Sexism in the Software Industry, as Encountered by the Cranky Product Manager

Following up on the previous post about the deepening dearth of women in the software industry, here are some incidents of outright sexism that the Cranky Product Manager has encountered in this industry.

Admittedly, most of these are pretty mild.  After all, she doesn’t feel she was every denied a promotion or made less salary because she was female. She was never pressured to “do” anyone.  And she honestly believes that the overwhelming majority of men she has worked with really WANT to see more women in technical and product roles, and to see them advance.

But still.

And no, The Cranky Product Manager never reported any of these incidents to HR.  Maybe she should have, but – let’s face it – it probably wouldn’t have changed things anyway. 

1. Being one of the 3 engineers in an R&D group of 20 that were not invited to the big industry tradeshow in Vegas. All three of the “left behinds” were women, and all 17 that attended were guys. The excuse was that we women would not have had fun, and they didn’t think we’d want to attend anyway since most of what they did was go to strip clubs. (The group came back from Vegas with lots of awesome research project ideas, triggered by their conference experiences. Experiences that we women missed out on.)

2. Booth babes at Trade Shows. Every year. And having people assume that the Cranky Product Manager is a know-nothing booth babe who doesn’t know CSS from NoSQL.

3. Account managers asking the Cranky Product Manager to please flirt with a prospect’s tech guys on sales calls. Because those guys “get off on geeky chicks.”

4. Erased #4 because this post is getting an unexpectedly huge audience and the CrankyPM needs to protect her identity.

5. Attending a Sales Kick-Off party where the CEO hired an “actress/comedienne” to perform / strip for the company. (You see, she only got down to her bra and panties, so it was “okay.”)

6. Scantily clad women (no men!) dancing in cages and groping each other, at the “big party” every year at the DysfunctoWorld conference for customers and partners.

7. Having the skeevy, drunk Division GM, dressed as Santa Claus, basically force the Cranky Product Manager to sit on his lap during the Christmas party. For an excrutiatingly long three minutes.

UPDATE:  Forgot a few!  More below….

8. At her first out-of-college job, being referred to as the “Build Mistress.”  This isn’t bad in itself, because she was indeed the Build Master/Mistress.  But the dominatrix jokes (and white board doodlings) stopped being funny after the 25th repetition.

9. As an engineer at an early-stage startup, being sent home to change and scrub the makeup off my face prior to a meeting with prospective Venture Capitalists.  Because the VCs would never believe that I was a serious engineer if I wore a skirt.

10. Having every visitor to her startup’s office assume the Cranky Product Manager was the office manager just because she was the nearest female to the door.  (There was a male office manager, plus about 5 other guys were closer to the door than the CPM.)

11. When interviewing at a startup with no female employees, the Cranky PM attended a “company meeting” to get a feel for the culture.  The VP of Engineering dropped the F-bomb and a few other swears (big deal!). But THEN the speaker turned to the Cranky Product Manager and said, “Excuse me! I didn’t realize we were in MIXED company.” Later he made a blow job joke and said “Oops! I keep forgetting we’re in MIXED company!”  

Way to make a girl feel at home! Keep pointing out she’s different than everyone else, under the guise of “politeness.”   And PLEASE, the Cranky Product Manager drops more F-bombs before breakfast than that douchebag does in a week.  (this is not a good thing, but it is what it is.)  Needless to say, the Cranky PM did not join this company.

Software Sisters, add your own experiences in the comments!

106 comments

  1. jbmonco

    I must lead a pretty lucky life. Or I am completely oblivious. Or both. But I don’t have a lot to add here. I did go to a tech conference ONCE that had booth babes. In Latin America. I figured they were trailing the U.S. by a few years. And luckily/sadly NO ONE mistook me for a booth babe.

    Now I think on it, I did once have a manager who always took the boys on our “tiger team” to work with the customers on “technical” stuff while using me for the training phase. On the rare occasion when the boys weren’t available and I went in an kicked BUTT on ALL phases of the customer meeting, he always complemented me in SUCH a surprised voice! Grrrr. Thanks for letting me vent.

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      It’s been a few years since the Cranky PM has been mistaken for a booth babe, now that she has crowsfeet, 10 extra lbs, etc. She is still mistaken for a PR person though.

      It does suck that your manager – who has ample evidence of your technical aptitude, day after day – is still shocked and assumes otherwise, after all this time. The Cranky Product Manager bets that this guy has absolutely no awareness of his biases. After all, he probably hired you, thereby proving in his mind that he is not sexist.

  2. Linda Merrick

    Check, check, check check, skip, check, check…
    I’m with you Cranky. I hope these examples are all several years old; my recent experiences have been on a positive trend. But I suspect that many of your readers can quote similar instances from last week. Why so few women in tech, indeed.

    -Linda

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      Yeah, many are old examples — all the ones from when I was an engineer are 10+ years old. But the skeevy tradeshow, customer conference, kick-off stuff continues on to this day.

      The Cranky Product Manager agrees that things seem a little better now. But then, she is not sure how much of it is simply because she is now older, a bit heavier, and thus less subject to the misguided attention aimed at young, attractive women in our industry.

  3. anonymous

    Americans will not like this, but the workplace is a different place, you’re there to survive and it isn’t pleasant, so other countries provide means of dealing with situations like this.

    Eh come up to Canada and take them to the star tribunal. See how well they feel as their freedom of expression is violated because they were complete asses and created a dangerous workplace environment. It at least works at jobs :|

    I don’t really like the Human Rights Commission star tribunal, but it can be used to correct some of these behaviours, and imho youhave a right to a reasonable wage and a safe work environment, those guys are free to express themselves after work.

  4. josh

    I would be pretty appalled at the behavior, but how do you expect anything to change? Do you expect a knight in shining armor to stick up for you? You just want to whine on the internet? You missed to opportunity to sue like a motherfucker. You’d’ve made money for yourself and done the only thing likely to make a difference for everyone else – hitting them in the wallet/purse.

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      Oh for Cheezus’s sake, Josh, your answer itself is sexist:

      First, “Knight in Shining Armor?” Are you effing kidding the Cranky Product Manager? Would you say that to a guy?

      Second, you ask “why bitch on the Internet?” Why, it’s the Cranky Product Manager’s entire reason for being! If she’s not bitching about A, she’s moaning about B. It’s the entire purpose of this blog! That’s why it’s called the Cranky Product Manager.

      Third, the Cranky PM made this post in the hope that just ONE of her readers would reconsider his decision to hire booth babes or party dancers for their next trade show / conference. And to not blindly assume that any woman sitting near the office’s front door is an admin.

      Fourth, why do you assume the Cranky Product Manager did not confront the offending parties directly? In many cases she did, and hopefully those men learned something and did not do it again. Probably a lot more effective than reporting it to HR (which is on management’s side, not harassed employees’ sides, btw).

      Fifth, your supposition that the Cranky Product Manager could sue, win a bunch of $$, and teach the offenders a lesson is VERY NAIVE. Harassment suits are _extremely_ hard to win unless you can prove the harassment was pervasive and injured you in some way. Remember the Cranky Product Manager said she never felt like she was denied a job, promotion, or equitable pay due to her gender? Injury is hard to prove.

      Further, it is not illegal to be a sexist customer, VC, or prospective employer (4, 9, 10, 11) – just an employer. Also, many of these instances were by good men who were just being unaware morons (1, 3, 8, 11) – whom the Cranky PM confronted, btw.

      What’s left: 2, 5, 6, 7 (tradeshows, etc) — stuff that still goes on and a lot of men still don’t understrand what’s wrong with it.

      I think I’ll just refer you to this article by Penelope Trunk entitled “Don’t Report Sexual Harassment” (in most cases).”
      http://tinyurl.com/cwk4gn .

      • Josh

        > Would you say that to a guy?

        No, I’d call him a pussy. I think people should stand up for themselves or ignore what they don’t like. Complaining on the internet does not strike me as an effective way of accomplishing anything.

        > Harassment suits are _extremely_ hard to win unless you can prove

        You must be naive to have not heard of people suing for a hostile work environment.

        • Cranky PM

          Sure, anyone can sue anyone. But if you don’t WIN, your career goes in the toilet.

          The Cranky Product Manager has a very close family member who is an expert in sexual harassment litigation. Unless it is blatant and causes loss of job/promotion/money, it is impossible to win.

        • Anon

          Josh,

          You got schooled — and like a child decided that the thing to do was ignore all the excellent points made and offer up two weak retorts. Weak sauce, dude.

    • Francine Braese

      A woman stands up for herself and you call her a whiner but if a man said something about it he’d be knight in shining armor? How can you make a post like that & not see your own hypocracy?
      Speaking out against a discriminatory act is the decent thing to do. While women bear the brunt of sexism, does that mean men shouldn’t care? Next time, speak up. Your silence is perceived as consent by your colleagues. And until you can at least do that, you certainly have no right to judge anyone for choosing their battles and how far to take them.
      She is doing something to create change by standing up and saying it is not acceptable. The more people do this, the more norms of behavior of what is considered acceptable will change. What have you done to help besides disrespect someone trying to make change towards more equal treatment of women? Get on board or GET OUT OF THE WAY.

      • Josh

        > A woman stands up for herself

        “And no, The Cranky Product Manager never reported any of these incidents to HR.”

        That’s not what I’d call standing up for herself.

        The “knight in shining armor” was sarcasm. I was surprised that an outspoken person would not go to HR about these issues. God, you are obtuse.

        > She is doing something to create change by standing up and saying it is not acceptable.

        But, it seems like she could do a lot more by going to HR, instead of just posting on the internet about it.

        > What have you done to help besides disrespect someone trying to make change towards more equal treatment of women?

        I promoted intelligent discourse by questioning why someone would choose internet posts as a way to ‘combat sexism’ instead of dealing with the problem directly by confronting the problem more at work. My apologies – I’ll be more explicit about that, next time.

        • Cranky PM

          Please. The Cranky Product Manager directly confronted in most of these cases, or at least made some kind of complaint-in-passing to people who could do something about it.

          And btw, HR is NOT on your side. Their job is to protect management from lawsuits, not to help employees. And most startups don’t have HR.

        • Francine Braese

          What are you not getting about this? Suing or going to HR is not always the best option. Several factors, such as the attitudes and loyalties of people involved, office dynamics, and the evidence you have, all need to be considered on a situational basis to determine the best course of action.

          Beyond all that, people need to consider what is best for them as individuals. Confrontation is more difficult for some people than others. Considering the Cranky PM is an alter-ego for a supposedly mild-mannered person, confronting the offenders directly may have been a huge triumph for her. Since I tend to be outspoken, I find it more difficult to be silent than to advocate for others.

          I have been in situations before though when I could not take legal action because despite being willing, I didn’t have enough evidence and had absolutely no case from a legal standpoint (as I was told by the Equal Opportunity Commission). I hope you were being sarcastic when you asked if The Cranky PM has heard of suing for a hostile work environment. You are ignorant to think it’s so simple.

          Please do be more explicit next time when trying to promote intelligent discourse. It was very easy to miss the intelligent part. I may be being too hard on you though. Perhaps you are a bit meek in real life which could be why the only thing you do to “combat sexism” is make internet posts to criticize people who actually take action in the real world. If that’s the case, I apologize and hope you gain the courage to speak out against sexism someday in real life.

        • Pregnant PM

          An example from last week: one of the employees, who managed to piss off most of the women in his department in the year or so he is working here (and there are much more than 3), called the Pregnant PM “fat lady”. Funny? only men think so. The Pregnant PM, completely exhausted after trying to get this guy straight for over a year, told him she would go to HR.

          The next day, VP of HR meets her in the kitchen. A minute into the conversation, he tells her: “ooo, you’re getting fat!”.

          Right. Go to HR. That’s the solution.

  5. Daniel

    I don’t see this at my workplace, ever. We also don’t have any female engineers. The couple women I work with are in HR or sales.

    The notable exception is my current PM, who, for what it’s worth, is the best PM I’ve ever met.

  6. TxnByBrth

    Kiddo…I’ve seen it from a slightly different angle. I have a retained executive search practice and have been actively and consistently recruiting since 1979. During that span of time I can’t tell you the number of times hiring execs would sometimes say, as we’re wrapping up discussions outlining and defining a position profile, “Oh…and by the way…I’m not sure a woman would enjoy working here” or some other code phrases that translates to “Male candidates only”. In my first year I was surprised when I heard it, and would tell them I’d present the best people I could find…the rest was up to him. Ironically I found them hiring the best person, including women, when it came to the bottom line.

    The irony is I am the only male of six children (all my sisters are younger) and I have four daughters and one son. The really successful people I know want people who can deliver on the promise and they don’t care about their gender, skin color, religion or lifestyle. Unfortunately there are assholes out there…and a few cougars too, who have always exploited people and will continue.

    I got to tell you a great story…on one such occasion a hiring exec ended up choosing a guy over a gal when everyone on the interview team said she was the better candidate. Now mind you…I don’t sell candidates to my clients or try and persuade them one way or another…but in this case I told him, all things considered, I thought he might be making mistake. He told me, “You find ‘em and I’ll make the decisions”…

    Well…she went to a competitor and she proceeded to single handedly drive his product into the ground. That in and of itself would have been sweet vindication, but it wasn’t the end. Three years later his company was acquired by hers and he ended up working for her…and saw firsthand how good she was. One evening, A year and a half after started working for her, I got a call from him out of the blue. I could tell he had been drinking and he had obviously been thinking about how things had played out…he told me the greatest mistake he had ever made, up to that point, was not hiring her.

    All I could say was, “Yep.”

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      Wow, great story! Thanks for sharing it, and the Cranky Product Manager feels very satisfied about the ending.

      Please tell the Cranky Product Manager that the “not sure a woman would enjoy working here” comments are less frequent now?

  7. Cranky Male PM

    I’m going to have to call you out on this one:

    9. As an engineer at an early-stage startup, being sent home to change and scrub the makeup off my face prior to a meeting with prospective Venture Capitalists. Because the VCs would never believe that I was a serious engineer if I wore a skirt.

    Sorry, men get that, too. They just don’t get to complain about it.

    I’ve been sent home to change twice in my career (sudden big boss appearances and I wasn’t yet making enough to have suits to wear every day). And, as I became more senior, I found that there are situations where I have had to think about what to wear. If I’m representing in a sales/marketing role, I’ll pull out the Valentino pinstripe. If I’m representing as technical, dress pants and a sport coat is probably the limit to still be taken seriously. *Especially* in front of a VC.

    People judge by appearance and stereotype. It is not fair, but it is not limited to women.

  8. PM in Australia

    In my last role I was told that people considered myself, and my direct manager, to be “ball breakers”. Had we of been men in these roles we would of Just Been Getting The Job Done!

  9. Hamy

    Wait, you said that “[you] honestly believe that the overwhelming majority of men [you have] worked with really WANT to see more women in technical and product roles, and to see them advance.”

    So what’s up with this post? It seems over the top focusing on the total jerks, the ones that will make any group look terrible (see http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/09/an-apology-from-marty-contd.html ). Why could you not have intermixed stories of the guys that treated you right, or the good things that come from being a woman in the software industry? I’m not saying these guys are ok and shouldn’t be called out for this crap, but I am saying that (based on my assumption that you want to see more women in the industry) your post doesn’t really encourage any female to want to be involved in software. The weak disclosure at the top is not in any way equal to the negative spew below it, it seems like you are doing more to drive women away from software than anything else here.

    I haven’t read any of your other posts, so I may be out of context here, but I think that most people will be out of context as well. Since this post is doing so well on reddit, could you perhaps update it to clarify that it’s not all hell for women in the industry?

    • Francine Braese

      Consider her audience. Do you think young girls who need to be encouraged to pursue the sciences are reading this? No. People reading this are adults who are already in the workplace and have already been steered into a career direction. The damage has been done. I never even considered science a viable option as a child and it’s way too late now to catch up.
      Also, the purpose of this post (besides venting I’m sure) is to help expose the sexism that still exists. Too many people think that it is gone when in fact it is still alive and well. Though things have improved in some industries, they have actually gotten worse in others, as can be seen by the declining percentage of women in software programming. How would talking about some random guys who weren’t jerks help or be relevant? It would most likely just fuel denial of the problem for people who don’t want to see the problem (or who in fact are guilty of contributing to the problem and don’t want to open the can of worms and sense of guilt that comes with realizing that).

      I believe this epidemic is caused greatly in part to people’s denial, rationalization, and justification of the instances of sexism they see. Consider The Cranky PM’s experience when she was at a work event where a woman stripped for entertainment but kept her underwear on so they thought it was okay. What kind of crazy train of thought is that? They rationalized it though, stuck together on their story, and looked around to a bunch of other men for reassurance that it was okay. Well, it’s not.
      Talking about any small benefit of being a woman in the software programming world would be used to fuel this denial. Any benefit of being a woman in the industry is completely towered by the discriminations.
      Here’s an example- The one benefit I can see of being a heterosexual woman in the software programming world is that they may be able to meet potential mates more easily. When that comes stacked up against being paid, promoted, and respected less as well as having an added risk of being objectified and seen as “other”, who cares? I’d rather have the career and respect. Still, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s a point of contention among male software programmers, many even feeling like victims because they are so susceptible to women’s beauty.
      People need to be jolted out of the distorted views and norms that form in a male-dominated environment. When there are so few women present to influence what is acceptable, (especially when paired with a long patriarchical history) men look to each other to determine what is acceptable treatment of men. Not surprisingly, the group mentality and culture that has grown is pretty tolerant of behavior that puts women down and stands on top of them to be taller. This is the problem and it is not acceptable.
      There are enough rationalizations, silence, and denial around sexism in the real world. There needs to be a place to balance this out. Like a see-saw, when one side has been pushed down completely, you don’t balance it by putting weight in the middle. There needs to be more discussion of what has been kept silent.

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      Those of you educated in feminism will recognize your comment as sexist because it assumes “Male Privilege,” in that you, a man, feel it appropriate to tell a woman how she should describe and post about her own experience as a woman.

      • Anon Male

        Hamy is simply saying that there is merit to pointing out other aspects to a story other than the negative ones. You are suggesting that males cannot rationally step back, consider the situation, and offer unbiased advice without being ‘males’. Would that not actually be the sexist statement?

        • Hamy

          While I agree that it’s ridiculous, a lot of feminists go to a die hard view of the term “sexist,” where originally it means directed towards women. By that definition, you literally cannot be sexist towards men, it’s not possible given the meaning of the word. Of course, I find that a load a crap, I think the more modern definition should be the only one used.

      • Hamy

        Your response is that a male could never possible have valid input on the feminist movement? Really, that’s your response?

        I had a long ass reply written breaking down what was wrong with all this, but screw it. Fuck this post and your determination to only see things your own way, as far as I am concerned you are only making the problem worse and feeling confident while doing so. Someone that was really interested in helping would be willing to re-evaluate their methods 100 times a day, and not fall back on silly methods when someone asks an honest question to find out more.

  10. Anonymous in ATL

    How about this one (happened in last 60 days)….
    After covering for a male counterpart, my female colleague says, “you owe me for that” to the male colleague who responds, “I’ll have to give you a back rub the next time I see you”.

    Yes. Seriously. My jaw hit the floor.

    • Anon Male

      This brings up another notable case of discrimination. If a male mentions a backrub, it is seen as creepy and sexist. If a female acts similarly flirty, she is always gets away with it, and is seen as friendly and engaging.

      • The Cranky Product Manager

        You say women “get away with it.” Well, now, picture the same situation with a 60-year-old, toothless, slovenly, unattractive woman offering to give you a backrub. Not so friendly or engaging, is it?

        Let’s face it, in instances like this, the issue is UNWANTED sexual attention. Both men AND women should avoid this type of stuff unless they are 100% sure it is wanted.

        The reason this behavior is frequently construed as sexist is because often the perpetrator is a man who has some real power over the other person (such as her boss), thus limiting their ability to tell him to get lost.

        • SoupKitchen

          And regardless of whether it’s wanted or unwanted, it may disgust your co-workers. Remember, some things are just down-right offensive in the workplace, no matter who is saying them.

  11. JBMONCO

    My what a lot of hoopla!

    One more fond memory from the eighties–going to a computer conference in Vegas and attending the conference socializer which was a Vegas Showgirls Review. And there is a reason they are called SHOWgirls. That. was. awkward.

    That said, I scraped together 2 incidents in, I hate to say it, 30 years. On the whole, it has not been Hell in software for me. I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses (some who hired me, some who were moved into the position after I had been hired) of all genders. I have had good and bad male and female colleagues of all stripes. I have NOT experienced a LOT of sexism–makes those rare moments so piquant! Currently my boss, a woman, runs the whole business; my peers are, primarily women and many of the development and support engineers are women. It’s mostly good.

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      So glad to hear that so few women have experienced as many incidents. The Cranky Product Manager probably has experienced more than the average bear due to an employer that was all about the booth babes and party dancers at conferences and kick-off.

      That said, the company was actually not a terrible one for women to work at – there was actually very decent representation of women and minorities at the upper echelon of management. How these sexist practices continued with that kind of management is a mystery to the Cranky Product Manager.

  12. Christy

    I started a job once (programming) where I was surrounded by people with laptop-in-dock setups, dual monitor, the whole bit, and the manager read me the riot act for asking for at the very least a keyboard – I was given a teeny laptop and nothing else. Then I got called into a meeting with him on my 10th day where he said he thought he’d made a bad hire because I was so demanding, and the one woman who worked there, he would give her whatever she wanted because “she’s my superstar”. I kid you not. Also some people were asking me technical questions in a concall, I started to answer them, they interrupted me to finish the answer to the question that they asked me, and after the third time I asked if I could finish. One of them (who later helped me steal a keyboard and mouse) thought it was funny, but the bossman was really irate at my “tone”. I’m sure the fellows posting here will tell me I have entitlement issues though.
    Beyond that I usually don’t have trouble with bosses, just colleagues, and that generally only lasts til I prove I have a clue. Which is annoying but not debilitating.

  13. SweetDreamr

    In front line tech support…
    – Coworkers staring at my the front of my shirt then looking at my face and smiling (its a shapely chest but after repeated advances that have been politely put to rest, cheer for me ladies, I reported him and he lost his job after I told him straight up he was making me uncomfortable and he laughed and said yea that’s what makes it funny..Go Canada!)
    – Talking about the “Bitches” aka customers they were picking up on the front line and the various dirty things they would do to such women
    In programming…
    – Having ideas I bring up in meetings argued with until it looks like my manager came up with the idea himself five minutes later

    • Anon

      > – Having ideas I bring up in meetings argued with until it looks like my manager came up with the idea himself five minutes later

      Yeah, that’s everyone — regardless of gender.

  14. Yeah Right

    You were only able to come up with 11? I’m surprised – after all, when you’re not limiting yourself to true things that actually happened, you ought to be able to belt out a couple hundred. How about the time the CEO killed your dog and said it was OK, “because you were a woman” (yes, he actually said that!) Or the time you called the FBI on September 10th, 2001 and told them that these dudes were going to hijack some airplanes and they didn’t believe you “because you were a woman” (yes, they actually said that!)

  15. The Cranky Product Manager

    Actually, the Cranky Product Manager forgot about two more incidents, both related to this blog. First was the cyberstalker who sent her all manner of explicit/weird emails. Second: the 5 or so sexually explicit and threatening emails and blog comments she received from Agile zealots when she made some posts saying that the Agile Development methodology is far from perfect.

  16. Mark

    So you’re saying it’s ok for your male supervisor to police your wardrobe and send you home if what you’re wearing isn’t sufficiently androgynous? Does anyone really doubt whether whatever she was wearing that day was within the bounds of professional attire, as if wearing a skirt were like wearing the same t-shirt for a week straight?

    Your observation that women in positions of authority don’t dress effeminately, in your experience, doesn’t amount to a justification for a manager to send an engineer home to change like a child. Instead, your observation underscores the disproportionate degree of self-policing and scrutiny women must perform in order to be respected by men as a figure of authority. Which is, y’know, sexism.

    • Anon Male

      I don’t understand. A oman is asked to also dress more like an engineer in a situation that warrants it, and that is unfair? If a man dressed up as a sales guy with a popped collar and partially buttoned shirt, he would also be asked to go home and change. If anything, I think women can get away with a wider range of clothing than a man in most situations.

  17. J Doctor

    Cranky,

    Have I seen blatant sexual harassment in this world? No.
    Have I seen obvious sexual bias? Yes!

    Add: being in a room of product management and product marketing and since I was the female, the vendor assumed I was on the marketing side and wouldn’t understand the technology. (I was in a product management role at the time, and was the only one who actually knew how his solution would fit into our process challenge.)

    Add: Being treated as one of the guys and invited to the “gentlemen’s club” (only because it was a really cheap and good bar.

    While I agree with the premise that most men in the product management field would like to see more women, and support the concept, I think the culture we have seen grown – where it’s okay for guys to joke about the “dress code of jeans, blazers and facial hair” perpetuates the myth that the PM world is male dominated. It is culture-based. And, we all know too well how hard culture is to change.

    Besides, isn’t that why there is product marketing? So women have a place to go?

  18. Anonymous

    1. Sexism.
    2. It sells and hurts nothing, so it’s ok in my book. If guys sold, they would have guys too. I don’t think it’s a dishonourable job.
    3. Yeah, like sales guys who look good don’t exploit that when they can too. Not sexism, just asshatery.
    4. ???
    5. Sexism.
    6. Sexism.
    7. Not sexism, just a drunkard and his sexual preference. (Of course, by today’s standards if I had a drunk Santa chick wanting me to sit on her lap for three minutes and I complained, I’d be a fag and making a big deal out of a non issue.)
    8. Not sexism. Like us guys don’t play jokes on each other.
    9. Stupidism. Not sexism; guys would have been asked the same if they were dressed in an uncommon way for the industry.
    10. Culture/statistics-indiced sexism.
    11. More stupid than sexist.

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      Interesting that you think #2 (booth babes) is NOT sexist, but that #6 (party dancers at big annual conference for customers and partners) IS sexist. They are similar, aren’t they? A vendor offering up attractive woman to entertain male customers?

      The Cranky Product Manager refers you to Shanley Kane’s excellent post explaining why using booth babes is indeed a sexist practice:

      For some of the others you have a point. #7 (Santa Claus) is probably not so much “sexism” as much as harassment and unwanted sexual attention. Could have happened to a guy too. Point taken.

      #9 (build mistress) and #11 (“mixed company”) are indeed stupid, and said by clueless men who were not bad people. But they are examples of sexism-induced-stupidity.

      • Anon

        Regarding the booth babes…

        I don’t actually know anything about this topic, so feel free to tell me I’m wrong. However, is it possible that attractive women actually sell better not only to men but also to women? I mean… looking at women’s magazines such as Cosmo, they are full of attractive women. There are women in those magazines’ ads and on the covers. Is it at all possible that statistically the average woman might also prefer to buy from a woman?

  19. Anonymous

    I was a director at a software company reporting to the CEO. In a conversation I had with a man I was meeting for the first time he said, “Oh! You work for Company X? Do you know [CEO]? Haha, you probably don’t know him. What do you do there? Answer phones?”

    It’s been ten years. Still kind of can’t let it go.

    ANSWER PHONES?

  20. Anonymous

    I have had many similar experiences – the dominatrix and mixed company comments. Most things were easy to laugh off, until I ended up with a boss who cried and said that he couldn’t work with me if we couldn’t be ‘friends’ – after sending me dozens of explicit emails on the company server. He did things like tell me to wear a short skirt for presentations ‘so that no one will listen’ and accused me of writing on the whiteboard during a meeting to make everyone look at my a**. After telling him NO for a couple of years, it came down to either being fired by him or reporting him. I reported him and he was fired, but I was demoted and then I was laid off – with a perfect record of technical delivery. Lawyers won’t look at a harassment case until it’s been approved by the EEOC, and the EEOC takes years to investigate. In this market, there aren’t a lot of good choices when backed into a corner.

  21. Pro Crastinator

    Hola, CrankyPM… I’m not a “she” but I enjoyed the read. Sorry about the negative experiences, of course, but you tell the tale well… and I have certainly seen my share of stuff I thought inappropriate too at company parties and conferences. (Seems to die off as companies get larger– or at least become less extreme– perhaps because they become aware that “we could get sued”.)

  22. Alph

    Booth babes – just say no.

    Our prez decided we would try this one year at a show and ended up getting more attendee badge scans in one day than in the previous two years combined. Of course our sales people ended up with more crap cold call leads that year than the previous two years combined :)

  23. Anon

    I had an experience once where I was discussing the capabilities of a partner’s plug in with the developer in charge of the plug (a youngish woman). At one point the discussion got more technical than I could address, so I said something along the lines of, “I think we should probably get an engineer on the phone to discuss that.”… silence on the other end of the phone… then, coldly “I am an engineer.”

    I tried to explain I meant me, not her, etc. But it was very awkward. I felt really bad thinking maybe her reaction was because she got that kind of thing all the time.

  24. s

    Setting the scene: working in a high-rise office building, the shared bathrooms were in the hallways. The men’s room was located directly across a security-enabled side access door to our office. The women’s room required walking almost completely around the building. Despite having another side office door that would considerably shorten our walk, the owner decided this would remain a one-way door that would only permit access to hallway, not from it.

    The actors: Me, the Owner, a Prospective Vendor.

    The scene: One fine day, I was on the trail of the Vendor and the Owner on our way to our respective rest rooms. As we walked out the side office door facing the men’s room, I heard the owner explain, “the men’s room is right here, the women have to walk all the way around,” to which the Vendor replied glibly, “as it should be.” He must have noticed someone was following him and turned around to encounter me, the smile still fresh on his face. “Exactly,” was all I could manage. With no apology, no word at all, he turned and entered the mens room.

    I related this event to my manager whose response was, “and? I don’t get it.” Fortunately, the HR person was female and rolled her eyes when hearing both events.

    She later told me that the Owner thought this statement was abhorrent and did not partake in the joke – yet, I never received an apology from the Owner, nor was the Vendor spoken with about this incident.

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