SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Sara Bowlds

Binders with No Women

Last year, a male colleague at the university was about to attain a powerful status as a student. Entering into this organization, one that he had little knowledge about, I figured that he would have a conservative attitude and not try to change the system by which the department ran. My job for this student organization was as an office clerk, consisting of basic office duties such as answering phones, making copies, etc. From a male peer, I heard that this new man in charge felt "confused about the women's place in the workforce". Since there were only a handful of women in this department, I felt that this was a direct stab at me. Discrimination based on sex was a whole new experience for me- who was he to undermine my performance with no knowledge of my job, nor any experience with the organization? I found out that this man was a part of the Mormon Church, a church that I knew strongly believed in the traditional value that women belong in the home, not in the workforce. However, I decided to be the bigger person and ignore his confusion-about-women comment, especially since I didn't personally hear him make this remark.

After I was appointed to my position, I felt that I should have a say in who was working at the front desk. The two girls that had the job last year seem decent enough, but I am trying to start fresh with this organization and have new hires that don't have a bias towards last year's staff. Besides, hiring these same people would make me seem like I have a bias towards them, which is not the least bit true, since I hardly know them. I want to make sure the people that surround me are on my side, and from what I heard from others, these girls don't seem to be polling for me to be successful.

Coming back to school after summer break, this male colleague himself promised me that I would get my job back since I had experience and knowledge of its functions. Later, his appointee told me that he was thinking that rehiring me for the position would be showing favoritism and he wanted to reconsider. The person in charge of the reappointing questioned his reasoning because I was clearly the best candidate for the job because of my familiarity with the organization. He then changed his story to "she gives me a negative vibe" and he didn't like my "bad attitude".

Sara worked in the desk job last year, and from what I have heard she did her job quite well and made good friends with her surrounding staff. I do, however, feel that she has this sense of entitlement to this position because people from last spring told her she would get to keep her job. What she doesn't understand is that with new people in power, there is no guarantees to this position. In fact, my campaign manager is looking for a job and is just as qualified.

The unsettling sight of him around campus in the aftermath of his rude remarks made my stomach turn. Who was he to act as if he didn't know who I was when he had claimed to know enough to judge my work etiquette. This blatant, cold shoulder act showed how little he respected me as a person and confirmed that he would not approach me personally about my proclaimed problems. His obvious intention to ignore me and not make time to speak to me to improve the issue also showed he had little desire to keep me around; he would rather use the excuse that I had a bad attitude. Since he had never seen me "in action" so to speak, I still believe that he was trying to replace my position with a male crony whom he feels could do the job the way he wants it. In addition, if he had a problem with my attitude or performance, why am I not worthy enough to have him tell me himself rather than sending a messenger?

I had a staff member approach Sara about my feelings about her attitude. It's not that I didn't want to handle it myself, it's that I have a million other things to do and it's not my job to deal with the employees. I heard that she thinks that I am being two- faced about the situation and acting as if I don't know who she is. That is absolutely not the case, I am always nice to her and have no intention of taking her job away. I just want to do what's right and be fair to other potential workers.

Throughout history, women have had to fight for their rights in the workforce. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was supposed to ban discrimination based on sex. But by 1997, women were still only earning 74 cents to every dollar men earned, given equal experience and education, a problem that has still not been resolved today. More recently, President Obama signed a piece of legislation known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 that is supposed to enforce equal pay for women. After all of these years of consistent legislation, it is hard to believe that women are still not treated as equals.

Even if favoritism is revealed through my actions, I will never admit that my feelings towards women's capabilities are any lesser than my feelings towards men's. I personally feel more comfortable working with men, but that is because I can relate to them more. Again, I want to reiterate my intentions are not personal. I have had a rough time being taken seriously by this organization and I want to make sure that my staff, and other workers in the office, are supporting me in all of my decisions because last year is in the past and I am here to make a change.

Despite all of the laws in place, I still managed to be discriminated against as a woman in the labor force. To put it into perspective for myself, I like to think parents of this young man likely grew up during the era of the civil rights movements. Yet, because of their religious beliefs in traditional gender roles, he probably saw his mom at home doing "womanly" tasks, which likely did not entail going to work outside of the home every morning. My point in addressing this is that personal beliefs can be reflective of one's parents' beliefs. Since the idea of women being a part of the equal work force is a relatively new idea, it is not a surprise that there are people resisting change or people who are not used to the idea.

I recently learned that his sexist action towards me wasn't his first nor his last, so the other girls and myself are taking action. We plan on pursuing the matter until he understands that his actions are wrong or until he faces repercussions of his poor choices. In light of the presidential candidate Mitt Romney's self-justifying comments about his "binders full of women", all I can think about is at least Romney's binders did contain women whereas in my case, the Mormon leader I'm dealing with has a strict "binders with no women" policy. Currently, I have found a new job and where I have been greatly appreciated for all my hard work.

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