There are many unpleasant realities of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. One is that yet again a qualified woman lost a job to a less qualified man. At least Hillary Clinton will not suffer the indignity of having to train and work for the man who took her job as so many women have had to do, including me. I once had to train a new boss who printed all his emails and filed them in his desk.
Okay. Printing emails and filing them in your desk isn’t the worst trait in the world. However, every time I would see a new stack of emails spewing out of the shared printer it reminded me that this guy, this email printing guy, took my job. But even worse than printed emails and losing a job I assumed I was getting was the fact that my department manager didn’t even grant me the courtesy of warning me that I wasn’t getting the job before he announced the guy who did.
I was only 24 years-old. That is rather young to be the presumptive candidate for a team supervisor role in a computer services department for a large corporation, but due to a recession in our industry there had been layoffs followed by nearly a decade-long hiring freeze that had only ended a few years before I entered the workforce. This meant that there was a generation gap in our personnel making the path from entry-level to middle management swifter than usual.
My supervisor was only a few years older than me when he accepted a position in another department. His departure meant that with three years of experience I was the next most senior person on our team other than a woman who worked part time and did not want to return to full time as the supervisor position required.
Our department manager asked if I thought I could handle the supervisor role. I made the argument for why I thought I was ready. My coworkers (all of them older than me) were asked if they would be comfortable with me in that position. I was told they were all supportive of the idea. It seemed inevitable that the job would be mine.
A few weeks later our department manager called a meeting. It wasn’t even a meeting. It was to be a brief gathering in the space between the offices and cubicles for an announcement. The announcement of position changes. Presumably the announcement of my promotion.
My departing supervisor called me into his office about ten minutes before the announcement. He said he thought I should know that his job was going to a guy from another team. I am incredibly grateful that he didn’t let me find out this disappointing news in front of the entire department as my manager would have done. At least I was able to brace myself for the looks of pity I got from my coworkers.
So this guy took my job. Like the man he replaced, he was older and more experienced than I was but not by much. He wore suspenders and had stereotypical “manager hair.” I dutifully taught him about the systems we developed and supported while trying not to be openly annoyed by things like the fact that he printed all his emails. I accepted a job in another department less than a year later.
At the time, I attributed the loss of this job to my age and inexperience. Perhaps those really were the only factors. However, back then I was still pretty naive about how differently women in tech are viewed and treated. Looking back, I can’t help wondering whether I would have gotten the job if I had been a 24-year-old man. After all, the manager who didn’t respect me enough to tell me that I wasn’t getting a job he knew I assumed I would get is the same man who would later be reassigned due to numerous sexual harassment complaints, so I wouldn’t exactly count him as a male feminist.
I am disappointed that the U.S. did not elect its first woman president this year, but I’m relieved for Hillary Clinton that she does not need to work for and train the man who got her job.
- My welcome to “women in tech” moment
- I wasn’t sexually harassed by my first boss, but my coworkers were
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