When I was in college and working as a summer intern at a local Midwestern steel construction product company where my father worked as an engineer, I was assigned to Accounts Payable to file invoices – on my feet in front of a filing cabinet for eight hours a day, five days a week. It was one of those times where you have a hard time saying you learned anything from your job responsibilities. I did learn, however, that sexism in the workplace was still accepted and expected. My first fiancé-to-be, whom I met at that job, was assigned to Accounts Receivable. He got to work at a desk, not on his feet, and he got to learn how to use Excel – this was the ’90s and not all kids grew up using computers. He was pre-med. I was getting my degree in psychology and I was also pursuing a minor in business. It may have only been a minor but at least I had expressed interest in business. He admittedly had none. But Accounts Payable was all women, ALL women, and Accounts Receivable was all men. They could have at least split our time between the two departments – six weeks each.
I was mad and I thought about saying something to Human Resources, but the HR department consisted of one man and I was sure that speaking up with mortify my father. So I said nothing, I played nice, and filed – pre-iPod. The boredom made me so sleepy I didn’t think I’d make it through the day.
Equal pay for equal work is an issue; sometimes, so is finding equal work. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have handled it any differently. It wasn’t a high stakes life event. I didn’t aspire to ever work there again or to climb their ladder. So I was lucky, really, to have had the opportunity to learn when I was young to ask more questions about what my responsibilities would be if I accepted a position. I learned not to be so naïve and trusting. Even though I didn’t ask to be moved, I learned to get comfortable with the idea of asking and knowing that asking could be just as important as doing a good job.