Martin Schneider got an on-the-ground lesson in sexism when the client he was emailing thought he was his co-worker, Nicole Pieri, who he shares an inbox with at a resume editing service.
Schneider shared his thoughts about the encounter on Twitter.
“So here’s a little story of the time @nickyknacks taught me how impossible it is for professional women to get the respect they deserve: Nicole and I worked for a small employment service firm and one complaint always came from our boss: She took too long to work with clients,” he said.
Schneider, Pieri’s supervisor, was told to monitor her work and “nag” her to be more efficient.
Martin quickly found out what was taking her so long when he took part in an email exchange with a client in which he unknowingly signed all of his emails as “Nicole.”
“So one day I’m emailing a client back-and forth about his resume,” he said, “and he is just being IMPOSSIBLE. Rude, dismissive, ignoring my questions. Telling me his methods were the industry standards (they weren’t) and I couldn’t understand the terms he used (I could) … Anyway I was getting sick of his shit when I noticed something. Thanks to our shared inbox I’d been signing all communications as ‘Nicole.’”
After he realized what was happening he sent another email introducing himself as Martin and saying he would be taking over the project for Nicole.
Schneider was surprised by how quickly the man’s attitude changed.
“IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT. Positive reception, thanking me for suggestions, responds promptly, saying ‘great questions!’ Became a model client. Note: My technique and advice never changed. The only difference was that I had a man’s name now.”
Schneider and Pieri then switched names for the next two weeks to see if the results would be the same.
For Martin, “It **** sucked,” while Pieri had what Martin described as the “most productive week of her career.”
While the experiment shocked Martin, Pieri knew what she was getting into when she first started at the job.
In a blog post on Medium, she describes the way she and her boss first met.
“I asked my boss what Marty [Martin Schneider] was like. He told me, “Oh, he’s a good writer, but he tends to get over emotional about things and let that get in the way of his writing. He’s a kind of girl like that.”
Unlike Schneider and Pieri, their boss wasn’t so surprised by the results of the experiment.
Pieri recalls going with Schneider to their boss to recount their experiences but says he did not believe them.
“He actually said ‘There are a thousand reasons why the clients could have reacted differently that way. It could be the work, the performance…You have no way of knowing.”
Schneider disagrees: “I wasn’t any better at the job than she was, I just had this invisible disadvantage,” he said. “I was in hell. Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single.”
In her blog post, Pieri asks, “What did my boss have to gain by refusing to believe that sexism exists?”
Maybe nothing, or maybe some reassurance that he had not been unfair to the girl that made him decide “to give hiring a girl a try.”
“Even when the evidence is screaming at him,” Pieri writes, “even when his employee who makes him an awful lot of money is telling him, even when THE BOY on staff is telling him??
“I never did figure it out.”
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