We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby. Or Have We?

I consider myself to be a fairly well-rounded, modern woman.

I enjoy bonding with the girls over fruity martinis but I also enjoy drinking beer and hanging with the guys. I like fine dining, dressing up, and attending charity events but I also love attending sporting events. I’m a football and hockey fan but I also enjoy wine tasting trips. I’ve taken up golf and have played in my share of scrambles (usually on teams with at least some men) over the past few years.

I’m comfortable in, and thrive in, a variety of situations with both women and men. And I do these things because I truly enjoy them. I am not forcing myself to do them because I think they will better my position or help me advance  my career.

Not long ago, I was attending an offsite team meeting at a local country club. Following the meeting we had a cocktail hour planned as a thank you from our senior vice president for our recent hard work on a variety of projects. As our team of women gathered on the patio on a beautiful summer afternoon, we were given a “heads up” by the wait staff that we were going to need to vacate the patio at 4:00 as it was “Men’s Night” and no women were allowed to be there. As we jokingly asked when “Ladies’ Night” was, the somber reply from the waitress was, “there is no Ladies’ Night.”

What? Seriously?

Yes, absolutely serious. Apparently “Men’s Night” is part of the club’s by-laws that go back approximately 100 years. The thing is, outdated as they may be, they are still observed. As we dutifully vacated the patio at precisely 4:00, I began thinking about the business world and practices that prolong outdated thinking. Some may call it the Good Ole Boys Club.

Women in business have come a long way. There are successful women in high places. There are female CEOs, CFOs, Senior Vice Presidents and many women that we can look up to as mentors and trailblazers. Though I work in a historically male-dominated industry, my own company has females in prominent positions and does a nice job of including women in social events, golf tournaments, etc.

However, in the dark corners of many companies’ existences, how many have unspoken practices that unconsciously or subconsciously exclude women? Especially in male-dominated industries, how many have the equivalent of “Men’s Night,” unofficial social outings, gatherings, or networking that favor men and deny women the chance to interact with their male counterparts outside of the office setting? How many perpetuate the existence of the Good Ole Boys Club – maybe not intentionally, but in reality because of practice?

As a modern woman who enjoys socializing with men as well as women in a variety of settings, “Men’s Night” was appalling. That I may be excluded from certain social opportunities, denied the opportunity to participate in activities that I enjoy regardless of who is involved because I am a women, greatly disappoints me. I can’t help but wonder how the patio situation would have been handled had we been a group of both men and women?

Women of HR readers, what do you think? Are these outdated practices still more common than we’d like to admit? And how do we move beyond this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

Jennifer Payne

Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

5 Comments

Cheryl

I think women should stop comparing what men do/get compared to us. Frankly I’m glad to see some establishments, like a country club still have traditions, even if that means I would have to leave the patio earlier than I planned. I would rather my husband or male co-workers hang out on a patio with a bunch of guys yucking it up about sports and current events then out in the strip clubs demoralizing women. Do you pay full price on ladys day at the car wash, or 1/2 price drinks on ladies night? I say lighten up and be comfortable in your female skin and let the men do the same.

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HR Introvert

Jennifer-
Thanks for this. I think people assume that the work is over, but it is not. We aren’t at the destination.

Having said that, and reading Franno’s comments, I can say that if any of those men travelling together worked where I do, it is quite possible they were traveling under the direction of their female team leader.
The change and progress is not always visible, but the Men’s Night should at least have a corresponding Ladies’ Night!

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PamSue

Reminds me of something I saw on a t-shirt years ago, “We have not come a long way and I’m no baby!” I’m not sure much has changed at the core. Appearances make it seem like things have changed at times, but when you get right down to it, I am not convinced there has been all that much progress, especially when I hear stories like this about “Men’s Night.”

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Frannyo

Funny you should mention this issue. I was on a rental car shuttle last night, headed for the airport. I noticed that their were 15 guys on the shuttle, and me. None of the guys was traveling alone – they were all with at least one co-worker, They were all discussing their days’ accomplishments and disappointments, strategizing next steps, and basically, doing the real work of business.

I wondered. Where are the women they work with? Will they just be told whatever decisions get made on that shuttle? Did their female coworkers choose not to travel that day, or were they not invited?

It may have just been a coincidence, but it really struck me.

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