11 June 2011

Women are People

I went to an interview last week. My current one-year contract will end in August and I need to find full-time work. One of the nice things about having a one-year contract is that your current employer fully expects you to get another job and you don't have to sneak around behind their back interviewing. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm really awful at being sneaky.

Since I'm looking for Chaplaincy jobs, I went to an interview with a healthcare organization which is still sufficiently unknown that you probably wouldn't be able to guess its name. I had my first interview with the (male) Executive Director and the (female) Assistant Director.

Have you ever walked into a room and instantly felt a rapport with the other people? It was like that. They told me enthusiastically about their organization and how it was the best place they had both worked. This statement was backed up by genuine and enthusiastic example after example and I came away from the interview feeling "Wow! I want to work for these people! They seem genuinely committed to their patients' well-being."

Then the trouble started. The second interview was to be with the Chaplains. They are all male, I was told. No problem, I said. My previous profession was still dominated by men and I've often been the only female on a team. I've never had problems working with men.

Of course, you never know how you are perceived by others. But I walked into that interview room with the Chaplains feeling incredibly positively.

About half-way into the interview, the obvious leader of the group asks me "As you can see, we're all men here. Would you have a problem being the only woman?" Answer, absolutely not...etc. etc. (as above).

"But, if you were a part of our team, would we be able to have the same kinds of conversations that we have now?" My mind is boggling as I try to imagine how a group of male Chaplains has a conversation that would be inappropriate for a female Chaplain to hear. Answer: "I have no idea what kinds of conversations you have now, so I can't answer that."

"Are you sure you wouldn't have any problem working with a group that is all men?" Answer. "As I said, I have worked in a lot of majority-male situations before, and I've never had a problem. But if you would have a problem working with me, then, yes, I would have a problem with that. Why would anyone want to work somewhere where they were not wanted?"

"You're not....(5 second pause for thought)...one of those...(pause for thought)...flaming feminist man-haters, are you?" (Hey, good job you paused to consider your words, huh? Who knows what might have come out if you hadn't stopped to think!) Answer: "As I said, I've worked with men for over 15 years. But if don't want to work with a woman, then I have absolutely no interest in working where I'm not wanted."

When I recounted this story to my female supervisor back at work she said "Welcome to the Christian Church in America."

I know this doesn't just happen in America. I recount the story simply for the sake of telling it because I think these stories need to be told. Christians talk about how their views are discriminated against in civil life and here we have a bunch of male Chaplains working for a non-church healthcare organization who are being sexist with impunity. So, as with many secularists, it's hard for me to have sympathy with this perception.


Allan R. Bevere said...

Wow! Unbelievable!

PamBG said...

Yeah. One of my colleagues was previously a discrimination lawyer. He's said a number of times that people would call him thinking that they had a case when they didn't. He remarked that this was one of the strongest "fact sets" he'd heard in years.

I don't want to sue them. In an ideal world, I'd like the organization to know what I was asked because it went against the professionalism I'd seen from the others. It was one person but I had the feeling that the other Chaplains were a bit cowed by him (one of the other Chaplains actually said, simultaneously with me, "How can she answer that question if she doesn't know what we talk about?")

WomanistNTProf said...

Pam, I'm glad you are telling this story. Yes, they need to be told. Maybe we should get together and edit a book of the many stories. Allan, you wouldn't believe it! Still, unbelievable! Don't know which is the fact they said or the fact that they know (or think) they can say it with impunity!

Anonymous said...

Not hard for me to believe this happens even today. I remember when I was in my early 30s and looking for a job I was asked if I was going to have more children. When I said I didn't know for sure I was even asked what kind of birth control I was using! When I told the employment agency I was asked these questions they told me that yes they were out of line but I should just overlook it if I wanted to get a job!

PamBG said...

The community of people in Chaplaincy isn't that big and I need to stay in this area. How do you tell someone you don't know that this happened without actually sounding like a "flaming feminist man-hater"? (I'm afraid the absurd part of my sense of humor finds that phrase hilarious; no one has asked me anything like that since the 1970s. I thought we'd gotten over that sort of BS as a society.)

WomanistNTProf said...

Far from it Pam. Too many stories are going untold.

Gwen Wood said...

This scenario is NOT a-typical in the "religious" hierarchy community as well as in the "general" workplace environment. As a very old, wise person once said when asked how much had changed in the 90+ years having lived on Earth? ~ The answer was "Not much, not much at All!" So be it! Which means, there continues to be a great deal of work to be done to SHIFT this continuing UNEQUAL & UNFAIR & DESTRUCTIVE historical IMBALANCE of POWER here in our OWN country & throughout the World. Jus' Sayin' ~ Gwen Wood, Honolulu, HI 6/12/11