enjoy the fruits of their labor. Would you ever want to leave if this were your workplace? It is easier than you think to create an environment where older workers feel welcome. Begin by asking your experienced people how you might improve the workplace so they feel more engaged. You may not be able to change everything overnight, but at least you will send the message that you value their contribution and are willing to make changes to retain them. Make your workplace more accessible Mention the word accommodation and visions of large dollar signs pop up in the heads of leaders. There are many things you can do to make your workplace more accessible for older workers that will not break the bank. For example, offer preferred parking to those employees who find it difficult to walk from the end of the parking lot to the employee entrance. If a job requires standing for long periods of time, supply anti-fatigue mats or chairs. Employers with large campuses could invest in Segway Scooters to allow older workers to move about the campus more freely. Headhunters are becoming more aggressive as the labor pool tightens. Protect your hive and you will be well positioned to thwart off their attempts to steal your honey and your precious bees. Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions (www.yourhrexperts.com) and has been helping companies align their people assets with their business goals. She is considered an expert in generational workforce issues. Roberta publishes a monthly newsletter "HR Matters” http://www.yourhrexperts.com/hrjoin.cgi which is jammed with resources, articles and tips to help companies navigate through sticky and complicated HR workforce issues.  Click here to read her new blog on Generation Integration http://generationintegration.typepad.com/matuson/. She can be reached at 413-582-1840 or Roberta@yourhrexperts.com.
  • Donie
    Thank you for sharing.

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