When we see a man and a woman at the same job, do we see them mainly as the male worker and the female worker and assume they have different knowledge levels even though they were trained for the same position? Or, do we view both the female and male workers in the same job as equally capable until we know any differently?
A male supervisor in Philadelphia, Martin Schneider, learned an important lesson in how society's different assumptions of workers based on their gender can affect males and females very differently in the workplace. He discovered this differential treatment accidentally (as well as first hand) and lived to write about it on Twitter.
Martin supervised a woman named Nicole in the employment service company they both worked for at the time. He tweeted that his and Nicole's boss kept complaining that Nicole took too long with clients.
One day, Martin needed to use the customer email account that Nicole usually used to communicate with clients. For reasons he couldn't explain at the time, he was having a difficult time getting through to clients that day, even though he'd had a lot of experience in this work and had had no such problems with the customers before.
Imagine things you usually advise clients on suddenly being questioned. Imagine being treated like you don't know what you're talking about when you have a clear record proving you do. These are experiences Martin tweeted about that day.
Martin tweeted he was really getting upset with the way clients were treating him that day and couldn't for the life of him understand what changed, what happened. Then he realized that the name on the shared inbox he'd been using wasn't his own but Nicole's. The light then began to dawn on the situation.
Martin decided a little experiment was in order. He and Nicole changed email signatures for two weeks to see whether that was just a fluke reaction Martin had experienced with customers that day or not.
Martin, signed in as Nicole for two weeks, found more of the same treatment from clients that he'd received that first day. He tweeted that his customer interactions now took considerably longer because he had to convince them the advice he was giving was accurate. He'd never had to do that when signed in as Martin.
Martin specified that whether signed in as himself or as Nicole, he never changed his "technique and advice." Yet, when he was signed in as Martin what he told clients wasn't questioned by them, but it certainly was when he was signed in as Nicole. The experience of these radically different reactions to his same behavior taught Martin that women can be treated very unfairly on the job.
Although Martin showed his and Nicole's boss the emails and results of their experiment signed in as each other, the boss didn't accept it as meaning anything. For his part though, Martin said he would no longer blame Nicole for having to take extra time with clients.
Wouldn't it be great if more people tried what Martin and Nicole did to see just how prevalent the differing treatment of men and women in the workplace is? Maybe if actual scientific studies were conducted more people, including bosses, would realize that "gender bias" at work is a big issue.