It’s not all opening jars and explaining Star Wars jokes; there are also useful, real benefits to being a male in a mostly-female, or all-female, workplace. For starters, your knowledge of yogurt brands and varieties will increase exponentially; and, while it’s still elusive, you at least know that gluten exists, and that it’s not for everyone. Also, if you’re ever watching Jeopardy! with your wife, and the category is Ryan Gosling, you stand a fighting chance. These bits of knowledge would most likely evade you, friend, if you only worked with men.
More striking than the differences between women and men in the workplace, however, are the similarities. Sure, women may brush their teeth (at work!) before a meeting–but, once finished, they leave the bathroom just as messy as men do. They may not leave a half-eaten burrito in the refrigerator for three weeks, but their hummus canisters get equally–if not more–disgusting due to neglect. I sometimes mistake them for petri dishes.
So, although we’re more similar than thousands of jokes would imply, here’s quick list of survival tips I’ve compiled for the male in a female-dominated workplace:
1. Get used to the dirty work. It’s not like women are incapable of cleaning an air duct or showing a spider who’s boss, it’s just that when these challenges present themselves, some of them suddenly favor more traditional gender roles. Just go with it. Statistically, women still earn less per hour for the same work as men, so their battle for equal treatment is ongoing. In the meantime, the least we can do is deal with some funk now and then.
2. Keep emergency chocolate on-hand. To us it’s just another snack, but there is neuroscience behind its effect on the female brain.
3. Treat co-workers as equals. They can be different from you, and it’s fine–even healthy–to acknowledge these differences. But “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “less than.” This isn’t even a gender thing, it’s a courtesy thing; but, if you lack simple courtesy, you may be accused of having sexist, classist, or other unfavorable “-ist” motives, when in reality you could just be a jerk who is indiscriminate in his jerkhood.
4. If someone is crying, don’t offer to “fix” anything, just listen. Or run. Running works, too.
5. In the workplace, do not admit to having read this blog. Act like it’s the world’s biggest coincidence that you happen to have chocolate every time a female coworker groans for it. Nobody likes to be pigeon-holed based on a list of stereotypes–even if they are relevant, accurate, and compiled by an observant (and handsome) genius.
6. Keep a sense of humor. You’ll need it in any workplace, unless (possibly) you’re a funeral director. In that case, use humor sparingly.
7. Stay open-minded. The opposite sex, or anyone whose life experiences differ from yours, has plenty to offer. Learn from it.