A Twitter thread has exposed how often women are presumed to hold a lower paid position than her male colleagues.
Many women – particularly young women, women of colour, and those working in male-dominated fields – have experienced being mistaken for a more junior member of staff at work.
Don’t believe us? Jennifer Hudson, a world-renowned actress and singer, recently revealed that a removal man once assumed she was her male driver’s assistant. Similar assumptions are made about non-famous working women, working in fields from science to journalism and economics, every single day.
The prevalence of this common but infuriating issue was recently highlighted in a thread on Twitter. Nicola Bartlett, political correspondent for the Daily Mirror, took to social media to voice her exasperation about what she described as the most sexist comment she’d received that week (“so far”).
“Phone up a male MP and say I’m calling from the Daily Mirror,” Bartlett wrote. “He asks me who I’m calling on behalf of. Erm myself a political journalist.”
Sexist comment of the week (so far). Phone up a male MP and say I'm calling from the Daily Mirror, he asks me who I'm calling on behalf of. Erm myself a political journalist.— Nicola Bartlett (@NicolaRBartlett) January 30, 2018
Bartlett’s story clearly hit a nerve. Within hours, droves of women had joined the conversation, each with their own tale of sexist assumptions to share.
Many female journalists shared similar stories of being misidentified while working at newspapers.
“Used to get this all the time on the Mirror when I was features editor and answered the phone,” said one woman. “‘Can you put me through to the features editor, love?’”
Another said: “I remember as a local reporter when people would phone to have a go at me for a story I had written, then be surprised I was a woman. My name is Jennifer. It said so on the byline.”
ah, flashbacks to the happy days of answering every call with "hello, no i'm not a secretary I'm a reporter"— Gaby Hinsliff (@gabyhinsliff) January 30, 2018
Man rang the news desk once asked to speak to a reporter, I told him he was speaking to one and he said ‘a female reporter, well done you’— Allison Morris (@AllisonMorris1) January 31, 2018
I’m often asked “are you the PR girl” when I show up to press screening. I always delight in telling them, no I’m a film critic, but I’m interested in knowing why you think I am “the PR girl”. This happens all the time.— Linda Marric 🇪🇺 (@Linda_Marric) January 30, 2018
Other women working in fields from the law to the military also shared their stories, proving that no industry is safe.
Lawyer here. Walked into a meeting a few years ago and the client immediately asked why I brought my husband with me. He was talking about my law clerk. 🙄— Autumn Tolbert (@AutumnDamnIt) January 31, 2018
Also a librarian- I've had students assume my male junior assistant is my boss and can override my decisions.— JL Kaufmann (@Reed_insists) January 31, 2018
I started a new job recently. The number of times people assumed I was a PA was both ridiculous and insulting. Just because I'm a young woman, they assumed the only job I was capable of having there was handling crafty.— RL RUNESCAPE GF (@bunnybattleaxe) January 31, 2018
I'm the technical director of an entire department.
It’s everywhere. I’m a comedian and sometimes have turned up to gigs with male colleagues and it is assumed I am the girlfriend or just there to watch the show. I also worked in a hotel as an entertainer in a team of three and people always thought the guy was our boss 🤦🏼♀️— Suzy Bennett (@FunnySuzyB) January 31, 2018
Double whammy - my coworkers & I (all young women of color) were in line at a food truck making small talk with a man. He asked where we worked & after we told him, he automatically assumed we were all secretaries. We're all lawyers.— Bah Humpug (@funaek) January 31, 2018
Hubby and I were military and once we went to a mtng wearing civilian clothes. The organizer walked to hubby w/an extended hand assuming hubby was highest ranking one: “Colonel Baer how are you?”— angie baer (@blushbloom_mn) January 31, 2018
Hubby: “I don’t know how Colonel Baer is doing, why don’t you try asking her.”
As women’s stories continued to roll in, men backed them up by sharing their own observations.
Two men said that they frequently witnessed people make assumptions about the professional status of their co-workers.
I took over a desk from a female colleague who said I wouldn’t like it. A few weeks later I said I was puzzled, it seemed fine. She said “But you are sitting in front of Richard’s office, doesn’t everyone treat you as his secretary.” No. They didn’t.— Daniel Finkelstein (@Dannythefink) January 31, 2018
I often sit at a hotdesk in front of the lift. People sometimes do appear to assume I'm a receptionist. But...when my younger blonde female colleague (a clinical scientist) is sitting next me, that same assumption is far more often made about her.— James Munro (@JamesMunro5) January 31, 2018
This Twitter thread only outlines what we already knew. Unfortunately, Britain currently holds one of the worst records for gender equality at work, with a myriad of factors – from the pay gap to female presence at board level – skewing the balance between men and women. Until workplaces are more equal, it seems like women may have to continue shutting down sexist assumptions about their status, qualifications and abilities.
Or, you know, people could start wrapping their heads around the idea that women are capable of holding senior professional positions. Just a thought.
Main image: iStock