The Boys’ Club represents dominance, entitlement, and exclusion. As a woman working in a variety of male-dominated workplaces, I have experienced all of this firsthand.
Male-dominated workplaces are Boys’ Clubs by default. Within such workplaces, there is a pre-set way of being where men’s rules, attitudes and ideas dominate. They leave little room for the opinions of others, especially the voice of the minority—women. While women’s movements have made great progress, gender discrimination in the workplace is still a huge part of women’s work lives everywhere. The first step to combating this discrimination is recognizing that it exists.
Like a well-established institution devoted to the promotion of its cause, the boys’ club has infiltrated the minds of many with the idea that its dominance is the status quo – unstoppable and inevitable. This power imbalance has been in place in our culture for thousands of years. Men continue to possess most of the power within society, and they still control its acquisition.
The women’s movements of the past century have undeniably made huge gains for the status of women in society. As a result the distribution of power is shifting, disturbing the bedrock of patriarchy that still exists.
I believe, however, that as men begin to recognize this challenge to patriarchy and, thus, to their continued privilege in the workplace and elsewhere, they are threatened by the inevitability of change. Resentful that the scales are tipping the balance of power away from men, the Boys’ Club is panicking and acting badly. I have worked within two of the biggest boy’s club there are, firefighting and longshoring, and I have felt this animosity firsthand.
I and other women working in these professions are front and center to the Boys’ Club’s resentment of women’s rise in the male-dominated work-world. We are up close and personal with members of the Boys’ Club, and can see firsthand that the majority of men still have a negative attitude towards women. We are viewed as less capable beings, our abilities are undervalued, and all of this leads to a myriad of negative actions and feelings.
I have been bullied; I have been excluded; I have been the subject of malicious gossip more times than I can count. My views have been undermined and my credibility questioned, seemingly for no other reason than that, as a woman, I am perceived as an outsider to the Boys’ Club and any skills I bring to it are seen as a threat.
There is a huge gap in power, respect and fair treatment for women in the workplace, especially in areas traditionally dominated by men.
This is what the Boys’ Club means.
It’s time to recognize that the Boys’ Club exists, that it’s harmful, and that we can do something about it.
Stay tuned for more posts about recognizing a Boys’ Club when you see it (or when you’re in it), how the Boys’ Club perpetuates itself, how it’s harmful, what we can do about it—and what I’m doing about it.