Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Woman in the Men's Room

If there is a line for the ladies restroom, and no one is in the men's room- I'll use it. This is easier done if it's a one stall/one room bathroom but when it's multi-stalled sometimes I get trapped and have to wait for all the men to leave before I'll exit. Either way I get relief far earlier than if I had waited in line with the women.

That's not really what I want to talk about, it just works with the title of this post. I'm currently dealing with a different kind of men's room. I work in a male dominated industry, and I like it. I've figured out how to connect with men of all ages, and connect with the women that I need to- but I have to be very particular about how it is done. I take pride in being the only female rep for my company in 3 states.

Being 6 months pregnant has changed the game. I use to wear glasses because they made me look more intelligent to men and less threatening to women. I figured pregnancy would cover the less threatening aspect- but little did I realize that pregnancy would also bring down my credibility.

Granted with people that already know me, the pregnancy has been a huge bonus- but if walking into the men's world as a woman was tough, doing it as a pregnant woman is nearly impossible. The pregnancy almost puts me immediately behind the 8 ball. I feel like to compensate for the pregnancy I have to kill my personality and become all business- which is quite the challenge.

What is it about a pregnant woman that makes her less creditable? Am I the only one who has experienced this?


Robin said...

I think it must be the crowd you are hanging with. In my crowd, pregnant women are nearly worshiped. None of us are power brokers in pinstripes, but we have fun. Hang out with us.

I also think most pregnant women feel more vulnerable (because the are) and people sense that vibe and (hopefully) treat you more gently. Because you have a confident aggressive nature (I love this about you), you would naturally interpret that as being treated as less credible.

There are people who can only see a pregnant woman when they see you. That is because pregnant women are rare (except in Utah) and beautiful. I have to stop myself from talking to pregnant strangers.

Silvs said...

That is really interesting. Maybe pregnancy feminizes (is that a word?) you further, and in a male dominated industry femininity = weakness? I've never ever thought about having to deal with that.

Steve said...

K has mentioned a similar issue, that the first thing people notice about her when she walks into a room is her big bump, which like you, isn't usually germane to what she is trying to accomplish.
As a guy, I think in many ways, we just don't know how we should deal with a preggo, especially in business deals. Granted, I guess we should treat her exactly the same, but again, that seems kind of rude too?!?!
I guess the question becomes, HOW do YOU want US to treat you? Like normal?

Steve said...

Oh, and for what it's worth, I will use a women's bathroom if the men's room is locked! haha. I loved that in a lot of places overseas, they don't designate doors and/or have co-ed rooms, makes it easier to just get in and out.

Salt H2O said...

Robin- Thank you for your viewpoint, it made me feel a bit better, maybe i'm just overly sensitive.

Silvs- That's what I'm thinking pregnant makes me more of a woman and in that magnifies a weakness.

Steve- I'm totally fine with people noticing I'm pregnant, offering to help me carry stuff- asking about the pregnancy- it feels like when we get down to business I have less credibilty than a man that walks in the door in a suit.

Sneakers said...

It's certainly not a problem I've faced, since I'm a male in a male dominated industry.

The reality, I think, is that biology eventually trumps all. Try as hard as we might to think we're above it, that intellectually we can suppress it and work around, we're chemically wired to respond to gender cues.

davers said...

Robin hasn't perceived dynamic because of the company she keeps, but she's around exceptional company.

I'm convinced many people do NOT hold pregnant women as credible on the whole as non-pregnant women, the same way many don't give as much credit to women as men.

They do this because of your increased femininity. Even so-called-feminists often view feminine traits as signs of weakness ... which is why I believe many feminists seem so masculine. It's from an unconscious effort to prove they're as credible as any man.

For example: say something in a flat tone like you'd expect Katie Couric to use. Then say something even more intelligent but use a motherly voice with lots of inflection ... kind of what you'd expect Grandma to use. You yourself should perceive the second effort "sounds" less "professional". Why is that? Cultural conditioning - and even the most ardent proponents of women's rights are the most afflicted.

This is the same reason why the media overlooked the litterally dozens of gross factual errors Biden made when debating Palin, but were ready to pounce at anything Palin might say that could be questionable. She has not just a "folksy" delivery, but her tone of voice and mannerisms are more what you'd expect at a sorority gathering than a political debate. However the words coming out of her mouth prove to be quite measured and intelligent, especially compared to Biden. CNN did a language analysis and statistically she spoke on a 10th grade level and Biden on the 8th, yet most people thought he sounded more credible or presidential.

What to do about it? Well, you could start acting like a bland sexless feminazi, but I don't think that's you. No, I think you should just surround yourself with those who appreciate not just womanhood, but femininity whenever possible. That's hard to do at work I know, but maybe you can do so after work ... you need positive feedback for being pregnant because it is truly awesome.

davers said...

It wouldn't hurt too, if you felt the need, to say if you think someone's being dismissive, "You know, I'm pregnant so I've got two brains now and that makes me smarter that you."

Wink and smile or something like that to keep it light-hearted, but I think some people need feedback in a pretty literal way.

Anonymous said...

With my first pregnancy, I felt very aware of my pregnancy and how people were perceiving me. I don't feel it damaged my credibility (at least once I opened my mouth) but it was definintely part of my identity (for everyone). The second & third pregnancies, I honestly walked around my work life feeling like "I can kick your ass AND make a baby, I am woman, hear me roar". I felt like a gorgeous superhero businesswoman. It was--maybe empowering is the right word. And I remember traveling a lot during my 1st & 2nd pregnancies and all the businessmen looked at me differently in the airport and on the plane--with a softness in their eyes. They were helpful and I sure let them help me. So just remember that pregnant you can kick all that male ass AND make a baby!

Salt H2O said...

Dave- you give great insight, I'm not surprised that my Austin cousins have such superb advice.
Thank you.

bechtold clan said...

true enough...unfortunate for me I started a job and found out a month later I was prego. It hasnt done great things for my career now with a 6 month old. I came in to an organization full of fire, and then started to get sick, depressed, and run down. didnt help to establish credibility, or professionalism when I was running to the bathroom many times a day to get sick. I am only one of 9 women in my company so I know all about working with men. Still trying to recover professionally, now with very little sleep and exhaustion raging at every pore.

ray said...

I think davers has hit the nail on the head. We (men and women) really do judge men and women differently based on social conditioning. That being said, I don't think the goal of a woman should be to act like a man. We can be just as smart, accomplished, professional, whatever, without having to erase all vestiges of our femininity. So carry on just the way you are, and let your words and actions define your level of competence, pregnant or not.

BTW-I was a stress analysis engineer at Boeing during my first pregnancy and aside from the "when are you due?", "is this your first?" questions, I really didn't feel like I was treated any different before and after. (I was one of 4 women in my work group of 35.)

crazy4danes said...

I'm sure a lot of it is just how you are perceiving it. Pregnancy does make us a little more sensitive for sure. But some of it could be validated by the pure fact that being pregnant really makes that woman in you stand out! LOL...I would assume that people would respect you more for that, and I'm sure they do! I would...I worked in an animal hospital when I was pregnant, and the male doctors seemed to respect me even more working while I was pregnant. I wouldn't worry about what you do best and everyone will respect you! You're AWESOME!!!! :)