With Women Like This…Who Needs Men-emies? Pt 1.

working mom

I gave up on women’s magazines along the lines of Cosmo and Glamour right around the time that I was sufficiently confident I didn’t need advice on how to please a man.  While it’s entertaining and I’m a lover of fashion and a bit of gossip, I didn’t have enough time to allocate to fluff so I began weeding out my magazine consumption. Who survived the cut?  Marie Claire.

Marie Claire was like having a GNO with the best girlfriend.   You know the one…smart, interested in you, informative, fashionable and mature.  She was Ms. with shaved legs and a smoothed out feminist vibe.  I like to think of her as the girl you’d marry if you were a boy, liked girls, or she wasn’t imaginary.   It always seemed like we agreed with one another; she would say something and I’d smile or nod my head in agreement while congratulating myself on choosing my friends so wisely.   But even your best friends can disappoint you.  Enter the July edition of Marie Claire and article by Ayana Byrd, The Single Girl’s Second Shift.

According to the article, single women are suffering workplace discrimination at the hands of their married counterparts, including: 1) Carrying an unfair burden, batting “clean up” for the married-with-kids co-workers. 2) Being perceived as people who “don’t have lives. (Making people think that) No life means no need for balance.” 3) Having work shifted to them because “she’s single, she has time to do this.”

In a lengthy article, the author discusses this major issue “simmering below the surface”.  With a plethora of feeling based surveys of single workers and a book written by Bella DePaulo, a PH.D., who is cited as America’s foremost authority on the single experience and who happens to be the author of numerous “marriage bad, single good” articles, she opines about the impact of married people on singles in the workplace.

DePaulo has coined the term “singalism”, which doesn’t need much of a breakdown for definition:  racISM, chauvanISM, sexISM, you get the point.  Basically, singles feel that they are being forced to carry the lion’s share of the work hours and work load to accommodate the busy lives of working women—while she avoids the direct hit that she would take by verbalizing gender, it’s obvious that the impact she is reviewing is the one caused by women on other women.  You can just see her target on female parents in particular—you know the ones that are using their kids as crutches as they limp out of the door at 5 pm.

My irritation with the article may not be for the reasons that you think.  I’ve worked with women at all stages of motherhood and I am one.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been an office professional as long as I’ve been a mother, having chosen to get married at 18 and have children by 21 (no, I’m not Amish or a member of the Duggar family).  While I’ve had school plays, cheerleading competitions, and sick children in the mix, I’ve also had to fight to prove that I appreciate and value my career, just as much as the single girl—now I see that the justification is necessary to women as much as men.  I knew that I would have to manage my career closely in order to progress.  When I was going through a divorce, I kept it out of the office out of concern that someone would assume that I would use it as a crutch.  That’s right I managed an entire divorce with children transitioning from middle to high school without forcing a single working woman to shoulder the burden of my disintegrating marriage.    All of this while working in the cut throat world of sales where you’re only as good as your current numbers, so taking time off could be the death knell when a new territory or opportunity to lead arose.

I can also look beyond myself to a Corporate Sales Manager that works far longer hours and more Saturdays than her single subordinates or male counterpart in the business as she balances being the parent of three young children.  She has done what I would recommend any professional do if they are seeking personal and professional fulfillment:  Adjust where necessary.  Some days may require a heavier workload than others and others may necessitate the peace of mind afforded from quality personal time.  She isn’t striving for perfection or looking for someone to share her responsibilities, instead she has the maturity and focus to identify what it takes to get the job done.  Does she find it easy?  I can’t speak for her but understanding the duality of the role of working mom and successful employee, I would say “no”, but unlike the single people noted in the article, she doesn’t have the expectation of ease and comfort in all situations.

To avoid sounding contrary for the sake of, I’ll give in to certain things:  Working mothers take time off for things that single women can’t/don’t use as an excuse, working mothers will often adjust their hours or ask for that time so that they can take care of parental responsibilities—often carrying the burden more than working fathers.  And, full disclosure, I’ve worked with women that have children and taken days off when school is closed and I’ve given the “get a sitter” eye roll because it had become excessive or seemed like something they should be prepared for, so yes, GUILTY! I’ve also worked with women who have taken time off for personal ailments (cramps, etc) while I’ve had to save those sick days in case of kid emergency so I’ve dragged myself in through the flu!  I’ve also worked with singles that miss work because of mismanaged late nights out or worse, have come in with ‘walk of shame’ stench.  You know the look:  haphazard pony, ballet flats because their balance is still off, and the outfit that is more casual than professional because they didn’t have enough planning time between the club, rolling out of someone’s bed, rushing home to change and making it to the office.  My point:  slackers comes in all forms.  Ms. Byrd assumes that the slackers impacting singles would be married, I say don’t make the argument about the people you can’t identify with and rather than giving you a platform to whine, I’ve included tips to help:

Suggestions for dealing with true slackers in the workplace:

1) Focus on the things that will make you rise to the top and you will have less time to reflect on what’s being done around you

2) Toot your own horn.  It’s okay to engage in well timed, smartly phrased self-promotion, which doesn’t include pointing fingers.

3) Refrain from negativity.  Going to HR or your supervisor to continuously point out what others are not doing will eventually make you the target.

4) Understand that it’s not your job to understand.  There may be things happening with a co-worker, in the office or out, that may not be within your rights to know.  If it doesn’t involve you directly, keep it moving and stop trying to figure out why they “aren’t in on time, leave early or don’t seem to pulling their weight.”

5) Be insightful enough comprehend your motivation for complaining about a colleague.  If there isn’t a direct, unavoidable impact to your position, it may not require addressing.  Also, if it feels like “complaining”, it probably is.

6)  Spend more time managing your career and emotions with the perspective that you’re in control of both of those things.  If your mission is to be promoted and to grow in the workplace, any time spent pointing fingers is counterproductive to that cause.  When there is work to be done there are few successful leaders that care more about who’s accomplishing it than that it’s being accomplished, when they see you willing to dive in, it does more for you than anyone else.  Don’t let your emotions get  in the way of that perspective.

7)  Seek and create your version of balance.  There were instances of women feeling like they weren’t able to enjoy their personal  lives because they were working too frequently.  If you’re working too often this is less about the other person and more about you.  I always believe that anything we WANT to do, we DO.  Schedule your work out sessions, networking events, and regular happy hours and build them into your calendar.  It’s very likely that your boss has pastimes that they enjoy and will respect that you have found an outlet of your own.  Also, finding an opportunity to do more than work creates a better employee, many surveys have cited that employees with successful downtime are more productive during the workday.

8) Don’t assume that the “powers that be” are blind to workplace happenings.   This isn’t a school project that requires working in teams at home while the teacher is unaware of who is pulling the weight.  If you are working in tandem and producing the lion’s share of the work, believe that it won’t go unrewarded or unnoticed. Corporations and it’s managers are proprietary about money and rarely want to pay people for the work that they aren’t doing.  Outside of the less rare but often discussed cases of nepotism and workplace favoritism, leaders typically promote those that are comfortable diving in.  If you feel that your work is unrewarded, refer to #2.

9) Learn to say “no”.  Leaders respect professionals that can be decisive.  The “no” sentiment doesn’t have to be conveyed in a cutting manner, it can be creatively and respectfully delivered.

10) Referencing #9, Be courageous.  If you absolutely believe that you have a reason for declining the work, you shouldn’t have a problem delivering the news, just remember that nothing is done without risk!

Notice that points 1-10 reflect on the most important thing that you can do as a professional:  focus on what you can do without making it about someone else.

23 thoughts on “With Women Like This…Who Needs Men-emies? Pt 1.

    • I’m appreciative that you would take time to read and comment on my article, it was absolutely unexpected.

      After reading a few of your articles regarding single parenting, I regret that my first introduction to your book left me with the perception that it did–one which I could not agree with based on my own experiences.

      As someone who many believe “chose” to be divorced, regardless of my reasons, I have heard many of the doom and gloom prophecies levied at children of single parents, most of which I have brushed off as stereotypical (since it doesn’t often break down the parenting groups based on socioeconomics, location, etc), and morally judgmental in a time where there are larger groups of children being successfully reared by “independent parents”. I will definitely share some of the links with other single working mothers.

      Thanks again for reading!

    • You may have worked with people who feel this way, I honestly don’t think it’s a culture in most workplaces, I believe it depends on who you work for or with.

      There may be a CEO who feels that his Exec Assistant should be available day and night, regardless of her personal responsibilities. There are just too many variables to quote singalism as a science, in my opinion. While I don’t doubt that women can be taken advantage of in the workplace, I don’t often think there’s a special kind of targeting on single women. I’m sure they would say something different.

  1. Maybe married women create a burden on single women in low level jobs? Have no idea but it seems likely to me.

    Have worked all over the world and have never had any problems with women in the workplace Having said that friends of mine on Wall Street found the women there had a cut throat attitude. But it had nothing to do with them being married or not.

    • I would say that it’s likely that people in lower level positions feel inconvenienced by those in upper level positions, not necessarily women. Regardless of the sex of the CEO, President, VP or Executive, if you serve in a supporting role they are likely to use you for whatever professional purposed best suit them and their mission. They also are ALWAYS going to appear to have more flexibility and leniency with their time than a subordinate. The people that make the rules get that perk but they also get the little inconvenience of having their jobs on the line more frequently than the support people in many cases.

      As for women on Wall Street, I would say Wall Street is known to be cut throat in general–why would women be any different! Having worked in the world of Investor relations/financials, it’s just the name of the game, the unfortunate thing is that a woman in the corporate world is expected to survive, excel and get her point across while picking up Starbucks from the boys and ending every demand with a question mark, (“this report needs to be turned in by 5pm, no exceptions, is that okay with you?”) It’s unreasonable and often unfair that there’s a different business standard for women simply because we’re women but that’s another article for another time.

  2. Perhaps because I have been in organizations that are predominately female for more than ten years it’s hard for me to see the single versus married issues in the workplace. I have single colleagues who want to be out the door at 5 o’clock sharp and I know married women who work all weekend…and visa versa. When I was a single, married woman didn’t bug or dump their stuff on me on the contrary, they were usually more likely to be mentors because they were older. Now that I’m married, I don’t dump my stuff on single women and assume they, like me, have a life.

    • My point exactly! I included the link to the original article because it seemed so far fetched to me. I also wondered if these women were asking “are you putting this work load on my plate because I’m single?”, receiving confirmation of it and then getting upset or if this was just the perception.

  3. When I was single way too many years ago, I can remember being in an office with both sexes. It’s because I was single that I got preferential treatment – from both men and women. Maybe times have changed since then.

    But most of my work experience is in mixed company offices and I truthfully didn’t feel that being married the single women frowned upon any special consideration for me because – there was none.

    I really believe that you make your own environment by what you have your eyes on most of the time. Insightful post. Thanks.

    • Thanks Patricia, I agree. There are obvious situations that occur in work places that need to be addressed and then there are the things that you are searching for that appear exaggerated. I don’t like to deny anyone’s experience but I could picture anyone, “married or single”, watching the front door and griping about an employee that leaves at 5 on the dot because I’ve seen it happen. At the end of the day, keeping your eyes on your own paper is your best bet!

  4. Generally speaking I have not seen or been affected by the single versus married female employee. When I have, luckily not often, it was interesting to watch. I was the supervisor and found myself dealing with some of the issues you mentioned. Tardiness and time off abuse was the most common for both married or single. It really got down to an individuals work ethic. I also found myself mediating some of the conflicts what would arise. Many times it manifested itself in very petting issues. Just my thoughts. 🙂

    • I’m not shocked that you had to deal with tardiness and time office as a supervisor, it’s the easiest policy to abuse and because of that, I agree that single versus married wouldn’t matter!

  5. Your headline says it all, With Friends like these who needs Men-emies. Women can be our own worse enemies, whether it is single vs. married in the workplace or working vs. stay at home. We have a terrible time accepting each other!

    • Agreed! It’s one of the saddest and common aspects of workplace and real world negativity in relationships. The perception is that men communicate better with one another because THEY DO! We work off of many of the stereotypes that we assume men created for us: how another woman sounds/looks, the “bitch factor”, etc.
      Interesting that you would mention working vs. stay at home moms, it’s the age old fight that we tend to perpetuate more than men! Woman on Woman crime, it’s got to stop!

      Thanks for reading and please return: “Who Needs Men-emies?” is going to be a new and recurring section on the blog!

  6. This is a great article! I too, am a wife, and a mother of 2- so I am completely aware of the challenges of raising kids and balancing a career. Negativity is a common factor in offices that include women. It is sad, but true. You would think that as women, we would be trying to help each other, because we are all jumping the same hurdles to get ahead in our careers. But so many women spend so much time trying to tear down their female colleagues, rather than helping them. I totally agree, that slackers come in all forms, single, or married w/ children. A slacker is going to be a slacker, regardless of their status in life.

    • The negative tone in light of the mutual struggle that all women face in the workplace was one of the major causes for my response. For lack of a better cliche, “can’t we all just get along? ” It is rare to see men tear each other down and the ones that engage in it are often taken to task by their peers. Another byproduct is that the catfighting causes some men to have a negative perception of their female peers or subordinates when managing workplace issues that may be relevant, creating statements about emotional behavior, etc.

      The article was crying wolf and takes away from real issues.

  7. One of the commenters above stated that she believes it is generally the lower level employees who get dumped on because of mothers having to leave early, miss days, etc. because of child care issues. In my particular experience, I believe it was one of my former law partners (a single woman) who bore the brunt of other lawyers’ maternity leaves and child care responsibilities. However, she had the power to make staffing decisions and the consensus she endorsed was for her to pick up the slack for those missing work time rather than hiring coverage. Admittedly, lawyers are not widgets and replacing one on a temporary basis is arguably not even a realistic alternative in a small firm. I feel she should have been given (or taken) a sabbatical or some other time off to compensate her for the times she covered for others because of the others’ child rearing duties impinging on their work time. (BTW, I don’t think the mother lawyers used their children as an excuse to dodge work. They worked at home when they could and “owned” their work, but they had to leave the office at a certain time and were missing altogether during maternity leaves.) BTW, I think this is an important issue because I think society suffers when highly educated women think they can’t take the time to have children and parent. These high achieving mothers often produce high achieving, well adjusted children.
    PS: There were no father lawyers at the firm, so this is not a comment that is saying anything about shared parenting.

    • Suzanne,thanks for reading. In the case of attorneys, doctors and lawyers, and others of their ilk, there are extenuating circumstances that force individuals to cover for one another because no one else could do it and I think you go into those situations with full knowledge. I doubt this single woman attorney was spending her days pouting and crying about it because as you noted this was her choice. While the necessity to cover for mothers on maternity leave is noted, I wonder if the times that women would have to cover for a male colleague (perhaps a prostate exam or other medical situations) would be monitored so closely. if a male colleagur used bereavement time would we reference him in a negative light. I ask these questions with fu knowledge that we are a lot tougher on our sisters in the workplace.

      By the way, as I typed this I tried to think of a time that I ever saw someone’s maternity leave as a burden to me and even when it meant covering another salesreps territory, it never crossed my mind, not once!

  8. Just observing the people that work for me I do hear from the ones that are married with children, I have to do this my children and you are single and you don’t understand. Vacations of the married women seem to revolve around their children’s activities and hear well you being single can do whatever you want. I do not get involved as I decided long ago I raised my own children and I don’t want to raise my workers. We all make choices in live for ourselves, which should not be a concern or affect your co-workers. If they would mind their own business and worry about themselves they would be more productive.

    • “mind your own business and worry about themselves…”, precisely! I think watching what others are doing and making assumptions is a lot of the cause for the original article.

      On another note, as a working woman with children, I’m not a big fan of the married w/ children individuals that use their children and responsibilities as an excuse or insert them into every conversation, so I don’t like the usage of “you’re single you don’t understand”. How you use your vacation is your choice and how I use mine is my choice.

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  10. Reading your article I kind of feel like you’re missing the point. The issue isn’t what slackers are getting away with slacking. The issue is that employers are making choices about who to dump extra work on etc, based on things like marital status, which is discriminatory.
    At my office christmas party the official office party is that the only guest you are allowed to bring is your spouse or “commited partner”. In other words dates/friends etc are not allowed. There’s little things like this happening all the time that have been instutionalized into society but people are becoming more aware that it is not actually fair or just.
    The fact a single person might come in a little bit hung over or whatever doesn’t enter into this discussion at all as it has nothing at all to do with Employer Policy and is nothing more than a stereotype.

    • Lyndon, thank you for reading. As a woman who has been a working mother for 18 years, I wish the intended point may have been lost in the tone of the article that I reference but what I addressed was the message.
      I wish that single, young employees coming to work after late nights out or with unrealistic expectations are just a stereotype, it happens and other people (married or otherwise) pick up the slack for those employees. Allowing a married woman/mother to take work home, etc. isn’t a policy in most companies it is the demonstration of flexibility that plays out from business to business, office to office, etc. and if the employees that feel they are pulling the workload want to complain directly or ask for certain adjustments they have the right because it isn’t a policy it’s a discretionary thing that the boss is doing.
      I work in a conservative environment where company outings are limited to spouses (you may not get a ticket otherwise), as a divorced woman in a committed relationship, I would like to bring my partner and if I choose to, I ask to directly if this would be allowed (sometimes it a yay, sometimes a nay). I haven’t considered this discrimination although I didn’t like it,
      At the end of the day there are ways that many groups are left out or slighted in work environments but women (and this was an article aimed at women) arguing about picking up the slack for someone because they are married is truly the least of the female issues in the workplace. I also make the point that mothers are overlooked for promotions, etc because of the assumption of pulling less weight, would you agree that this is a stereotype?

      Again, thanks for the read, I appreciate it.

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