What’s it like for a man in a woman’s world?
I’ve worked in women’s magazines for a while now. Long enough to see acid wash twice. Generally, I’ve been the only guy in the office. It’s a ratio for which I’m eternally grateful and not for the reasons you may think. I was always petrified about doing wrong by one female colleague and the rest judge me (fairly, I might add) for it. That said, women do things different in the cubicle jungle. Some might say better and I’d agree. This is what I’ve learned from my female colleagues so far.
How To Be A Better Partner
Women talk to their colleagues about their relationships to a greater degree than men do – and sometimes to a degree of such anatomical detail that I would never dream of sharing with my closest male friends. Point is, I recognised my own faults/feelings/ behaviour in many of their relationship anecdotes. Sometimes, I was asked my advice “as a man” and again saw myself in the mystifying and sometimes hurtful behaviour of their partners.
The Glass Ceiling Ain’t Going Nowhere
I’ve lost count of the number of female colleagues I’ve seen passed over for jobs that were outsourced to men without their skills, talent, or track record. The double standard is nothing short of appalling and I’ve yet to work with a man who felt that a corporate culture was forcing him to decide between family and career. We can maybe start with the idea that having a vagina equates with lesser pay for the same job.
The Motherhood/ Work Juggle
Being around working mums and seeing how tough this role is gave me a heightened appreciation of my own mother’s achievements. Because at the end of the day, it’s rarely dad who ditches the office went Timmy swallows a pot of glue at day care.
As a man, I think I was hardwired to go into “solutions” mode and it took me several years to figure out that my colleagues were plenty capable of finding these by themselves. It turns out they just needed someone to listen and say “that’s really shit” when the situation was. This lesson also filtered into my relationships and was way more appreciated and worthwhile.
The Power Of Silence
Men – by which I mean me – tend to think we know a lot more about communicating with women than we do. Suffice to say, if there’s one single piece of advice I can give to other guys who find themselves the lone male at work, it’s knowing when to say nothing, put the block of chocolate on the table, and back silently out of the room.
Little Gestures, Big Value
The final gift I have received over my working life is a demonstration of the power of a small act of kindness like a bunch of flowers on a birthday, anniversary, or for no reason in particular. Seeing the effect it had on those around me made me lift my game in my own marriage. So thank you, my valued colleagues for raising my performance both at and away from the office.
Being the only man in an office full of women is a long and
sometimes lonely road.