Since I occasionally post about elements of being a woman in technology, I had a moment that should not happen. When faced with these situations, I am challenging myself to not be silent in a more public fashion.
Recently, I was with a male colleague. As we were about to leave to meet our entire Agile For All team for dinner, someone wanted to meet my colleague. So as we walked up to this individual, I mentioned that we really only have 5 minutes before we have to leave. I took a step back as the conversation was occurring directly between the two of them. As we were already late to dinner, I watched the time closely. Just after five minutes, I tapped my colleague’s shoulder and said “sorry, we really have to go, we’re already late”. My colleague immediately responded with closing the conversation and started heading towards the door. I followed behind a few steps (crowded area). As I was walking away, I hear “Just like a girlfriend or wife.”.
Without thought, I turned around. Being me, I have no problems having direct conflict. So I highlighted how inappropriate that statement was. I think I said a few things along these lines but my adrenaline was going so I don’t remember my exact words. Then an attempt to high five as if we would be all good: it was not all good. There was no direct genuine apology.
The primary reason I decided to share this is because I could easily see this be an instance where this person thought “it was just a joke – why so sensitive”. Here’s the thing: You don’t know me – we were not even introduced. You belittled my role/value to my team based on my gender and stereotypes. You did this passive aggressively as I was walking away. I didn’t laugh. You weren’t trying to get me to laugh. No, this was not just a joke.
The secondary reason is to share what happens internally for me after an incident like this. Seriously, the whole conflict encounter lasted maybe a minute or two. Yet, the encounter replayed in my head for the next hour over and over. The next morning, I found myself evaluating how I interact with my colleagues. By the afternoon, I was wishing I had said this or that instead in the situation. Two minutes tops…but the negative impact lasts much longer.
Please note that what made me nervous about sharing this is that I’m not interested in discussing who, when, where, etc. I have the autonomy to choose how I handle my response to a situation like this. I know that others/processes exist if I need them. I am sharing not for solutions/actions but to build awareness with personal examples of this type of incident and the impact.
No question on this one.