I got a tad worked up recently when I received some information about a local event that is being advertised as a “Job Fair for Women.” The employers participating are primarily in the retail and hospitality industry although there are other industries represented. The communication included the line “If you know any women seeking employment please refer them to our Job Fair. Bring copies of your resume and bring a friend.”
I pondered what would happen were I to show up, as a female job seeker, and bring a male friend? Would he be turned away at the door or would he be allowed to enter? Is the organizer (who shall remain nameless) implying, by lack of invite, that men neither want nor need jobs? Or is this an indication of a belief that men, for some reason, are neither equipped to perform these particular jobs nor will they deign them worthy of their efforts? And why, I wondered, are these high profile employers participating in an event that is excluding an entire gender?
Now I’m in a region of the country that has a very heavy petrochemical, gas and oil industry presence where, obviously, many jobs have traditionally been held by men. I worked in that industry for several years and had numerous conversations with Joe the Foreman and Bob the Unit Supervisor about providing the same opportunity for everyone – male or female – to apply for jobs and receive equal consideration. They went along…albeit grudgingly. So what, I wondered, would happen if Joe and Bob were to attend a “Job Fair for Men?” I’m convinced they would like that option…even as we sit here in 2013.
And then, as my mind went off on a tangent, I got to ruminating how we (the collective ‘we of society’ that is) determine that it’s okay to continue putting working women in one silo and working men in a separate silo.
Have you, as I have, ever received notices from certain training providers that offer courses designed exclusively for women? There are session topics like “Communication Skills for Women” and “Assertiveness Skills for Women” and “Conflict Management Skills for Women.” So this tells us what exactly? That men have the market cornered on these skill sets and won’t be interested? That women will be able to attend these sessions and not be ashamed when they get emotional or share their weaknesses or admit to, as one provider puts it, “… deal<ing> with trembling hands, “butterflies,” and other nervous symptoms?” What the hell is that? A 1931 pamphlet explaining menstruation?
I despise exclusion – based on gender, race, age, religion, etc. – in any form. Some will say that the gals want to hang with the gals and the guys want to hang with the guys. Fine – get your groove on and segregate yourself at the corner pub with the dudes or at the nail salon with the ladies after a long week of toil and labor. But please don’t bring that mindset to the workplace or professional environs.
Every time you do it makes me die just a little.
With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.
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