In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the joys of working at an organization where the majority of employees were women. I enjoyed my work there, but, unfortunately, it was a temporary position, so I am on to something new. I made a big change: from a non-profit focused on women’s issues to a for-profit public affairs firm. I should say that I am/was an intern at both offices, so I don’t expect to be here for more than a few months. However, as someone exploring her career options before grad school, I wanted to see what alternative options might look like.
I haven’t been here for long, so it’s difficult to compare the workplaces right now. However, that there will be differences seems fairly clear. The staff demographics are very different. The women’s organization had a very young, predominantly female workforce. It was a larger office and perhaps more hierarchical. The firm has an older staff, the majority of whom are men. All of the upper management are men. Of the few women who are there, all but one were added in the last year. I’m not sure yet how responsibilities are divided but it does seem to be less clearly defined here.
Thinking about these demographics, I expect to see some differences in the way each office is run. Obviously, the missions of the two organizations are different. This also has the potential to affect the office atmosphere. Yet I should note that the two differences are related: the demographics of the first office stemmed from its mission, which tended to attract more women and young people. From what I understand, this is fairly normal in the non-profit world.
So far, I have mainly noticed a change in comfort level: I’m more uncomfortable than I was at the previous office (even on my first day there). It’s hard to pinpoint whether this is due to the age difference, the gender dynamics, or something else. I’m not sure if I’m reacting to a palpable change, or if I’m simply anticipating a difference. Perhaps once I get to know my new co-workers, I will feel just as comfortable as I did at the previous office. Perhaps.
It will be difficult to ignore the regular reminders of the difference. As much as I hate to indulge the stereotypes, here they talk more about the results of last night’s sports and less about what we wore to work. There is less conversation altogether, at least less of the “small talk” variety. It seems like there might be fewer work social events.
I’m trying to like my new environment, despite the fact that it falls short in some comparisons. I know I will have some new experiences here that weren’t possible at the old office (not necessarily due to the demographics but more to my role at the organization). Despite this, it’s hard not to feel a little isolated. Many women face much more serious issues in the workplace, from sexual harassment to discrimination. However, I can see how isolation might foster these problems, or at least prevent the full realization of one’s potential.