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Dear Head Pro,
I need some advice. I’m a junior in college and after networking my ass off for weeks and going through countless interviews, I was offered an investment banking internship in New York City. I’m obviously excited to experience a summer where I’m not broke af/ living with my parents, but I know from previous experience that the banking world can be super misogynistic. Now, I’m not saying that all bankers are jerks, but there are plenty of them who make snide comments or blatantly ogle. I’m a hard worker and I make sure that the quality of my work is damn good. I know I earned my spot – but there have already been comments made about how I only got the job because I’m a girl… How can I show the boys that I should be taken seriously?
Dear Working Betch,
I love the logical gymnastics assholes perform to arrive at these conclusions: A 100-person summer analyst class has maybe 20 or 25 girls, tops – clearly, some sort of sexual favoritism must be at play. You’re right that any traditionally male-dominated industry (so all of them, really) can be hellaciously sexist. There is no good explanation for this other than “most men are profound cowards who fear that working alongside women will somehow turn them into women.” I’ve even heard some sociobiology-type academics say, with a straight face, that sexism in the workplace isn’t actually sexist, because the men are just treating you the way they treat each other. Science!
The overarching thing you must understand (and this will be difficult) is that it’s not your job to “convince the boys” that you should be taken seriously – that’s on them. To paraphrase Chris Rock, electing a black president wasn’t black progress, it was white progress. This is a similar concept. That said, you won’t have time to help your bank gamble haphazardly with the public’s money if you turn your entire internship into a feminist crusade, so you’ll have to get by some other way. A few tips:
- Obviously, perform to the greatest extent of your abilities.
- Document each and every instance of harassment. You may never do anything with it, but it’s good to have if you have to go to HR.
- Tolerate and ignore what you comfortably can
- Stand up for yourself when pushed too far. If someone crosses the line, say “Hey dickbag, a little shit talking is fine but I’m not gonna sit here while you pretend you’re on the set of Mad Men.” Doing so will either get people to apologize, or provoke them to be even more sexist, which you can use to get them fired (possibly).
Regarding dress, again, it’s not your job to ensure that guys don’t over-sexualize you in the office, but: Always err on the side of professionalism. Make sure your clothes fit properly (neither too tight nor too frumpy) and are appropriate. This isn’t the place to break out your 6” pumps or ass-skimming skirts.
Ultimately, performance is the only thing that will convince people you belong there (and even then, some guys won’t care). Just keep your head down and get it done, but don’t take too much shit from anyone, either.