Re: Workplace Discrimination

Subject: Re: Workplace Discrimination
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 12:01:00 EST

At 08:40 AM 3/19/96 -0600, you wrote:
>Tim Altom's query about discrimination in the workplace was quite timely.
>Just yesterday I was thinking about a contract I didn't get recently. I'm
>sure there were good reasons why I didn't get it, but I kept coming back to
>one thing that happened in the interview with the client. After he'd seen
>my writing samples, talked about what needed to be done, talked about my
>skills, etc., he leaned across and said "Now look. This is a very important
>project. You'll have to be completely responsible for getting this done.
>No missed deadlines. I don't care what your excuse is, whether you have
>sick kids or whatever. I have to know that you can get this done. Do you

>I was quite surprised. I wouldn't take a job I didn't think I could follow
>through on. Who would? I hadn't mentioned anything about my family,
>although I do wear a wedding ring. Would he have said this to a man? I
>can't imagine it. So now I'm wondering if I didn't get the job because I'm
>a woman and he thinks women are unreliable.

>Have any of you men ever been told something like this?
>(I know this is a bit off topic for the list so if you'd rather follow up
>privately that's OK with me.)

>Mary Howe
>Thunder Works, Inc.
>thunder -at- idir -dot- net

Nope, never had that question, but I'd be surprised if I had. By the same
token, I'm not surprised that you got it, and for a twisted but legitimate

In most families, the wife is usually stuck with handling the kid-chores. Of
course there are exceptions, but they test the rule, they don't dismantle
it. Men know this. Many of us aren't proud of it, but we're all aware of it.
And a great many women put up with it, because they're taught from birth to
be the family support, the one who, when everybody else is sick, snowed in,
or trotting off to important meetings, will get the kids to the doctor, pick
up the laundry and call the insurance agent, all before settling down to her
own labors. Thus, in their valiant efforts to keep things together, women
have often shot themselves in the foot. Only after getting back home at 5:00
and seeing the day's work undone does she begin to panic, and then perhaps
to work until dawn to catch up.

Therefore, there is strange and twisted legitimacy to the prospective
client's question. He knows that if there's a sick kid in the house, you may
well get stuck with it.

On the other hand, I think he could have well stopped short of mentioning
the sick kid. There are other tragedies that befall all of us, male and
female, and while his job is doubtless important and he needs to stress the
deadline pressures, you might well fail to meet it for any of hundreds of
other reasons, including his own inability to get you what you need. So,
yes, I think you may well have failed to get the contract because you were
female. But it's probably best. If he was thinking in those terms from the
first contact, you might well have been miserable working with him.

Was he morally or legally in the wrong for saying that to you? Well,
legally, he was dealing with another company, not a prospective employee, so
the law is much laxer than it might be otherwise. As for morally, that's in
the eye of the beholder. As a businessperson myself, I can see his point,
although I think it's a specious one and not one I'd bring up. But if you're
a solo practitioner (and I assume you are) then you'll have to learn to live
with these sorts of checklist items. After all, if you're the only one
working on his manual, and you get hit by a falling tree, he's out of luck,
whereas a larger company has backups and safeguards. If you're willing to
team up with a couple of other people, then you'll have an argument when
somebody throws out that statement. Just tell him that you're backstopped
and that even if the kids are sick, you're covered. That removes it from the
realm of political correctness and plants it firmly into sales and business.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)

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