March 10, 2017
Sometimes, to prove a point, pure stats don't quite cut it, at least when you want to convince someone else of the validity of your argument. When it comes to sexism in the workplace, you can cite the ever-present gender wage gap, studies that show women are less likely to get promotions and surveys that show women find it harder to balance being a parent and working full time.
When you present all this information to someone, and they're still not convinced that gender bias exists in the office, it can be helpful to go anecdotal while also including cold hard evidence. But as Philadelphia blogger and copywriter Nicole Hallberg pointed out Thursday, even that can prove ineffective when you're dealing with unwavering misogyny.
Hallberg wrote a post on Medium after her former co-worker Marty Schneider, a local podcaster, took to Twitter to recall an unpleasant experience the two shared that shows why it's so difficult for "women to get the respect they deserve" in the workplace.
The Twitter thread is lengthy, but here's the gist: Schneider used to work with Hallberg at a business that reviewed and revised clients' resumes. Schneider was Hallberg's supervisor, and their boss took issue with how long Hallberg would take to work with a client.
Their boss, according to Schneider, asked him to monitor her work. One day, a client was being very difficult and rude to Schneider, when he realized he was using Hallberg's email signature because of his assignment to watch over her work.
When he clarified to the client that it was actually him, not Hallberg, things immediately changed, Schneider claims. The client became much more welcoming to suggestions and grateful for the feedback.
Noticing the difference, Schneider and Hallberg performed an experiment, switching email signatures for two weeks. It didn't go so well for Schneider, but things improved quite a bit for Hallberg.
Nicole had the most productive week of her career.— Martin R. Schneider (@SchneidRemarks) March 9, 2017
I realized the reason she took longer is bc she had to convince clients to respect her.
The two presented their findings to their boss. And as Hallberg notes in her post, he simply wasn't convinced that things were different when "writing while female."
"He didn’t believe us. He actually said, 'There are a thousand reasons why the clients could have reacted differently that way. It could be the work, the performance… you have no way of knowing.'" Hallberg wrote.
Hallberg claims their boss had shown a pattern of sexism, calling a male worker "kind of a girl" for getting emotional, and even admitting to her that he originally didn't plan on hiring any women because they always had "fun" and he "didn't want the atmosphere to change."
She says she put up with all of this, as well as more casual sexism such as being constantly talked over in meetings, but it was her boss' refusal to acknowledge the findings of their experiment that made her almost lose her cool.
"What did my boss have to gain by refusing to believe that sexism exists?" Hallberg wrote. "Even when the evidence is screaming at him, even when his employee who makes him an awful lot of money is telling him, even when THE BOY on staff is telling him??"
Hallberg says she never solved that riddle and instead quit and started her own business. And while her and Schneider's experiment may not have worked on their former boss, it seems to have resonated with others, as Hallberg's post has been liked more than 250 times on Medium and Schneider's thread has been retweeted more than 6,000 times.