should companies prohibit political celebrations, my prosthetic leg made an interviewer uncomfortable, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should companies prohibit celebrations of current events?

I had a strange situation come my way today, that I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on. A colleague of a friend brought in a cake to share with his team this morning, “in celebration of what happened in Ukraine over the weekend.” It seemed strange to my friend that a politically charged situation where lives had been lost would be celebrated with baked goods. Leading to a few questions – is this inappropriate? Should boundaries be formally set on workplace celebrations? Conceivably this could snowball into other controversial cakes. For example, an “election win cake,” where not everyone in the office voted the same way. Or should we stop overthinking it and just enjoy free cake?

Just for context, the cake-bearing employee was in fact Ukranian, so was likely more personally impacted by recent events than others. Thoughts?

You could certainly have a hard and fast rule prohibiting political celebrations in the workplace, but unless it’s an ongoing problem in this particular workplace, it would feel awfully rigid to impose it because of one guy feeling excited about something that happened in his home country. You’re right that it could snowball into something more problematic, but it doesn’t always make sense to create rules for something that might happen, and I think this is one of those cases.

2. HR said my prosthetic leg made an interviewer uncomfortable

I am an above-the-knee amputee, and I have a realistic prosthetic on one leg. I have recently graduated from college and started interviewing. When I’m wearing a skirt suit, you can obviously see my prosthetic, but the skirt is an appropriate length (hits below the knee). However, I recently got called in for a second interview with a company, and the HR rep told me that I shouldn’t wear the skirt suit to the second interview because it made one of the managers “uncomfortable.” I’m embarrassed and unsure what to do. Have I been doing something wrong by wearing skirt suits to interviews? And should I have mentioned ahead a time that I wear a prosthetic?

What the hell?! That HR rep should be yanked from her job. No, you’re not doing anything wrong. She is — by wrongly making you feel uncomfortable and by exposing her company to legal liability (because discriminating based on disabilities is illegal, and she just gave you direct evidence that they might be doing exactly that).

Go on wearing skirt suits if you like them.

(That said, there’s a school of thought that because people are weird about disabilities and can have unconscious bias, it’s better to wait to reveal disabilities unconnected to your ability to the job until you already have the job, when that bias can’t get in the way of you hiring them. There’s also a school of thought that says that’s bull and you don’t want to work with those people anyway. It’s up to you to decide where you fall on that.)

3. All the men in my office went to a pub and didn’t come back to work

A few days ago, all of the men in my office left around 10 a.m. Around 2 p.m., when one of them returned to the office drunk (the others didn’t return at all, including the owner of our company), we found out that all of them had gone to a pub to watch an Olympic hockey game. No women were invited. We are a small company (no HR to talk to), but about equally male/female. I’m not sure if I should bother raising this with the owner, since it was probably his idea. Is this something worth being annoyed about?

Was this a one-time thing, or is it part of a broader pattern of women being left out or otherwise treated differently than men? If it was a one-time thing and not part of a pattern, I’d probably point out that it’s not a great idea to have single-sex events at work but otherwise ignore it. But if it’s a larger pattern, you’re looking at a more serious situation (sex discrimination) and that’s worth being more than annoyed about.

4. My reference incorrectly said I’d left a job that I’m still at

I’m in the final stages of interviewing for my first professional job, and was given a job offer contingent on my references, which I provided. I know most of my references were excellent, and they all contacted me afterwards to say what they had told the hiring manager. However, one reference, for a volunteer group that forms the bulk of my relevant experience, is a former volunteer who has since left the group because of mismanagement. I’m still a member, just locally and not involved at the state level. Apparently she thought I had left the group too and spoke accordingly, not talking about the politics but stating that the transportation costs to the state meetings were too high and there was too much of a time commitment, etc. — nothing negative, but contradicting my statements in the interview and on my resume. I can’t have my direct supervisor correct this because it was my husband, and the next level up is the crazy disorganized leaders who won’t get back to me for weeks.

The reference check was supposed to just be a formality barring any serious issues, according to the hiring manager. I just don’t know if this is a serious issue, if I should try to figure out how to correct it or not, or if I should just forget about it because it’s either a dealbreaker or it’s not.

I’d either (a) explain the situation to your reference and ask if she’d be willing to correct it or b) reach out to the hiring manager and correct it yourself. For the first, she could say something like, “I realized after talking to you that I was projecting my own experience in leaving on to Jane, but Jane is actually continuing to volunteer with XYZ; I didn’t want to leave you with the wrong information.” For the second, you could say something like, “I spoke with Amanda after she talked with you and realized that she mistakenly thought I’d left XYZ around the same time she did. I just wanted to clarify that I continue to work with them.”

It’s probably not a big deal, but you don’t want to leave the hiring manager wondering if you weren’t entirely up-front about your situation.

5. Was this position created for me after I emailed someone at a company I’d like to work for?

Last week, I emailed the head of the department at a company I would really love to work for. I mentioned that I had applied to several of their positions in the past without ever hearing back and then asked if there would be any opportunities in the near future and feedback on the kind of candidates they look out for. He responded to my email saying that they just recruited several staff but to send my CV in case of future possibilities.

Two days later, a position opens up on their website that seems to match my profile. I am wondering if he created this position with me in mind. Do I just apply and wait to be contacted or do I email him about the new position?

It is very unlikely that he created the position with you in mind and then didn’t reach out to you about it, so I’d assume there’s no connection. Apply for it using whatever channels they’re directing applicants to use, and then email to let him know that you did. (Attach your cover letter and resume to that email so that he has them easily accessible.) After that, though, I wouldn’t continue to reach out to him unless he explicitly encourages you to.

{ 425 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: I’m just completely gobsmacked by this, and I can’t imagine what the HR rep could have been thinking to share this with the OP. And what kind of buffoon must that manager be if he/she is telling HR something that makes them look like such gigantic asses?

    Could it be that the HR rep liked the OP better than any of the other applicants, and so was trying to give her some inside information or tips to help her ace the second interview? You know, one of those situations where someone means well, but they just do the absolutely wrongest thing imaginable?

    1. KarenT*

      Seriously. I don’t even have words for how awful this woman is! On a human level, what a terrible, hurtful thing to say about someone. On a professional level, she’s practically inviting a lawsuit!

      1. KarenT*

        And I thought the same thing–this probably her idea of helping the OP. How sad.
        Why do I suspect the HR rep was the one who felt uncomfortable?

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I know. I came up with horribly misguided good intentions as an explanation because the only other reasons I could think of were either that this woman is a complete idiot or she’s just mean. And I normally try not to jump to conclusions like that without considering all the other alternatives.

        1. Rayner*

          Who was it who said, “Never ascribe malice to what can be adequately explained by incompetence” or whatever the saying is?

          I hope to hell that the HR lady is either very very new at her job, because wtf. Seriously. I would definitely want to hear about it if I were a HR manager or a manager because wow, that’s opening up the company to some serious discrimination accusations.

          OP, rock those skirt suits if you want to – confidence in interviews is key and it sounds like you had the first interview in the bag anyway, if they’re already inviting you to a second.

          1. esra*

            Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

            And yea, that is messed up coming from anyone, let alone HR.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Isn’t the question we should be asking was the OP wearing pantyhose? ; )

      But seriously that sucks and sorry that happened to you.

    3. Marketing Manager*

      #2: UGH.
      It may be that the HR rep was trying to do a good thing i.e. “one of the hiring managers is an ASS and you will have a better shot at this job if you don’t show your leg” – trying to help the OP.

      BUT. Even if it came from a good place, the HR person is horribly bad at being an HR person because a good HR person (or even a mediocre one) would have told the hiring manager that this was an inappropriate line of discussion about a job candidate. HR should be ensuring the company is following proper procedures when hiring and basically protecting the company from hiring managers doing really dumb things – not enabling them to do those things.

    4. Wubbie*

      I’m not generally someone who is in favor of the litigious leanings of the USA, but in this case, if I were in OP’s situation I’d absolutely wear a skirt (perhaps even slightly shorter, though not inappropriately so) and “dare” them to reject me*. Then find myself a good attorney.

      *DISCLAIMER: I’m not suggesting OP actually dare them audibly. I just mean do absolutely nothing to hide it, and maybe even flaunt it a little.

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #1 –

    It seemed strange to my friend that a politically charged situation where lives had been lost would be celebrated with baked goods

    And yet we celebrate the 4th of July every year. But perhaps its the amount of time that has elapsed? In any case, this appears to be a one-off situation. It most likely won’t repeat itself.

    1. EE*

      Well, it did repeat itself… this is Orange Revolution Mark 2 in Ukraine, even with the same players.

      Nitpicking aside, I agree with your view.

    2. Sophia*

      I agree that the OP should let it go but I don’t think your comparison of July 4th is the same at all. We are not in the midst of a revolution, and July 4th is not controversial in the US but celebrates something that happened hundreds of years ago

        1. Anon*

          And Independence day does happen to be a national holiday in honor of our own nation’s independence, not an obviously controversial current event in a foreign country.

          However, I think the OP should just enjoy the free cake and not worry about political celebrations unless they get bigger from here.

          1. Kelly L.*

            It was controversial when it happened, though! Every safe old independence celebration was once a hotly contested current event. But I can see how time dulls things.

            1. De Minimis*

              I would not worry too much about it unless it’s something where it’s creating conflict at work. It does seem a little weird, but hey, I guess it’s a chance for others to learn more about current events.

            2. Kelly L.*

              And the more I think about it, we celebrate Memorial Day every year and the honors extend to the fallen from current and recent wars. And some of those wars are politically controversial, even if the idea of supporting the troops (even if you don’t agree with the war as a whole) is less so.

      1. some1*

        The only way it would compare is if you were an American ex-pat working in the UK and brought in a 4th of July cake.

        1. Anne*

          And speaking as an American expat working in the UK, I think my colleagues would just be quite chuffed about the cake at this point. :)

        2. Anna*

          That’s not a comparison at all. An ex-pat in the country we fought and won against in a revolution is not the same as bringing a cake to the office in a country that doesn’t have that big a stake in the outcome (despite the claims this is all put on by the US, I haven’t seen any compelling evidence of that).

        3. TychaBrahe*

          Even that doesn’t quite compare, because unless the letter comes from an office in Russia, which probably just lost an ally in the Ukraine, the other members of the office aren’t affected in any physical way by the revolution in the Ukraine.

          1. fposte*

            But then it’s not offensive, either, so why object to cake? Then it’s more like somebody bringing in cake because her daughter got her braces off–it doesn’t matter to you, but it’s not a problem, and there’s cake.

        1. Stephanie*

          Heh, no. Some of these Southern states looooooove their Confederate heritage. Virginia especially loves to name things after Lee or Jackson.

              1. Heather*

                Yep, extremely racist. But the people defending it claim the South seceded over “states’ rights” and that they’re just honoring their state’s Confederate heritage (neglecting to mention that the main “right” the Confederacy seceded over was the right to own slaves). In parts of the South, the Civil War is still called the “War of Northern Aggression,” as if the North just got pissy and decided to invade Fort Sumter for the fun of it one day. If you heard separate descriptions of the war from a Northerners and a Southerner, you might not even realize they were talking about the same war. Time has *not* done much to heal this rift for some people.

                (Obviously, not everyone in the South takes that view or supports the flying of the Confederate flag. But the ones who do are very, very vocal about it.)

                1. anon*

                  I would tend to agree that the Confederate flag is too representative of slave ownership to be displayed in most contexts. I personally would not display it unless I was involved in a Civil War reenactment.
                  However, you should be careful about calling its display extremely racist. Lots of Southerner’s disagree with my view, and think that it represents more than just slavery, but also “Southern pride.”
                  You have to consider the historical context. Most Northerner’s wanted to send black people “back to Africa.” They were all very racist by today’s standards.
                  In fact, given the checkered history of the United States, with its focus on manifest destiny, the American flag could be viewed by some as nothing more than a symbol of genocide, that ought not be displayed.

                2. anon*

                  I just want to add that all of our ancestors spilled blood at some time for what we would perceive today to be very wrong reasons. Yet we still honor them, just as we honor our country, despite the bad things our government has done.

                3. Heather*

                  As I said, I understand that some of those people believe that they are showing “Southern pride” and don’t intend to be racist. But that doesn’t mean they’re right. They’re ignoring the fact that the very reason the Confederate flag exists is that the Southern states wanted to continue the practice of slavery.

                  A person may be proud of their German heritage, but that doesn’t make it OK for them to fly a Nazi flag.

                  Northerners’ historical racism or lack thereof isn’t relevant, as there’s no “Union pride” movement, and the U.S., while certainly having committed horrific acts toward many populations, wasn’t founded for the sole purpose of committing those acts….and I say this as someone who is extremely disturbed by the amount of jingoism, xenophobia & belief in American exceptionalism we see today. (You should hear me rant every year on 9/11!)

                4. Anna*

                  They’re probably the same people who wonder why African Americans can’t just “get over” slavery since it happened so long ago. Yes, and you have no ability for self-reflection, do you?

                5. anon*

                  You rant on 9/11? Nobody who died that day deserved what happened to them. They deserve to be remember, honored, and respected. I’m not sure what sort of rant you could make without on that day without sounding incredibly disrespectful.

                  Also, I made my comment because Southern people are frequently vilified, particularly on this blog, and no one ever tries to understand their perspective. Dismissively stating they are extremely racist to display the Confederate flag will do nothing but shut down any meaningful dialogue on the subject. If I was a Southerner reading some of the comments about people who perceive me as backwards and racist, I would be very offended.

                6. Jamie*

                  A person may be proud of their German heritage, but that doesn’t make it OK for them to fly a Nazi flag.

                  Whoa. The Nazis were a horrific political party that once ruled Germany. The only reason one would fly a nazi flag would be to express nazi pride.

                  German =/= nazi. There is no equivalency here.

                  And while I totally understand that the confederate flag is a symbol of racism and because that is such a universally held belief I don’t think it should be publicly displayed because the pain it causes is too great for too many people.

                  But while the nazi flag has always and will always represent nazis the confederate flag has a more complicated history.

                  Most of the men who died under that flag and the families at home who lost everything were not slave owners. Of course slavery was one of the causes of the Civil War, but it was not the sole cause so what that flag represented isn’t as singularly evil as a swastika to everyone.

                  Again, I’m not in favor of displaying it because it does hurt people and it’s needlessly incendiary. And yes, there are those with abhorrent racist views who display it as the F you they intend it to be – and that’s despicable.

                  But there are decent people who aren’t racist and aren’t bigots who just do not see it as the racist symbol others do. They just don’t understand because to them it is about southern pride and there it’s not meant to disparage anyone.

                  I guess what I’m saying is if I see someone with a swastika t-shirt I know everything I need to know to make an immediate judgement. A confederate flag? Maybe racist, maybe really uninformed/insensitive, but not racist.

                  On the topic – Georgia just came out with a new license plate with a confederate flag design. I have to wonder what made them do that in 2014 – individuals aside you’d think the government would be on the side of not offending huge blocks of people.

                7. Loose Seal*


                  I have to wonder what made them do that in 2014 – individuals aside you’d think the government would be on the side of not offending huge blocks of people.

                  The thing is, it doesn’t offend the people that will vote for them. It does offend (some of? most of?) the people in the minority political party but there aren’t enough of them to matter.

                8. Heather*

                  To anon: I get angry on 9/11 precisely because very few people mention the actual victims anymore. It’s become the day when people declare that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world and change their Facebook pictures to a flag with a superimposed eagle. Which is, ironically, the kind of thing that helps fan the flames of anti-Americanism. ***In no way is this intended to imply that anyone is responsible for 9/11 other than the people who planned it and carried it out.***

                  With regard to villifying Southerners, I don’t know how much more clear I could have been that I am talking about a certain subset of the population there, not the entire region.

                9. Heather*

                  And separately to Jamie:
                  No, no, I didn’t mean at all that being German and being a Nazi are synonymous! I was just trying to make an analogy to a country that also had extreme racism in its past and the symbol of that racism. So just as you would celebrate your German heritage in ways other than flying a symbol of the worst of German history, Southerners could find a different way to show their pride than the flag that symbolizes the worst of Southern history.

                  Even if someone only intends to show pride that they’re a Southerner, displaying the Confederate flag implies that they look back fondly on a way of life that was only possible because of slave labor. I know that many people don’t make that connection, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

                  And last (I need to go do some, you know, work!!) it’s sadly true that most wars are started and fought by different groups of people, and the ones fighting aren’t always the ones who believe in/benefit from what they’re fighting for.

                10. The Real Ash*

                  I have traveled extensively all over the South and have Southern relatives and I have *never* heard anyone use the term “War of Northern Aggression”. The only time I have ever heard or read that term is when a Northerner is trying to denigrate Southerners and make them all sound racist and backwards. Looks like that hasn’t changed.

              2. Magda*

                My dad’s side of the family is white Southerners and I still side-eye the heck out of the “Southern pride” claim. As the blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates has pointed out, that excuse starts to look really weak when you notice how very few of the people celebrating Southern pride bother to celebrate the contributions of Southerners like Martin Luther King, Jr., Ida B. Wells, or the Tuskeegee Airmen.

                1. Meg*

                  You know, that’s a really good point I never thought of before. If they were really all about Southern pride, you’d think they would want to support the accomplishments of all Southerners.

                2. groupthink*

                  That’s kind of like saying if you celebrate Veteren’s day, you have to do something to celebrate MLK day or you’re a racist. Also, not sure how the blogger manages to have personal knowledge of who celebrates who.

                3. groupthink*

                  Perhaps my example was a bit of a stretch. But what the blogger is basically saying is that she thinks that people who say they have Southern pride are really saying, “I’m a racist, but I’m cloaking my racism by calling it ‘Southern pride.'” As proof, she claims that most people who celebrate “Southern pride” don’t also celebrate the contributions of black southerners along with the contributions of white southerners.

                  There are a couple logical problems with her statements (with the caveat I haven’t read her blog, I’m just going off the information here.)
                  First of all, it is utterly unclear what she means by the terms “Southern pride,” “contributions,” and “celebrate.” Clearly, “Southern pride” could mean “I’m a thinly veiled racist,” or it could mean “I am proud of my Southern heritage” (Just like someone might say “I’m proud to be an American,” even though the American government has done some terrible things in the past. A person making such a statement does not literally mean they are proud of everything America has ever done or been associated with).

                  What does she mean when she says most people who claim to have Southern pride don’t bother to celebrate the contributions of famous black people? When she says “celebration,” does she mean an outwardly apparent celebration, like a public festival in honor of these individuals, or is she referring to an inward celebration, like a deep feeling of personal appreciation for these individual’s contributions? Finally, what does she mean by contributions? Contributions to the South, or contributions to America? Contributions to the civil rights movement, or contributions to the military?

                  Finally, how could she possibly know with certainty that most people who “celebrate” so called “Southern pride” don’t also “celebrate” the “contributions” of black southerners? I find her statements to be so general and ambiguous as to be virtually meaningless.

                4. Magda*


                  she thinks that people who say they have Southern pride are really saying, “I’m a racist, but I’m cloaking my racism by calling it ‘Southern pride.’”

                  Wait, wait. My skepticism is not of the concept of “Southern pride” as a general thing. I live in the South and there’s a lot that I love about it. What I am criticizing is the idea of Southern pride as a defense for flying the Confederate flag, as if that is mutually exclusive with the flag having racist implications.

                  This is a flag that represents a political organization founded on the right to own black people as property. (Mississippi’s article of secession blatantly declares “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery”; South Carolina cites Lincoln being “hostile to slavery” as a reason for secession; Texas declares “negro slavery” as something which “her people intended should exist in all future time.”) So yes, I am extremely skeptical that Martin Luther King is being celebrated as fervently as Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson by those who fly the stars and bars.

                  As a resident of the South, there is no question in my mind that the fact the Confederate flag offends black people is considered a feature, not a bug, by many who fly it. While I don’t appreciate it when non-Southern white people pull the “oh, we’re not like those rednecks” stereotype as a way to deflect from racism in their own backyards, I’m also repulsed when white Southerners pull the “we’re the victims of mean old stereotypes” to deflect from racism that still happens here.

                5. Groupthink*

                  OK, thanks for the clarification. Southern pride really can mean any number of things. On a less serious note, Kanye seems to be getting pretty comfortable with the Confederate flag!

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            This reminds me of something I heard on the radio years ago. An African-American guy who was a bit of a local celebrity did movie reviews for one of the classic rock stations in town.

            One day the discussion turned to the South, and people who publicly display the Confederate flag. One of the DJ’s asked this guy how he felt about it, and he said he was fine with people who do it as a way to honor their ancestors who fought and/or died in the Civil War. But he was obviously not okay with people who do it to show their support for the KKK or any other kind of racist, ignorant crap.

        1. Loose Seal*

          It’s the last Monday in April, supposedly to get it close to Robert E. Lee’s birthday. You wouldn’t notice the holiday unless you were going to the courthouse to get your tag renewed or if you had to go to another state office. Banks and the post office were open that day.

          When I worked for the state, I was glad to have the day off because the holiday-less streak between Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day was very long and Confederate Memorial Day broke it up nicely. But when people asked why I was off, I’d mumble the reason why. Seriously, it’s pretty embarrassing to have that holiday nowadays but the people of Georgia would have collective fits if a legislator proposed a bill to remove it (even though it doesn’t affect most of the people, who, like thenoiseinspace, don’t even realize it’s a holiday).

          1. Xay*

            Some cities make a bigger deal out of it. The north Atlanta suburb where I went to high school has their Founder’s Day and debutante activities in the same week and does a big memorial service.

          2. Lyssa*

            For whatever it’s worth, Robert E. Lee’s birthday is January 19th, not April. (I only know that because he’s on the list of famous people I share a birthday with – along with Dolly Parton, Edgar Allen Poe, and the girl who played Stephanie on Full House. Also, somewhat ironically for Lee’s case, our birthday occasionally falls on MLK Day.)

            1. Loose Seal*

              Yes, I don’t know why they say the date of Confederate Memorial Day is for Robert E. Lee’s birthday but they do. Wikipedia says that the date is to commemorate the Rebel surrender. I suspect that no one likes to admit that the Rebel side actually surrendered so they say it’s for Robert E. Lee instead.

            2. D*

              In my state, we rather unfortunately “celebrate” Robert E. Lee day on the same day as MLK Day. As in, all the lawyers get a notice that the courthouses will be closed “In remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday.”

              True story.

              1. groupthink*

                What’s wrong with celebrating an important American historical figure? We celebrate all sorts of holidays associated with people who were racist and sexist and every other ist and ic by our modern standards.

            3. TK*

              That disturbing coincidence led to what is probably the perhaps the strangest holiday to have existed in the US:

          1. TL*

            We get Patriot’s Day here in Boston. (And to be fair, Lee was a brilliant general who did consider fighting for the North, I believe. Definitely not worthy of a MLK holiday crossover, though.)

            1. Lore*

              Although I do suspect the Patriot’s Day holiday has persisted due to the marathon, rather than the other way around.

          2. TychaBrahe*

            Benedict Arnold was at least a war hero before he committed treason. There’s even a memorial to him. Of his boot, because he was badly injured in the leg at Saratoga.

            1. Chinook*

              And just remember – one country’s traitor is another’s hero for “having the courage to see the error of his ways.” This is actually a good example because we Canadians (or as were known as then, Loyalists) do not see him as a traitor and gete very frustrated at hearing Americans believe that their P.O.V. on someone is the only correct one. You would probably view him in the same light as Laura Secord, as a nasty spy, but we view her as courageous woman with a statue next to our national memorial.

              1. fposte*

                Most USAns have never heard of Laura Secord, and of those who have, 90% of them are thinking “chocolate.”

                My Canadian-born and -educated father thought it was fascinating to see the differences in how historical events were viewed between the two countries–he liked having lived in both the countries that claimed to have won the War of 1812 :-).

                1. the gold digger*

                  I liked reading Churchill’s take on the American Revolution.

                  At the Empire Museum in Bristol (England), the line is that the Americans rebelled against the English because they didn’t want to pay their fair share of taxes for the British soldiers who were fighting the French and the Native Americans.

                2. Omne*

                  There is an interesting book I read years ago that covers the Revolutionary War from the British viewpoint. It was fascinating. The book was: Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes by Christopher Hibbert.

                  Some of the British descriptions of the battles and confrontations are extremely different from what our side claimed and in some cases sounded a lot more realistic.

      1. VivlioLilith*

        Um, No we don’t. I’ve lived in GA my entire life and have never heard of Confederate’s Day.

        1. Kat*

          When I lived in Boston, I took several trips far outside the city (north and west) and saw several confederate flags flying. So lets not make this a north vs. south thing.

          (full disclosure-I lived most of my life in Georgia but in more populated areas like Savannah and now Atlanta which I think tend to have less of this going on).

    3. Us, Too*

      #1: Personally, I just like cake. Cake makes life better. I don’t actually care about the motivation of cake-bringers. I can temporarily sit on the other side of the political aisle if cake is being offered. :)

      All we are saaaaaying… Is give cake a chaaaaaance.

      (I’m sure there are exceptions to the “cake is always good” rule of thumb, but it would have to be pretty extreme for me to turn down a slice of sheet cake)

      1. ali*


        I make cakes as a hobby and do awesome flavors that will far surpass grocery store cakes. But give me a slice of grocery store sheet cake and I will never turn it down.

  3. KarenT*

    I’m sorry, but no he did not. It’s very unlikely (I’d say unheard of) that someone would ever create a position for someone who was unknown to them. And no one would ever create a position for someone and not tell them, or at least invite them into the office for a meeting. I don’t want to be harsh because I can tell you have your hopes up, but I suspect he’s not very interested in your CV. If he was he would have mentioned the vacant position, or shown more interest then keeping you in mind for future possibilities. If your resume was impressing the hiring manager you likely would have heard from them by now since you’ve applied several times before.

    1. JennG*

      Also unheard of in my world is creating, getting approval for, and posting a position all within two days (or even two weeks). I agree that you should not get your hopes up here.

      1. some1*

        Even then, I’ve never seen a manager do it for someone who’s an Unknown Quantity. Always someone they were already supervising or working with or had supervised or worked with.

  4. EngineerGirl*

    #2 – It looks like you have a built in jerk filter. It just exposed one of them.
    You might want to look more toward companies that hire veterans – they seem to have a LOT better handling of these things.

  5. kas*

    #2 – that’s beyond terrible/horrible/ridiculous etc! Who says something like that?? She has some nerve. I would not want to work for that company. I’d feel uncomfortable knowing this is what they’re thinking. If it’s a position that deals with clients I could see them saying “please don’t wear a skirt to the meeting, it could make the client uncomfortable.” So wrong ..

  6. Jen RO*

    #1 – I agree that bringing a cake was weird, but not for the same reason as you – I just think that most people in the Ukrainian’s coworker office simply do not care, as evidenced by OP’s description of the events. It was more than “a politically charged situation where lives had been lost”, but (and I’m not snarking) it’s hard to understand for someone removed from the situation and who hasn’t at least lived through similar times. I’m not going to get into political discussions that don’t impact the majority of the readers here, but I found OP’s description a bit out of touch and even offensive to the people who died there.

    #3 – Except the fact that this happened during work hours, I don’t see the problem with only men going. Would this letter have been written if the men had gone out on Friday night?

    1. Elizabeth*

      I think it’d still be a problem if it had happened off of work hours, yes, especially if the boss helped coordinate the outing. Hanging out with coworkers outside of work still has an impact on life back at the office. It can lead to increased congeniality, which can make the working relationship stronger as well. Excluding one gender from these work/social events will have the impact of denying the excluded gender that relationship-building opportunity.

      1. Lyssa*

        I think that it would make a difference whether this was a planned out event, or whether it was just a “hey, let’s go” sort of thing, where they didn’t put a lot of thought into who they invited. It might be bad to unintentionally exclude one gender without thinking about it, but it seems forgivable.

        1. D*

          I completely agree. This happens all the time in my office. Friends group up with their friends to go to lunch most days. Some days everyone goes together, but most often there’s a group of women that goes and a group of men that goes.

    2. GH*

      Can’t speak for OP, but if it had been a Friday night it wouldn’t have bothered me. But it *was* during work hours, which means all the “guys” basically got a day off to go to the pub. That would chap my hide. If there was an option on offer of going to watch the Hockey instead of being in the office, I think it should have been offered to all employees equally.

    3. Artemesia*

      All the men in the office hang out together with the boss after hours (or socially during the work day as happened here) and the women are not included and you don’t see this as an issue. Everyone knows that informal relationships are critical for career advancement. The boss hanging with his boys is a classic of the kinds of discrimination that disadvantage women in the workplace.

      1. Jen RO*

        Exactly. There is nothing in OP’s letter to indicate this was a pattern – it was a one-time occurrence. I went out for a girls’ night out on March 8 (Woman’s Day) with the female part of my team, including the lead. It happened once in 4 years with the company. Why yes, we were totally doing it to exclude the male team members and gossip behind their backs! Please.

        Where do we draw the line? If a team has a disabled member, are all the other banned from running marathons? If a team has a person who hates Bon Jovi, are all the other banned from going to a concert together? After all, they would be excluding someone.

        1. PEBCAK*

          I’m not quite sure what point you are trying to make, here, but you can’t just swap “men” for “women” in a workplace scenario and claim they are equivalent. One is a historically oppressed group, the other is the historical oppressor.

          That is like saying that any company with an African American affinity group should have a Caucasian affinity group. It’s just not the same thing.

          1. Jen RO*

            I think this is getting blown way out of proportion. It’s a hockey game in the Olympics and there is absolutely nothing in the letter to indicate it’s a pattern.

            I don’t understand how the same people who advocate people being able to do whatever (e.g. teachers drinking) during their off hours can say that other people should be able to do whatever (e.g. see a game with coworkers) during *their* off hours. This was not a company event and, unless there is something else to indicate that the boss did this specifically to single out the women on the team, I don’t see how anyone can make such gross generalizations.

            1. FiveNine*

              You wouldn’t think anything of the boss taking all the women from work during work hours off site socially for one day (and one coming back drunk)? Really, it’s wrong socially, professionally, and politically.

              1. Elysian*

                Right. I think a huge part of the problem is that they got the day off to get drunk. While the women were in the office working. That’s unacceptable.

                But I think that this would be concerning if it were Friday night as well – you can’t fully separate your office life and your personal life like that. If its just all the guys in the office, I’m sure they coordinate it in the office, and talk about it in the office, and that it affects their relationships with people in the office. I think (just like in elementary school) if you’re going to pass out the invitations in class, everyone has to get one. This can’t just be a trip for “ALL the guys from work because women don’t like hockey and oh yeah we’ll probably also talk shop at least a little.” Everyone should be invited.

                1. Contessa*

                  I suspect the culprit was a misguided assumption that the women wouldn’t want to watch hockey, because I’ve been a “victim” (I use that word very, very loosely–I am in no way, shape, or form claiming discrimination) of that same assumption. My co-workers weren’t trying to exclude women, they just assumed we didn’t want to see or talk about hockey. When they found out that I’m actually a huge fan, they started including me. And guess what? I didn’t really enjoy myself and it was super uncomfortable. I like to watch hockey with my family and friends, because I know their general feelings about things. Meanwhile, I was stuck with co-workers who know less about hockey than I do, who didn’t get my jokes or understand why I was so mad about something.

                  So yeah, from a hockey perspective, OP #3 may not have been missing much. Now, leaving that aside, unless the men chose to use their vacation days ( in which case, why would OP care what they do with their vacation days?), you shouldn’t give ANY half of the office a paid day off to go to get drunk. If you want to use your vacation days like that, whatever, but if the company is paying for that work day like normal, the whole office should be given the same opportunity (i.e. “We’ll be closed tomorrow for the hockey game. You can meet us at the bar at 10, or have the day off.”) Actually, that would be a really nice treat for your employees. Way to ruin it, OP #3’s boss, by only giving it to half the employees and creating resentment instead of goodwill.

                  (I had to “watch” the U.S.-Canada game through blog post updates, because that is not a treat that we got here. Sigh.)

              2. Jen RO*

                I would find the same problem as I posted below: the fact that they did it on company time. It would be just as wrong if it was women and men, white and black and Latino and Asian, young and old. The boss and group that went out excluded *people* and that’s wrong, but I don’t see how making everything about gender is helping with anything.

                1. Elysian*

                  I don’t think so – I could see the boss taking out a small group during the workday to celebrate some work-specific that those people were involved in – You won a huge case, you landed a big client! Then he’s singling out people for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.

                  Here he’s singling out people in a discriminatory way from a position of power. It’s not ok at any time of day.

                2. Jamie*

                  I’m with Jen on this one, unless we have more facts that this is a pervasive thing my issue is that it was done on the clock.

                  (Although I would rather work in an actual salt mine than sit through a hockey game.)

                  If a woman really wanted to see the game too and they didn’t think to ask her, that’s rude, but it doesn’t mean they were maliciously excluding her…just making over reaching assumptions.

                  I hope the OP posts a follow up about whether or not there were women who were interested in the game and wanted to go – because if not then it wasn’t so much the guys who went out for the day, but the hockey lovers…which in this case would be the same subset.

                3. TL*

                  There’s a long history of women being excluded in top positions from things like playing golf or going to the sauna or whatever it is important people do while wheeling and dealing.

                  Basically, a lot of business gets done in the boy’s club and the women aren’t invited; then the women are shot down for not getting as much done as the men are. If this is part of a pattern, it is a big deal.

                  If it’s a one-time thing, it’s worth a mention but not necessarily a huge thing.

            2. Anna*

              Actually, because it happened during work hours and with the boss that sort of makes it a work event. And really, that’s what Alison addressed. Was this a one time thing? If yes, the OP may not need to address it other than “hey, this could be a problem, here’s why”. If it is a pattern, that needs a different approach.

        2. Artemesia*

          But there is no reason to think the women or some of the women might not enjoy the hockey game (and I am betting some of the good old boys who spent the day in the pub have no interest at all in hockey.)

          Yes, if it is a one off thing, it isn’t a big deal. But the fact that the boss organized this makes it different from the gals getting together for lunch or whatever.

          1. Mints*

            Yeah, some of this sounds like “benign” sexism, like “I didn’t invite you because you’re a girl and girls don’t like supports.” And sure, more men like sports than women, but there’s so much variety within genders that it’s pretty annoying that that still happens. There’s also a pretty big difference between the tone when a man asks another man “Hey did you watch the NFC championship?” versus asking a woman “Wow you like football?” And often, a sort testing like “Who’s your favorite player?” “Did you see that interception?”
            Regarding the question, i don’t think women should feel like they need to fake interest, and if it’s an organic outing without the intent of excluding and no history of other discrimination, it doesn’t seem like a problem. But I’m suspicious that the “sports fans” line would fall exactly along gender lines

          2. Emily K*

            During the last World Series our department head invited the whole department to cut out early one day and join him at a nearby bar to watch an afternoon game. I don’t especially care about baseball, but I went! Who wouldn’t want to leave work early and go have a drink? Like I care what’s on the TV.

          3. annie*

            I would be SO MAD if this happened in my office because I love Olympic hockey and had the radio call on in the background for the last few big games while I was working. The assumption about the women not being interested /men being interested in hockey is what’s sexist.

            1. Laura*

              Here it’s assumed that absolutely everyone, male and female, will be interested in Olympic hockey. I didn’t particularly care and my coworker called it Canadian blasphemy. But then as Canadians hockey is our national thing or something. I was happy we won, I just didn’t want to watch.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Actually, yes: I’d say that if your team includes a person who can’t run a marathon, it wouldn’t be cool for a boss to organize a marathon-running event.

          1. Sue*

            Wasn’t there a recent letter about a boss who constantly organised extreme sport based team building events?

          2. Jen in RO*

            I wasn’t talking about a boss organizing anything. I was talking about coworkers running a marathon organized by a different entity (e.g. Boston marathon).

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Right. What I meant was if the boss organized a group of people from your workplace to run in that event.

    4. Rayner*

      If it’s an event organised at work, ostensibly for work – to improve morale or whatever – then it creates a them vs us mentality for the group going out and those not invited.

      If it was a social gathering which just so happened to occur after work, and most or a large number of men decided to clock off and go to the pub afterwards, it’s fine.

      If it has a label of work or work relatedness anywhere near it, automatically should become open to all staff, not just the boss and ‘his boys’.

      1. Jen RO*

        I agree. To me, OP’s situation sounds like the latter, and the major problem is that employees basically ditched work to have some fun.

        1. N.J.*

          What seems to be missing in your evaluation of the situation is that the letter writer clearly states that all the men, which would at least mean the majority of the men in the office if she is using a bit of hyperbole to make her point, left at 10 am. This cannot be characterized as an after work social gathering, it occurred barely into the work day.

          Related to Rayner’s idea that maybe they just all decided to clock out for a social event that isn’t necessarily related to building team morale, if the boss went too, then it is reasonable to assume that this builds camaraderie and team bonding even if it was not officially set up to do so.

          Since when is it ok for half of the work force, whether divided by gender, race, “in” group vs. out group, age etc. to leave work for a social outing with the boss and to exclude the rest of the company? At the very least, the boss is insensitive to the fact that choosing a group of employees to socialize with and excluding the rest, during the official work day, for most of the day, is a sign that he does not value the group of excluded workers.

          It is naive to assume that this group being split by gender is just a coincidence–either the assumption was that women do not like hockey or sports, which is ignorant and sexist even if not meant to be that way, or the decision was made to deliberately exclude the female employees, which would signal that no matter the type of social event (for example, assume that they were just going to a bar, minus the hockey part) the women employees of this company are not valued enough as individuals to have been included in a work day social event.

          Workplace social events always have some element of bonding, celebration, team spirit and camaraderie, as they remind us that the people we work with and work for are human, interesting, social creatures that we may like as individual people and whom we will work with better if we know them for their personalities and interests. This is relationship building in a very basic sense—we put up with our coworkers’ and bosses’ quirks, irritating habits and foibles for a number of reasons, ranging from obligation, to professional respect, to a personal sense of “I am part of a team of individuals who like me and I like them.” The fact that the women were excluded, even if it was an isolated incident, deprives them of the opportunity to forge team relationships and calls into question how they are valued as members of the team, at least in my interpretation of this scenario.

      2. LCL*

        You know what’s going to happen next, right? One of the women will bring this up with the owner, he will agree and apologize, and then offer only the women a half day to make up for it. And then the men will complain, and then the boss will get fed up with it all and issue a statement saying employees are expected to be in the office during working hours.

    5. De*

      Totall agreeing with you on 1. Not the same situation, but also a “politically charged” one, but I bet when the German Democratic Republic opened its borders people were bringing bakes goods into work the next day in celebration.

      1. Jen RO*

        Offtopic, but when I was very young “RDG” (Republica Democrata Germana) was kind of a fairyland to me – my aunt and uncle had friends there, and the friends sent all sorts of cool stuff that you couldn’t get around here. It took me years to even find out what RDG stood for!

        1. De*

          Also OT, but I didn’t know that it was called GDR in English until I got very, very confused comments oncewhen I mentioned the DDR in an internet comment. I just always assumed it was known as the DDR (Deutsche Demokatische Republik) everywhere. Even though of course I knew country names often get translated.

          I grew up in the Federal Republic with family in the GDR, so of course it wasn’t something positive for us. I did visit when I was little, but as I was 6 at the Reunification I don’t really remember much.

      2. Jamie*

        I don’t know about work, but my family all got together for this one and it was very celebratory.

        No cake, though, we had pie. Pflaumenkuchen and pie. :)

        1. Windchime*

          My son was only 4 years old, but I woke him up so he could watch on TV as the wall was being torn down. It was an historic event and I wanted him to see it happening and for us to be able to talk about it (as much as a 4 year old can).

          1. Jamie*

            I was newly married staying with my mom while my husband was on deployment and we just sat there watching the news and holding hands – both crying.

            I called my dad who said, “I know, I see it…I have a TV.” Because he was all emotional like that. :) But his voice sounded funny…underneath all that cranky stoicism was a big softie.

        2. De*

          I suppose my own family had more than cake, but I am German and we had family there. I was only 5 years old, though.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue is that there’s a long history of women being excluded professionally through informal all-male social networks — where men are included while women are excluded from the networking opportunities that their male colleagues get — where men do business in social settings without women, from golf clubs to strip clubs.

      The thing is, workplace social activities aren’t purely social. They’re often where business gets done, professional connections get made, relationships with clients and managers and coworkers are built, projects are conceived and discussed, etc.

      You have to see it in that cultural context to understand why it rankles. The impact historically was one that systemically held women back and marginalized them professionally. Companies that truly want women in their leadership ranks don’t do this kind of thing.

      1. Jen RO*

        But the company isn’t doing anything – individual people in the company went to see a game, once.

        1. Anonymous*

          I think it immediately moved beyond “some employees” when the owner was included in the outing. And we don’t know if this was a one time situation or a pattern. But assuming it is the only time it still doesn’t make it okay. How the OP responds may be tempered but it’s still wrong.

          1. Chinook*

            It may not have been officially organized, but did any of the women express interest in the upcoming hockey game? Around here, productivity went down big time during that game and 2 others. Coworkers were known to disappear to the lobby to watch it. It was mostly women and recent immigrants who stayed behind (as well as those of us with pressing deadlines) because they didn’t want to watch and no one expressed resentment and we in fact jokingly commented on it because their absence didn’t affect us.

            BTW is it possible that they didn’t come back because they were mourning their loss against the team from up north?

            1. Del*

              It’s one thing to wander out to the lobby to watch the game; it’s another to leave work premises entirely and not return.

            2. Colette*

              If the women had been invited but had decided not to go, that would be a different situation – but not inviting them in the first place makes me wonder what else they’re not being invited to.

              1. Sunflower*

                Yes exactly! The fact that this happened leads me to believe there are other things happening in the office or OP might be suspecting the owner/organizer of the event is discriminating against women in other ways.

            3. MousyNon*

              They shouldn’t have to express an interest, however. They should simply all be invited to any departmental social events (yes, even traditionally male-attended ones), and whoever elects to go, goes. If everyone wants to go, and some people have to stay to staff the office, you draw straws. Simple, and fair.

        2. Artemesia*

          When the BOSS invites the ‘boys’ to blow off work for a hockey game while the women are not invited and are back at the workhouse working, the COMPANY has most certainly done something.

        3. hamster*

          I think you’re not seeing this because historically, or during our lifetime and of our mothers , Romania wasn’t much discriminatory to women. During the communist regime it was actually an emphasis on promoting ( minority positive discrimination) women ( women had a host of other issues, like lack of birth control, but let’s stick to workplace). We have a lower women-man discrpancy in pay. So, the thing is you’ve never felt excluded, and this one-time-thing doesn’t bother you much.

          1. Jen RO*

            That has nothing to do with it. I am arguing that this particular one-time event is not discrimination, not that discrimination doesn’t exist or that this particular event could not turn into a pattern. I’m just tired of seeing people extrapolate based on their own experiences and no actual data.

      2. PEBCAK*

        Just to add to this, the Goldman Sachs case is still in litigation, and I don’t really know what changed when it moved to a class action, but among the complaints in the original lawsuit were that the three plaintiffs (female employees of GS) were regularly excluded from social activities.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Keep. Standing. Up.

        It’s not over yet. It’s better, but it’s not over.

        I’m a woman in my 50’s who made my way in an all male at the time industry. I was excluded from most of the social power broking things, not by evil design but by the social nature of social plus I didn’t golf, so there went the 19th hole events. The men were friendly enough and when I asked to be included in something, I was included. (Being young and reasonably attractive at the time likely helped that O.o although I never played it.)

        The other side of that is that I was specifically and blatantly excluded from a mentoring opportunity (daily lunch with the boss) that a man hired at the same time I was was included in, because I was a young woman and it wouldn’t “look right” for the boss to be lunching with me.

        Not ancient history, just 25 years ago.

        A blast from the past reared its head last year. A very close vendor friend of mine was arranging a fancy dinner for us and I intentionally included some of my younger staff (who on this team happen to all be women), because I wanted to teach them about power-socializing-business-doing.

        Various things happened to blow the dinner party size to over 15. My vendor friend said, I’ve got the solution. We’ll put the principals of the companies in one dinner and then we’ll all have more fun if the rest of us are in the original dinner we planned.

        HALLZ NO, said I. Penelope, do you realize you just created two dinners, one all male and one all female? I’ll cancel the whole thing before I ever participate in something like that.

        So that was quickly aborted and a lovely, gender and power level integrated, dinner was had by all.

      4. De*

        That#s why just swapping men -> women and then saying “but that would be fine, so the original is fine, too” doesn’t work. Instead you need to swap majority group A -> majority group B and see how that feels.

        Somehow I don’t think an all-white or all-heterosexual or all-cissexual event would be seen as quite as a non-issue.

        1. Jen RO*

          It would be the same to me, if all the white/straight/etc people had a shared interest that the black/gay/etc people didn’t share. Obviously, unless the interest was the KKK or something.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            It’s not the same.

            Many interests and activities have been historically limited by finances, class, gender, and race/ethnicity and those activities have also been associated with the “seat of power”.

            We have a basketball court. Basketball has a $0 entry point to adopt as an interest and has been gender inclusive for many years. “Everybody” uses our court for pick up games, the activity is inclusive. The only people who don’t use it together are the people who don’t want to play basketball.

            Golf has slowly become more inclusive but it’s traditionally been a bastion of white men and there’s an economic barrier to adoption.

            I tell vendors who extend golf invitations to please come up with another activity that’s more inclusive. We’ve substituted a night out to baseball game in place of golf, as one example.

            What people do on their own time, they should enjoy and be well and be friends with whomever they want.

            1. Jen RO*

              So if a group of 6 coworkers who are friends and happen to be white go and play a basketball game, it’s discrimination because they didn’t send out a company wide email to invite everyone?

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                If I saw that the basketball court encouraged exclusionary groups and cliques, we would no longer have one.

                Which, it doesn’t.

                1. Jen RO*

                  I agree, and I also agree about the golf. But OP’s letter is about a one-time occurrence of people going to a pub.

                  I am arguing against the assumption that, based on a short e-mail, we can conclude that discrimination is going on! Of course discrimination *can* happen, but I thought we were commenting on the actual situation, not hypotheticals. I know that the AMM commenters are against work friendships in general, but this sounds way too much like trying to control people’s free time.

                  OP can point out the actual problem (part of the team watched TV and part of the team had to work) without saying “the men got to watch TV and the women had to work”. Unless other things that happen in that team indicate this (and we won’t know until OP clarifies), we can’t say it’s gender discrimination based on a *one time event*.

                2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  JenRO, out of reply space, so I have to reply to myself. :)

                  Lookit, I agree mostly about the original letter. As a one off incident and not part of a pattern, it’s just a Thing That Happened. If it happened to me, I wouldn’t be shy about confronting the gender issue head on, but absent a pattern, I wouldn’t treat it as anything more than one thing.

                  I jumped into the conversation when more general practices and patterns were being discussed.

                3. Jen RO*

                  OK, then I suppose we agree in principle. As a one-time event it might not be anything, but if it becomes a pattern then it needs to be addressed. (Especially if, as Chinook said, they didn’t even ask the women if they wanted to come.)

              2. Colette*

                Is one of them in a position of power over the others (as well as over others who weren’t invited)? If so, then it’s an issue. If they’re all at the same level (and if there are an equal or greater number of people at the same level who are not invited), then it’s OK.

              3. Anonymous*

                OP says she suspects it was the owner’s idea, though, so it’s not really equivalent to 6 white dudes who happen to be friends. Personally, if the white owner of a company took all the white employees out to get drunk on company time, and left his black employees to pick up the slack in the office, I’d find that appalling too. Even if it were only a one-time thing, and even if it were a case of the manager being clueless rather than malicious.

                If I were the owner/manager and I wasn’t involved in the all-male socialization, I would still want to know about it. Not even in the sense of punishing/sanctioning employees, necessarily, but because it’s still my concern as a manager if there is a gender divide on my staff. Maybe a group dynamic where some employees get to go out and play and others don’t is not one I want to foster.

                Even if it does not rise to the level of all-out workplace discrimination in a legal sense, it’s still extremely poor management to even give your employees the impression — even a one-time impression — that such discrimination is a distinct possibility.

                A variation on this actually used to happen at one of my previous workplaces: white male manager used to take a group of young white female subordinates out to lunch. He’d blow right past the cubicles of black female subordinates to pester the white ones about “Hey, a bunch of us are going to lunch. We missed you at lunch last week. You coming to lunch today?” Or, in another case, a black woman who retired after decades at the company got a brief bit of cake in the afternoon as her send-off… but a young white woman who had been there only a year (and happened to be one of Manager’s favorites) got a full-on goodbye lunch at a nice restaurant when she left for another job.

                That manager was never sanctioned by HR, mostly because it just wasn’t severe enough to be the hill anybody wanted to die on. But it still had a quietly corrosive effect on our workplace. The thing managers don’t realize is, just because you aren’t getting officially sanctioned by HR doesn’t mean you aren’t still going to pay a price for your biased behavior. In Manager’s case, he could not figure out why half his staff hated him (including some of the white women who had picked up on what was going on), why morale had plummeted through the floor, and why his social invitations were increasingly met with only the most grudging acceptance.

                Knowing the manager’s personality, if we had ever brought up to him directly “Hey… are you aware that you give the appearance of favoring pretty young white girls over some of your hardest-working employees who happen to be black?”, I’m pretty sure he would have gotten INCREDIBLY defensive and gone straight to “But I’m not a racist/I have black friends/[white employees X and Y] are just more friendly and social than [black employees A and B].” But the thing is, acknowledging and responding to those criticisms would have improved his management significantly.

                So I think the OP is right to note this situation, even if it’s a one-off and even if it wasn’t done maliciously.

                1. AnonForThis*

                  My organization is currently undergoing some deep, intentional reflection on our culture – particularly as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

                  One of the questions we’re looking at (at an individual level) is: Who (on staff) are the people you call to talk through problems? Who do you hang out with after work? Who do you trust? … and what does it mean that those are your people? How did they come to be your people?

                  Race and gender are a big part of that. My “inner circle” of advisors (not the formal management structure, but the people I think of first when I need help solving a problem or want to pull together a team to try something new) are all white women like me. I think it’s worth reflecting on and challenging myself to see what’s driving that. I’m quite sure that I would benefit from having a more intentional group of people that I turn to – not just the people with whom I most quickly “clicked” or am most comfortable with.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  One way to bring up problems to willfully clueless people like this is to do so in a way that suggests you’re on their side, but other people might just not understand. “Hey, *I* know you’re not racist, but when you just invite the young white girls out to lunch, a lot of people are going to assume that means you don’t want to hang with the black employees. You may want to put in a little extra effort there so nobody misinterprets you.”

              4. FiveNine*

                You really seem to be missing a couple important points here, one being that this was on work time — it wasn’t after work hours. Another is that there is a very definite professional hierarchy at work here, with the boss/owner being involved. And that he took all the men to get drunk and left all the women to keep working.

            2. Joey*

              Hmm. If golf is a problem then would Nascar, hockey, skiing, swimming, volleyball, and all other sports with few minorities be problematic also?

              Does this mean we have to screen sports for inclusiveness before we use them for social gatherings with co workers? If that’s the case then you’d also have to exclude football, basketball, baseball and just about every sport(since most big sports are dominated by males), wouldn’t you?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                No, but it means you look at the effect the activities are having on the workplace. Do they tend to result, in your particular workplace, in activities that exclude a traditionally marginalized group? Then you rethink your approach.

              2. Artemesia*

                Oh come on. going to a football, basketball, baseball etc game does not require having developed skills in a country club sport and owning expensive equipment. I doubt if anyone is inviting people to play football so its gender inclusiveness is irrelevant.

                What a tin ear to think that these kinds of exclusions like the one the OP describes where boss takes the boys to get drunk during work hours leaving the uninvited girls behind to do the work is perfectly fine.

                The level of equality women have in some workplaces now is because women pushed back on this sort of thing. And as we see by some of the recent state legislative pushes to reintroduce discrimination, they are not necessarily finished battles.

                When I entered the workforce it was LEGAL to pay women less, to advertise ‘jobs for men’ and ‘jobs for women’ and guess which ones paid much less and it was legal of university graduate programs to openly reject women for being women. I didn’t go to law school, but chose grad school instead, but was admitted to a law school where the average LSAT for men was a couple hundred points below what was expected for women. If I had attended, I would have been one of 5 women in that class.

                My husband is a lawyer and in his class there were about 10% women and they had 50% of the law review appointments because although a tiny minority of the class members, they achieved at the top (law review is automatic by grade ranking).

                Open, matter of fact discrimination in the workplace was the norm not that long ago. Covert discrimination like not seeing women as leadership material or not including them in social events is still rather common.

                1. Joey*

                  I’m not talking about clearly problematic behavior like strip clubs. I’m not sure I’m getting your point, but where I’m at going to a football or baseball game would generate far more interest from males.

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  And discrimination is still the norm in many areas, it’s just not as open. In our newspaper yesterday I read an article about how going to college affects your income potential. It pointed out the income discrepancy between college and non-college graduates, of both genders, for right after graduating and again several years after that. One of the final conclusions was that one of the best ways to increase your income potential was to be born male. And that’s now, in the US.

                3. Emily K*

                  The football part might generate more interest from males, but the women might still like to come along for the food, drinks, camaraderie, and free time off work. Not being particularly interested in football doesn’t mean you never or couldn’t attend a football game. I don’t care in the slightest about football, but I regularly attended my college’s games because it was a social event where loads of my friends went to tailgate and have fun and feel a sense of connectedness with each other as part of our school’s community.

                4. Elizabeth*

                  @Joey, since we’re out of reply room…

                  You might want to check your assumptions about who watches organized sports, at least in the US. The NFL is specifically marketing to women, as they are watching professional football at a rate twice that of men in the last 5 years. Likewise, the NBA has started advertising campaigns directed at women, to get them to games, because currently they make up about 52% of the viewing audience for televised games but less than 20% of the at-the-court crowd. Women are also more likely to buy branded merchandise for the teams they cheer for than men, so they are driving the sales of jerseys, hats, etc.

                  The problem is that we still think that watching sports is a guy thing, even when the statistics say that it is fast becoming an activity that women participate it at much higher rates and spend money to do.

                  That societal assumption about participation is one of the reasons the unthinking, casual “hey guys, let’s go hit the bar and watch the hockey game” invitation from the boss while their female counterparts are left at work happens. It’s wrong on every level, and it undermines the women who aren’t included.

              3. Heather*

                If the competition considered to be a pinnacle of achievement in Nascar, hockey, skiing, swimming, volleyball, etc. was held at a private club that refused to admit women, then yes, those sports would be a problem.

                1. Joey*

                  Are you talking about Augusta National? A club that even if you are male you still have next to no chance to join. The only thing they do better than anyone is market their product. Besides they’re no longer all male membership anymore.

          2. Anoymous for Snark*

            That would not be right, either, and is also a way in which minorities are subtly discriminated against and have less access to the sort of social interactions that can end up mattering IN A HUGE WAY in their professional lives.

              1. Poe*

                YES! Watched the gold medal game in the UK with a group that included many, many, MANY vocal Canadian women (including myself). I can’t imagine watching hockey with work colleagues, just based on how much I yell…

          3. De*

            But from the letter I am getting the impression that they weren’t even invited. Assuming women aren’t interested in hockey is also pretty sexist on the men’s part.

            1. Chinook*

              For those who think I was assuming women don’t like hockey, that is not what I intended (since I know many who do). But, the demographics of who stayed behind was interesting – it was all women and new Canadians. Did some in that group go down to watch to? Yes but no Canadian born male stayed to work either.

              Was it wrong for OP’s coworkers to think she wasn’t interested? Only if she never expressed disinterest (for example, you couldn’t pay my mother or sister to go to a game) which she may have done inadvertently by calling the US/Canada game (women’s or men’s) just “some game.” For those who are fans, it was so much more than that.

      5. Joey*

        I’m curious. Do you have a problem with the actual activities or just that women aren’t invited. For instance do you have a problem with things like all office golf or fantasy football stuff because those are activities that usually interest men more. Or is it only when women aren’t invited?

        1. BCW*

          Thats a great question. Especially with the fantasy football. At my last job, we only had one woman who was ever interested in fantasy football. The problem was she was that person (every league has one) who just let her team go after the halfway point, which kind of screwed up the league. So we knew the other women weren’t interested, and no one wanted her in the league (based on past behavior). Would that have been considered exclusionary?

          1. Forrest*

            I mean, you’re trying to purposefully exclude a woman based on her prior history. So by its very definition, you are trying to exclude someone.

            Its different though because you’re not trying to exclude based on her gender and you asked the other women before.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t have an inherent problem with those activities, but certainly if it was an office where women weren’t getting equal access to and visibility in informal networking opportunities, I’d that point out and suggest that group activities be given more thought. (Not only for the women’s sake, but because I think it benefits the company to ensure that it’s diverse at every level, and part of doing that is caring about stuff like this.)

          What’s your take?

          1. Joey*

            Well but if they don’t want to participate in those things is t that on them? I’ve had this discussion with female colleagues who complain about golf outings. And what it all comes down to is they don’t play golf and they’re not interested in playing golf, yet they’re upset that they’re not included. And what’s interesting is that the boss will play golf with anyone and plays with females. What’s interesting though is that I worked for a female exec who was a runner and guess who was there running with her most of the time- the males. Mostly the women didn’t participate, but interestingly didn’t complain either. Which makes me wonder if women would complain when a female wants to play golf.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, but it’s in the company’s best interest to ensure that women are being afforded the same opportunities and visibility than men (because they will benefit from diverse leadership voices and from being able to attract highly qualified women, which diverse leadership ranks help with), so it’s not exclusively on the women to resolve.

              1. Joey*

                That’s true, but I don’t see many execs or bosses wanting to take up new hobbies or social activities just because their reports don’t want to participate. I think you have to conform to the boss, not expect the boss to conform to you.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that’s one of those rules that comes with asterisks. Yes, you should conform to the boss, and I don’t see “I don’t like golf” as an excuse (though I certainly understand the sentiment). But also, the boss should be aware that whatever patterns he encourages can be discriminatory in ways that are morally and even legally problematic. Even if the marathons aren’t mandatory, if you can only get ahead by, say, running a marathon with the boss, or if there’s a pattern of people advancing disproportionately if they run the marathon, it’d better be an organization too small for civil rights law to apply.

                2. Joey*

                  Are you suggesting discrimination because more females don’t want to hang out with the boss doing a sport that both sexes can and do participate in? That sounds like a pretty tough conclusion for the EEOC or a court to draw. Correlation doesn’t imply causation.

            2. neverjaunty*

              How would you feel if you had a female boss who routinely got the office together for group manicures or shoe-shopping expeditions? I mean sure, the male employees aren’t forbidden from attending, but those things like would appeal to the men in the office more – and I bet you’d have something to say if the boss rolled her eyes and asked what’s WRONG with you dudes for not wanting a nice mani-pedi.

              1. Joey*

                Actually, my old male boss from my hotel days was into mani’s. And although I had never had one at that point I tried it a few times. Granted we never did group manis, but I certainly would have been game for it even if my boss was female. Same thing with tea. I was never into tea at that point, but I went with him plenty of times for tea because the face time and the benefits of the relationship building were far more important to me than the activity. Same with golf initially-I didn’t take up golf until I saw first hand that I was missing out professionally.

          2. Prickly Pear*

            I’m thinking about the manager that wanted her team building activities to be extreme sport based, excluding anyone unable or unwilling to do quite that much exercise.
            If you’re planning anything, I think the question should be “Does this leave anyone out?” Not that people can’t self-select out, but at least it’s open for all.

        3. R*

          I’m not Alison, but I’ll take a stab at this, if only to flesh it out more in my mind.

          – If women aren’t able to participate (such as the men-only sauna example that came up here a while back), that’s 100% not okay.
          – If only women are not invited, but all men are, that’s also not okay.
          – If “everyone welcome” activities end up being entirely one-gender, then I think the company has a responsibility to consider alternative activities that would create a more equal balance. For example, if the company continues to hold wrestling Thursdays where only men attend, then I think this moves into the “not okay” territory. But if the company hosts one foosball tournament, and it winds up being men-only, then that doesn’t strike me as “not okay.” It’s only when the company doesn’t take steps to be more inclusive that it moves to the “not okay” territory for me.

          Another quick point– I work in a predominantly female industry, and if our company regularly held activities that excluded men, that would very much bother me as well.

          1. Sunflower*

            I agree with this but also say it doesn’t only fall on company shoulders to find activities more inclusive of women. Women need to do their part in expressing activities they want to be a part of.

            1. neverjaunty*

              There has to be an atmosphere where it’s OK for them to do so, rather than being labeled whiny, demanding or ruining the guys’ fun.

    7. Colette*

      #1 – I’d find the cake weirder if it were brought in from someone who has no personal connection to the Ukraine. A coworker bringing in a cake to commemorate a political event that directly affects her homeland/family/etc. is much more appropriate than someone without those connections doing so.

    8. Ed*

      To me, this isn’t a big deal as an isolated incident but I would be concerned if this was a pattern. Right or wrong, careers are sometimes made as a result of these non-work outings. I can say for a fact that my career has benefited by out of work social activities. I’ve seen guys who were awful at their jobs but good at playing sports so were successful because that’s what impressed the manager.

      A group of us often travel to remote branches for a few days to upgrade or replace tech-related gear. Whenever it’s a “fun” city like Chicago or Vegas, some of the managers invite themselves along. This happened recently and when a senior female team member complained that she never goes on these trips and was them added, the managers all dropped out. This kind of stuff happens all the time but the females involved probably rarely even know it.

    9. Sunflower*

      #1- Yes this exactly(assuming the office is not in the Ukraine). I don’t think anyone in the office was involved enough in the situation and they probably didn’t think anything and just ate the cake because, hey, free cake. You can’t compare it to an election because an election is something that happens on a person’s own soil, directly affects their lives and is something they have a say in.

    10. Felicia*

      If it had been a Friday night it would have bothered me far less…if the boss had organized it it might be worse and affect the workplace more.

      But I thought the worst part was they were getting drunk during the work day, and not working when they were supposed to be. If they get to blow off work, then everyone should have the opportunity to blow off work . I know s ome places that actually opened later because of the hockey games, and bars opened and started serving alcohol at 7 am – but in this case, everyone had the opportunity to come watch the game, or stay home if they weren’t interested.

    11. Dip-lo-mat*

      The Korean high court decided that the chaebols (think Samsung, LG, Hyundai, etc.) and other companies were systematically discriminating against women because Korean work culture demanded that employees drink late into the night with their bosses. The women were at a constant disadvantage because of their physical ability to consume that much alcohol, the social stigma associated with a woman’s regular heavy consumption, and responsibilities toward children. As such, large corporations have taken active steps to create networking and social opportunities during work hours and that don’t involve alcohol.

      I would say this is an EEO issue if it continues and it is an EEO issue if there was an obvious work benefit stemming from that single outing (e.g.–Tom and Boss discussed a new challenging project on this outing, Boss agrees to give it to Tom, no women were around to even compete for it). It’s really not defensible. If a female CEO took out all the women for something “girly,” say pedicures, regularly, it would not be unreasonable for a man to assume he is being left out based on his gender that might impact his work environment or assignments.

  7. Anon*

    Oh wow… As I finished #2 and before I read Alison’s response I said out loud: “What the hell?!” and then I saw Alison’s response and bursed into giggles.

    1. Anon E Mouse*

      Same here. I was wondering if Allison could add a “What the Hell?!” tag for categorizing. :)

  8. samantha*

    #3 to add to the answer: any exclusive single sex event no matter the event at work is morally wrong: from a boys only evening to a “woman at work” event

    1. PEBCAK*

      No. They are not the same thing. Any group that has been historically marginalized in the workplace (e.g. women, people of color) should be free to create events at which that group’s voices are heard and validated.

      In some cases, it makes sense to open this type of event to everyone, but in other cases, it is not just reasonable, but morally necessary, to allow such a group their own space.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I’m going to disagree with this slightly.

        The gender breakdown in my division is 75% female, 25% male and I would object to anything that excluded the men.

        I agree with the overall premise but I think execution has to be applied situationally. Male does not always equal privilege situationally, especially when you factor in men of color in a predominantly white environment or gay men in a predominantly hetero environment.

        Fortunately, inclusiveness isn’t an issue for us.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Which, re-reading your post, is likely what you meant by “some cases”.

          In which case, we agree. :)

      2. BCW*

        I think it really is about the workplace makeup more than history. I taught at an elementary school for years. It was probably 80% women there. At times, yes all the guys went out. I don’t think that we were being discriminatory or sexist or anything.

        If it was an organization that focused on Gay Youth, and there were 3 heterosexual people there, and they went out now and then as a group, would you say that is discriminatory?

        1. Anonymous*

          Are owners/management involved, as OP suspects they were in the scenario raised in the letter? If not then you’re really not raising equivalent scenarios.

          1. BCW*

            Well, in my teaching example, on occasion we would invite my male principal. He showed up once or twice. He wasn’t planning it, but he may have shown up. And I don’t think that was wrong of him (although others may).

            1. TL*

              Showing up once or twice and not planning it – I wouldn’t see it as a huge deal.

              Planning it or showing up every time? Different story.

        2. TL*

          There are also places – and I don’t think this is highly unusual – where the majority of people are female but the men are still more likely to be in positions of power. It’s not always about the numbers.

      3. Bwmn*

        The exact fact that there are scenarios like the OP’s letter is why historically marginalized groups need spaces for their voices to be heard and validated. In addition to whether this is a pattern or a one time event, we also don’t know how long the OP has been at the office. Maybe this is the first time the OP has seen this happening – but perhaps someone who’s been there longer knows that this is a long term pattern. Or that the OP has only seen one or two instances, and then other female coworkers have seen others and that forms a more pervasive and problematic picture. Maybe when the OP was on vacation/out sick another similar situation happened, but female coworkers dismiss it or figure “it’s only once” or “it was an activity I wouldn’t have wanted to do anyways”.

        Obviously not all sectors and places of employment are structured the same and historically marginalized groups may not necessarily have those needs. But it’s definitely worth raising red flags.

      4. samantha*

        Nope. This just exasperates their difference.

        Any “use of gender” is discrimination..

        Such programs fail the two tests of gender discrimination:

        1) the swap test: if you swapped the genders would it be discrimatory?
        2) the blindness test: if you didn’t know anyone’s gender would it be possible to run the program?

        1. fposte*

          I’m not seeing where those are codified as the tests that define discrimination, though. Are you getting that somewhere specific?

          I actually don’t think it’s as simple as this anyway–the problem is, as has been noted above, that gender and race has conferred advantages on some people in American culture, and that merely ceasing to confer advantage on those people doesn’t necessarily mean the playing field is suddenly level. As a colleague puts it, it’s like saying that we recognize the poker game has been rigged, but letting those who benefited from the cheats still keep their money.

  9. Jessy*

    2- I would not change the way you are or what you like wearing. I cant believe that this would make any one feel uncomfortable. You really should go higher and contact the highest person in the company you can and explain about the discrimination and how it made you feel specially that it is illegal . As a recent graduate I know how hard it is to find work but you deserve to work for a company that respects you fully.

    1. Windchime*

      I’m just shocked at letter #2. What’s next? “Please don’t smile at your next interview; your dentures made the manager uncomfortable.” “Please wear contacts to your next interview; your glasses make us uncomfortable.”

      I am dumbfounded at the idea of a prosthetic limb making people uncomfortable, and even more dumbfounded at it being any kind of an issue at all in the workplace. OP#2, wear what you want. People’s feelings about your prosthetic are their own issue.

  10. Ali*

    #5 sounds like they have read too much bad job advice. I have definitely seen the piece that says companies will create a job for you. Might have been in What Color is Your Parachute or one of those other gimmicky job hunting books, but that was the first thing I thought of.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yeah I don’t know who this person was who started telling everyone ‘oh they will just create a job if they like you’ . Yes because budgets are not important and don’t need to be followed or anything!

      I can see the job creation if you are very well into your career or have a very special Liam Neeson type skill that no one else has but for most people it just isn’t going to happen, especially in this economy

      1. Artemesia*

        Exactly. Jobs get created for rainmakers and for daughters of the CEO, but young people just out of college are unlikely to be successful in getting an organization to blow their budget on creating a new position.

  11. Katie the Fed*

    I think it’s really kind of cool that a Ukrainian employee wanted to celebrate the event with his coworkers. Look at it as an opportunity to learn.

    I vividly remember the kickoff of the Arab Spring when we were all gathered around TVs watching events in Tunis and Tahrir Square in Cairo, biting our nails and cheering with the protestors. Enjoy these great moments of history.

    1. MousyNon*

      Yeah, I agree. I’m definitely in the minority (at least in the US) in that I loooove talking politics whenever and with whoever will chat with me about it, so I’d consider it an opportunity to learn more about it (provided he welcomes the questions, which given his celebrating I would think he would), since I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the underlying politics.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t like political discussions at work. I totally get what you’re saying and they can be very interesting in a social situation for me…but I’m uncomfortable with how polarizing they can be at work and I’ve seen significant differences affect how people work together.

        Very few political issues are so black and white as to be non controversial. There is too much potential for fallout imo.

        1. De Minimis*

          At my workplace, we also have tribal politics and that complicates things even further, since in many cases it involves relatives of employees and other close relationships.
          And we have multiple tribes in our state so there’s even more potential for issues, but people usually seem really good about not bringing it into work.

        2. Windchime*

          I generally agree with you; however, I have a colleague from Turkey and getting his viewpoint on the happenings that are going on in his home country are fascinating. But American politics? Forget it. Nothing is more polarizing and it can quickly degenerate into bad feelings and animosity.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          I think there’s a big difference here between domestic politics and international ones. Talking domestic politics is a no go here, especially in DC where it’s always heated anyway. But international politics – yes! Let’s talk about it all the time! We love that stuff!

          1. Jamie*

            Maybe it’s because I work with a lot of immigrants and many first generation American’s – but I don’t see that as much safer.

            People have family all over the world and when they are in precarious political situations I would imagine it would be difficult to deal with a bunch of people who may or may not be informed discussing it as if it’s an abstract concept.

            Distance matters – and geographical distance doesn’t mean it’s a not an acutely personal issue. Time matters as well.

            I love history – I love discussions about the political climate of different eras. I had a grandfather die as a Civil War solider. I can discuss this history surrounding that all day long, because time gives distance too. I didn’t know him and I don’t take credit or blame for anything my ancestors did – I own my actions only.

            So when they do a history special and show the POW camp he died in I’m fascinated because it’s history made a little more personal by the fact that I was glad he had children before signing up or I wouldn’t be here. But learning what it was like for the men there and the families left behind – I can read about that stuff all day long.

            If my brother was in a war torn country or place where I worried for his safety and that of his family? That could be on the moon and it’s still close, it’s still personal, and I wouldn’t want to hear people unaffected by it with limited knowledge espousing opinions and judgements about that which they don’t fully understand.

            I know it’s different when everyone is informed and respectful, but I’ve honestly never heard a political discussion of anything in any work place that wasn’t filled with value judgements and nasty comments about the other side.

            But if my

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, if your workplace contains people who relate to different sides of a foreign conflict–which is pretty common for places like the Middle East–a celebration for one side is going to be poorly received by the other.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I agree. Working with people from different cultures and/or who practice different religions is always so interesting.

      I once worked with a Muslim guy who was from Syria but had lived in the US all his life. I grew up in the Middle East, so we talked about that quite a bit. Our desks were right across from each other. One day while I was eating lunch, he said something in passing about it being Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day. I told him I felt bad for hoovering my lunch right in front of him, and that it was probably kind of insensitive of me to do that. He said no, that it didn’t bother him, because it was something he was choosing to do and did not expect anyone else to go out of their way for him.

      What was really interesting is that I told him that when I lived in the Middle East, during Ramadan, we would hear people outside laughing and talking, and hear kids outside playing until very late in the evening. And he said that it annoyed him when Muslims treat Ramadan that way, because it’s supposed to be a personal test of endurance, a time to recommit to your faith, reflect on things, and so on. So you’re supposed to just eat enough to get you through the next day, not gorge yourself every evening after sunset. I had never heard it explained that way, and it was very interesting.

  12. Elysian*

    #1 – I agree with AAM about this particular situation, but I find the OP’s hypothetical questions more interesting. What about an “election win cake” (unless your boss is the candidate)? How would we, the masses at AAM, feel about an election win cake in a workplace that isn’t necessarily political? What if your office probably agrees with your election win cake stance (for example, there probably aren’t a lot of Democrats at the National Rifle Association headquarters) but there’s no guarantee? When are political celebrations appropriate in the workplace, generally?

    1. Del*

      It’s a good point.

      My office is overwhelmingly Democrat, including me, but I still felt kind of odd when people were having loud (ie multiple cubicles apart) political conversations in the office. I agreed with the content, but it felt disruptive to have it dragged out like that and made very public.

      I’m firmly in the “no politics, no religion, etc” camp when it comes to work conversations.

      1. Elysian*

        I agree with the no politics, no religion line of thinking. I guess I find myself running into trouble because I work in a field that is traditionally friendly to Party A, and I agree with opposing Party B on a lot of things. It just so happens I disagree with Party B when it comes to the thing that I work on. (People and politics are complex! Ideas don’t have to be party line!) It’s frequently assumed that I hate Party B and align with Party A, and people will bad-mouth Party B and its members to me and I’m left there holding my tongue. It’s not as bad in my current office, but the last one I was in had some people who were super political, and I felt like I always felt like I was a liar for nodding at them when they talked politics. At work I was not “out” as a Party B supporter, because I just feel like it shouldn’t matter. But sometimes it was just frustrating.

        1. MousyNon*

          I would absolutely welcome a conversation with you if you disagreed with me, and would see it as an opportunity to learn!

          Again, with the caveat I made above that I love talking about politics which obviously colors my perspective, I really wish the no politics-talk thing wasn’t so pervasive in the US. No politics-talk at work, it’s rude! No politics-talk at the dinner table, it’s rude! Basically the only time it’s ‘ok’ to talk about politics is when I’m with a group of (typically likeminded, which I don’t think is ideal, since how can we learn if we all agree) friends, and even in those cases 70% of the time there’s that one person who insists that they find politics-talk rude and/or boring and can we puhleeease change the subject, so basically I just can’t discuss politics at all.

          I think the US has a pretty big problem with low-information voters, and I know there’s always discussion about class and poverty and rural-vs-urban and north-vs-south to explain these patterns, but honestly, in my gut, I think it’s our cultural politics-talk taboo. When only the media is ‘allowed’ to talk about politics, how in the world can we ever find compromise for our differences and come together as a country?

          Whew, sorry, this is an issue I’m passionate about. This is all to say, maybe think about jumping in to disagree one day and explain your reasons why, spark the conversation!

          1. Kate*

            I also love politics. Talking, reading, watching, volunteering just everything about it is fascinating to me. I’ve been lucky and in one job everyone was the same party and we had great conversations and in my other job there was one guy who was very well informed and from the other party. We had great respectful conversations. He was also very religious and was very open to answering my questions. We never argued but I like going to him with questions to “learn the other side”.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I love having someone who is a friend who disagrees with me and who is safe to talk to. Because just of that “learn the other side” aspect! It’s easy to find people who disagree, it’s not so easy to find someone who is safe to talk to — they are valuable.

          2. Jamie*

            Too many people are so sure their POV is right that their discussions lead to why people who feel differently are stupid, misinformed, insert much harsher pejoratives here.

            Respectful conversations between people who understand that however passionately you may feel about something that reasonable people can disagree (on most things) and that doesn’t make them morons, evil, or traitors are great…but ime that’s not what happens a lot of the time. And people take this stuff personally and I’ve seen people who worked well together and had a very good professional relationship strain their relationship to the point where the stress was palpable over differences of opinions in politics and religion.

            Assuming everyone will be reasonable and civil is optimizing for best case scenario and real life usually falls pretty far short of best case anything.

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      If one works for the NRA, or OFA, or any sort of political lobbying group, it would probably be quite acceptable to celebrate political victories since that is what the organization is trying to achieve. However, if a government contractor held a celebration for one party’s victory, the other party might not be so inclined to give them other contracts. That doesn’t mean companies don’t get politically involved, though. They just try to play both sides.

      1. De Minimis*

        Probably doesn’t apply to contractors, but federal government employees aren’t allowed to express any political opinions at all while on the job. Not saying it doesn’t happen on a casual basis, but technically, it’s a violation of the Hatch Act.

        I’d be curious though to know if/how that applied to situations like #1.

        1. Xay*

          Federal contractors aren’t allowed to express political opinions on the job either, but don’t have as strict overall restrictions as federal employees.

            1. De Minimis*

              Hmmm, not sure about that. I know people do so in casual conversation, but it seems like the law has a really narrow definition of “political activity.”

              1. Katie the Fed*

                No, it doesn’t. I posted the link below. I fall under the “more restricted” category, and we can absolutely talk about opinions of candidates and issues at work. But really, who would want to. In DC – meh.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          That is absolutely, 100%, false.

          Even the most restricted employees under the Hatch Act may express opinions about candidates and issues at work.

          Here, you can read more about the Hatch Act and what it actually covers:

          And it wouldn’t apply at all on international developments since that’s not considered partisan political activity.

          1. De Minimis*

            I checked that and it still seems pretty strict to me about not allowing it on the job. Check the section for permitted activities for less restricted employees…the last line states that you ” may express opinions about candidates and issues. If the expression is political activity, however – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – then the expression is not permitted while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle. ”

            Seems like it is very, very narrow on what is allowed, I know I was told at my work that I could not run for office even in a non-partisan election [not that I wanted to.]

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Right, but that’s specifically things like posting on a pro-candidate blog from work, wearing a candidate button, things like that. It’s fine to say “I support Ron Paul!” but it’s another to say “you should go vote for Ron Paul” or to put “Vote for Ron Paul!” in your signature block. We’ve had lots of totally interesting political discussions that are will within the bounds of the Hatch Act, and I know that dang thing very well because of my job duties.

              1. De Minimis*

                I see what you mean…so just saying that you personally support a candidate is not considered political activity, but asking others to do the same is.

                It seems like the guidance they give is not what seems to actually happen, though…the site says people may run for non-partisan office, but there was a case where a guy ran for mayor and wound up having to be suspended from his federal job…and he even checked beforehand to see if there would be any Hatch Act issues. Not to mention, he also lost. But it sounds like the rules are pretty vague on that and it is easy to slip up.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  Well there are two categories – less restricted and further restricted. The further restricted are people like intelligence and law enforcement – they’re more restricted on whether they can run for offices and things. So it might be that difference. We have to refresh on it every few years.

                2. De Minimis*

                  Could not respond to your thread below…

                  I think what also that apparently things can happen during an election that can turn it into a partisan election for Hatch Act purposes–when that happens, you of course have to withdraw.

                3. De Minimis*

                  Whoa, that made no sense.

                  Basically, yes, he might have been further restricted, but apparently also the nature of an election can change while it’s going on, and things can happen that can make a non-partisan race into a partisan race for Hatch purposes.

                  This is a pretty interesting subject, now I’m looking at all these cases.

                4. De Minimis*

                  And that’s what happened…an FAA employee ran for mayor, it was a non-partisan race, but he affiliated very strongly with a political party in his campaigning, and that violated the Act.
                  So he could have ran and been okay had he not done that.

                  Could have been fired, ended up with a lengthy suspension instead.

      2. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I must admit, if there’s cake in the break room my sweet tooth may supersede my personal views.

    3. cecilhungry*

      I don’t know about an “election win” cake, but at my last job we had an “election DAY” cake. Have some cake! Go vote, for whoever you want to vote for! Just vote!

      1. hilde*

        I like this idea most. I wouldn’t want to have a post-election day cake because there are just too many emotions involved in politics it seems. But a cake on the day you’re supposed to vote? Yes – VOTE!

      2. Anne*

        That’s a great idea.

        I’m not in favor of an election win cake, but a cake on election day to make a bit of a deal of it and encourage people to vote sounds fantastic.

      3. TychaBrahe*

        Plus, it’s the end of political campaign commercials for quite a while. That’s worth celebrating.

    4. Jen RO*

      I think it would be out of line. I also think it would be out of line if the event in the letter happened *in* Ukraine – the odds of having someone pro-Russian in the office would be high and so would the odds of offending that person.

      In the US, the odds of anyone else except Ukraine-born employee having a personal connection to the situation are slim, and the coworkers could just celebrate the fact that Ukrainian employees is happy.

    5. Jamie*

      What if your office probably agrees with your election win cake stance

      If you work for a candidate or political org where that’s an inherent part of the job, then of course that would be fine. Like celebrating any other work victory.

      But there is no way to know if everyone in any office, however small, is on the same page. Not everyone talks about it and even if it I voted for the guy on the cake and was thrilled about the outcome, that’s not something I feel is appropriate to discuss at work.

      Of course I’m not talking about personal discussions between friends with whom we happen to work, that’s fine…but just as a topic of conversation in the work place it’s not appropriate, imo.

      1. Anne*

        >Not everyone talks about it and even if it I voted for the guy on the cake and was thrilled about the outcome, that’s not something I feel is appropriate to discuss at work.

        This exactly. Yes, with co-workers who I work very closely I might tactfully state my views on current events if they come up in “did you see the news today” type of small talk, but beyond that? It’s just a recipe for bad feelings, really.

    6. Observer*

      It depends. If the cake came along with cheerleading that I had to endure, then that’s one thing, and I would have a problem with it. Otherwise, no big deal. Yes, even if it were the candidate that I did NOT vote for.

    7. Bwmn*

      I would think that an “election cake” for a specific politician would always be a bit dicey – even if you worked at a place like the NRA or Planned Parenthood where broader assumptions could probably be made. However, particularly in the nonprofit sector, I think that an “election cake” regarding issues would be easier to celebrate. Depending on the nature of your organization – it might be really easy to celebrate the rise of the minimum wage, but celebrating a specific politician who favors raising the minimum wage could still be problematic.

    8. Sadsack*

      I would eat the cake happily knowing that at least all the election coverage and political ads are now over with. That is what I would be celebrating no matter who won.

    9. OP#1*

      OP1 here – Always appreciate the respectful discussion of the AAM community.

      Like Elysian, I was most struck by the potential of similar situations that could arise. We are in a culturally diverse city, so it’s not unusual for international politics to be controversial when discussed and very personal to at least some in the office. Unfortunately, it does tend to lead to tension on issues that may seem worlds away to some.

  13. anon-2*

    #1 – the Ukrainian situation may have made the “celebratrix” happy, but considering it was an incident that took the lives of a number of people, such a “party” was completely inappropriate.

    Contrast this “celebration” against one, where, for instance, the local baseball team wins the World Series.

    #2 – unspeakable.

    #3 – if you scheduled a “girls’ lunch out” and didn’t invite the men, do you think they’d have the same concerns you have? Or, wait, “oh that’s different, though.”

    1. Del*

      Yes, as a matter of fact, reinforcing historical power differences versus organizing against them are two different things. Fancy that!

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Depends on who’s in power at the time. A female manager who provides certain opportunities only to her female employees may be guilty of unlawful discrimination regardless of what obstacles women have traditionally encountered.
        In OP#3’s case, it sounds like the guys decided to head out and let the ladies hold the fort – making no effort to invite them. That’s no bueno, especially since it was on work time.

      2. some1*

        Seriously. These are the same people that whine that Curves is sexist, or that you college doesn’t have Men’s Studies or that we don’t have a White History Month — really, people?

      3. Jamie*

        Yes, as a matter of fact, reinforcing historical power differences versus organizing against them are two different things. Fancy that!

        If I go to lunch on occasion with a couple of work friends who happen to be women, because we really like the chicken dumpling soup at this one place and we all finally have lunch free isn’t organizing against anything.

        Or if we go for drinks after work to talk about wedding plans because we’re interested and don’t have time to hear all about centerpieces at work …that’s not making a statement. It’s just people who like each other and have things in common hanging out and talking off the clock.

        Just as I wouldn’t think of asking some men to either of those events just to even things out (it’s not a seated dinner) I don’t care that some of the guys play pick up basketball after work…as long as they don’t make me go and be bored to death it doesn’t matter.

        I understand the history and I’m not in favor of boys clubs, restricted events, or systemic shunning…but sometimes in groups which form organically everyone is of the same gender.

        When each of my kids went to prom I texted pics to my female boss and two of my female friends from work because I knew they’d be interested because they reminded me to be sure to send them pics of the kids all dressed up. Heck, when I was helping one pick out the tux I had them all on high alert group text to get a vote on the vest/tie color combo. I’ve done similar for them…it’s fun.

        I work with a lot of great guys with whom I have wonderful professional relationships and not a one of them would have wanted to be added to those text messages. But if I had a male friend who would have I would have included him – sometimes things just fall into more homogenized groups than other times and if it’s not work related I don’t see an issue.

    2. Sunflower*

      1. Are people scheduling ‘girls lunch out’ and saying ‘no guys allowed’ in your office? If they are, that’s a problem you need to look into.

      2. Are these girls lunches ending in all of them being drunk and not returning to work the rest of the day? Because then I’d be really pissed if I was you.

      1. Heather*

        Yeah, this (especially #2 – since we don’t know that anyone in the OP’s situation specifically said “no girls allowed”. It may or may not have been a coincidence). Whether it’s wedding talk or watching hockey, I’d be pretty annoyed if a group of people got a free 1/2 day and others didn’t.

      2. Joey*

        Well no one ever usually says “no females/males allowed.” It a more like what Jamie said- you assume who will be interested and who won’t. Sometimes people only invite a certain gender, but it usually doesn’t mean they’re opposed to the other joining in. It’s usually assumed.

    3. Jen RO*

      #1 – I don’t really see it that way. Weren’t people celebrating when they won WWII? Despite the fact that millions of people died. (Of course, Maidan is not WWII, but people died in both instances.) I’m sure that, for an Ukrainian who has been wishing for decades for his/her country to get closer to the EU and further away from “Mother Russia”, the outcome of these events is really a reason to celebrate.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes, you can be genuinely joyful and celebratory about the end of a horrible conflict and at the same time aching and mournful over the loss of life.

        My dad was older when he had me, so he was actually a US Marine in WWII (despite having been born in Germany.) My German born grandparents were politically 100% pro allies – they felt lucky that they left for America before the rise of that regime.

        The end of the war brought tremendous joy and relief – once they heard from my dad and knew he was okay and coming home it’s said my Grandma took her first real breath since the day he enlisted. But there was also deep mourning. Not because an evil political empire had been toppled – they wanted Germany free from that – but because they had close family still there who died, and those that were left had lives that were broken.

        Just like my father would talk about the huge celebrations and the drinking because the war was over. But he was in Okinawa which was the bloodiest battle of the south pacific (perhaps the war, I’m not sure) and the losses of his friends and the atrocities he witnessed stayed with him for the rest of his life.

        He never talked about it much, we’re a stoic people, but when he was sick at the end of his life he did. Those buddies long dead were still with him. Survivor’s guilt is a real thing.

        So sure, I think it’s human nature that you can be rejoicing that a horrible thing is over while your heart is still breaking that it happened to begin with. Emotions can be so complex and personal – which is why it’s not always a good idea to talk about this stuff at work where we may not have the time or personal relationships to go into the nuances and it’s easy to be misinterpreted as crass or one dimensional when all the conversations are brief sound bytes.

        1. the gold digger*

          In the book “Flyboys,” (I think that was the one), the writer interviewed George HW Bush about his WWII days. Bush’s plane was shot down. He survived but his crew did not. Fifty years later, he had tears in his eyes when he told the story to the writer and said, “I think about those men every single day.”

    4. Observer*

      On #1 – I have to TOTALLY disagree with that. People celebrate victory – and they celebrate all the harder, mostly, when the successes are hard won.

      If you see what happened as a success, then even with the loss of life, a celebration was appropriate. If you disagree with that, then I can see why you wouldn’t want a celebration, but that has nothing to do with loss of life. And, I would hope that the person who brought the cake didn’t try to buttonhole everyone into cheering along with him.

      And for anyone who says “what’s the big deal” – for shame. You may not care about what happens “half a world away”, but for Ukrainians, and those who have family and friends there, it is HUGE – for better or worse.

      1. TychaBrahe*

        As a straight ally for gay rights, I have been very concerned about the situation in Russia. And one of the issues in Ukraine from my standpoint was that closer alignment with Russia meant a closer alignment with the homophobic policies of the Orthodox Church. Ukraine tried to pass a Russia-like law criminalizing the “promotion of heterosexuality” in 2012, and only stopped when it was realized that this would make them incompatible with EU statements on human rights. The EU wants Ukraine as a member nation. Ukraine wants a lot of what the EU offers, but it also wanted Russian money to prop up its economy.

    5. Windchime*

      Or when the local team wins the Super Bowl. You can bet there was cake and partying then! :) Ask me how I know…

      Signed, Windchime (in Seattle)

      1. anon-2*

        yes, but no one died in the Super Bowl game when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. No one died in any of the World Series games, when the Red Sox beat the Cardinals, either.

        1. fposte*

          I was in Chicago during the 1993 three-peat, and I can assure that people kept celebrating despite the deaths. I suspect the same thing happened after the 2004 Red Sox pennant victory, too.

        2. Windchime*

          Uh, yeah, I know. I was replying to this part of your original post:

          “Contrast this “celebration” against one, where, for instance, the local baseball team wins the World Series.”

          1. Windchime*

            BTW: Seattle is a really polite city. There were 750k people at the parade/celebration, and no arrests. However,
            an evening news reporter did sternly scold “Nathan”, who left several empty Starbuck’s cups on the ground at the parade route. Hooligans!

  14. Us, Too*

    I just can’t get past #2’s situation. I don’t actually have anything constructive to add. But, just can’t let it go metally… WTF?!?!

  15. S.K.*

    #2 – ridiculous. nothing else to say. (I do disagree with some above that said that HR was the one who was uncomfortable – that definitely sounds to me like the interviewer made a comment and HR stupidly thought that meant it should be passed on to the OP. I don’t think HR would have said anything if the interviewer didnt.)
    #3 – I used to work in an office where this happened all the time – the difference was that it wasn’t gender-based, but based on which mini-team you were working on. Some group lunches would simply extend into the afternoon, if there was someone there senior enough to make people feel safe to do so. And it definitely was unfair to those that simply didn’t go out to lunch (the invites were general and open to everyone, but obviously some people prefered to eat lunch solo or were too busy to leave at that moment). But that was a semi-regular occurence and open to anyone, there was no private organization or selectivity about it (other than that people always wanted to go to lunch with the account execs and managers who were prone to suggest not going back).
    In this particular situation, the reason that gender is an issue is that there is not REASON the women couldnt’ have been invited. it was probably a simple oversight on the part of the owner, or something that spun out of control (ie the boss invited one senior person, who invited his junior buddy, who invited his buddies, etc). The fact that it ended up with all men leaving and all women staying is disastrous, but it sounds like a one-time thing and more an example of bad judgement than any concerted effort to exclude anyone. So I think all you can do is address it with the boss (or whichever senior person that would be appropriate) and simply say something like “you know, i sure would have liked to go watch the hockey game as well. i didn’t know it was an option.” Making more of a big deal about it and unfortunately you will come across as “ruining things”…

    1. A Cita*

      it was probably a simple oversight on the part of the owner, or something that spun out of control…

      Yes, the intent may have been innocuous and the action neutral, the issue is that the field in which the action took place is absolutely not neutral, and that’s the issue. When one wants to take inclusiveness and equity seriously, one does have to make a conscious effort to think about their actions, regardless of intent . Because these actions do have real material effects and unintended consequences.

      1. S.K.*

        To be clear, I agree with this. I meant that unless this is part of an overall pattern, we can chalk it up as simple bad judgement. But it is important that this is raised SOMEHOW with SOMEONE of influence, or no one will ever realize it was even an issue.

  16. aebhel*

    #3 – I think the fact that this happened *during a work day* is hugely significant, and shouldn’t be brushed off. All the men in the office left work to go get drunk and watch hockey on company time, leaving the women behind to pick up the slack. That’s appalling. And it’s not the same thing as ‘celebratory lunch for task group B’s great presentation’ or even ‘after work drinks with the girls’. The former is related directly to work performance; the latter is not happening on company time. Neither is the case here.

    FWIW, I don’t see anything wrong with coworkers socializing during non-work hours in whatever way they see fit. But when it’s an event organized at work, by the boss, and it neatly excludes all the women in the office–especially when it happens during work hours–that’s obnoxious and discriminatory.

  17. Just a Reader*

    #2 I’m curious as to what the OP’s response for. Vindictive me would want to ask if HR thought that the choice of dress would hurt the chances of getting hired and see what she said.

    And then report it…

    But sometimes I’m not very nice.

    OP, that sucks, and I think you should wear whatever you feel good in.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I would be inclined to show up to the interview in a skirt and say something like “Oh, sorry, I just remembered” and then remove my prosthetic leg. But then again I’m kind of a jerk when I want to be :D

  18. BCW*

    For #3, I think yes, it was wrong for that to happen in the way it did, but how sure are you that its how it was intended? Is your office fairly cliquey in general as far as gender goes? I could very easily see a case where a few guys planned to go take a “long lunch” to watch the game, and it just spread and ended up being all the guys, and the owner found out and decided to go. It may not have been purposely NOT inviting the women. I mean I’ve gone to lunch with co-workers that ended up being just guys, didn’t mean women weren’t welcome, its just how it ended up. I think if its a pattern, yes, talk to the boss. If its a one time deal, I’d suck it up. I’d also say they probably didn’t leave planning to not come back, but they realized how drunk and ineffective they would be, and the boss just said go home. But I do think it would be fair to say “since everyone who went to the hockey game got a free half day, can I have one in the next few weeks as well”.

    What I do see a problem with though is people saying that when things are organized for off work time that those activities need to be monitored too. If all the guys want to go play golf, go to a strip club, go to happy hour, whatever, thats fine. If all the women want to do those same activities, thats fine. I’ve had women managers who hung out with my female co-workers outside of work and I wasn’t invited (they all had kids, so they had play dates which included wine so I’d argue it was just as social of an event as golf). So by your logic of power differential, you could say I was being discriminated against. But I didn’t care. Stop trying to police how people are outside of work

    1. Jess*

      Depends on what “outside of work” means. I’m in a field where it is very widely known that these “outside of work” events can have as much or more impact on who gets hired, promoted, etc., as the actual in-work stuff. It’s difficult to draw the line – but at the same time it really can reinforce the old boy’s club. Because when it comes promotion time, the buddy they all know from the bar gets the promotion over the gal they don’t know as well.

    2. Forrest*

      That’s not how social power differential works though.

      If we were talking about white people leaving you, a black man, out, I agree there’s a power differential at work.

      But you can’t swap a minority for a majority and have the same argument still.

      1. BCW*

        Why not? If the argument for why “boys clubs” are bad is that connections happen at these social event, then how can you say if as a man, I’m in the minority in my department, that its now ok for the women to exclude me? Aren’t the reasons the exact same?

        1. Jen RO*

          You can read the arguments above, in the thread I started. (I don’t agree with them, so I can’t repeat them without snarking.)

          1. BCW*

            I did read them, but they don’t make sense. People keep saying its about power and who is benefiting, and in boys clubs the guys are benefiting. But in “mommy’s clubs” as I pointed out, I’m missing out just as much as the women are for boys clubs, so I’d love someone to explain the present day difference, without saying “Because historically…”

            1. Heather*

              You can’t compare, say, a corporate golf outing to a mother’s group. At the golf outing, business connections are being made and business issues are being discussed. That’s why such outings exist in the first place, so if women are excluded, they are missing out on making those connections and being involved with the business decisions.

              With a mother’s group, a man who is excluded is missing out on talk of diapers and preschools. He’s not showing up the next day to discover that his coworker has been promoted because she befriended the boss while their kids played together.

              (For the record, I think that if a guy is a SAHD, he should be welcome to join a SAHP group.)

              1. BCW*

                I’m not referring to a work sponsored golf outing. I’m referring to a few male co-workers and a male manager going out to watch football outside of work. To me, that is very much equivalent to a mommy group. I think to ASSUME the guys conversation will turn to work, yet the woman’s conversation won’t isn’t really fair. Either group could completely ignore it, or talk about it at length.

                1. Heather*

                  When I say “boys’ club,” I don’t mean any gathering of males who work together. I mean the informal networks that help men get to know the more powerful people in the organization and result in them gaining more power as well, because the higher-ups give the promotions and important assignments to people they know, whether they know them from work projects or from after-work football games. It’s impossible to say whether coworkers and a manager watching football after work is an example or not without more information about the company’s power structure, the relationship between the individuals involved, and whether it’s common for mixed-gender groups to get together in a similar way.

                  With regard to mothers’ groups, which, as I said, really should be called “parents” groups, those are formed for the explicit purpose of sharing parenting information and giving parents a reason to get out of the house. Members of the group may have nothing in common other than the fact that they’re all parents. So although these groups may end up talking about their various jobs, they’re not all working in the same company or profession and therefore are probably (note the use of “probably”, because I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions) not in a position to help each other gain power in their respective companies or fields.

                  Not to mention that there’s a pretty big difference in the status of the activities. Picture a man saying “Sure, I met Bill at the bar when Joe from Accounting and I met up to watch the Giants game,” vs “Oh, Bill Smith – he and I are in the same parenting group at the Y.” It’s wrong, and it negatively affects men who want to be actively involved in parenting *and* climb the corporate ladder, but the fact is that stereotypically “female” activities aren’t as respected as their “male” counterparts.

                2. BCW*

                  I think you misinterpreted what I meant by mommy groups. I was specifically referring to in my former job, my group was essentially me and 3 women, one of which who was the manager. The women all had kids, and they would get together outside of work for play dates, and drinking wine. So I wasn’t referring to generic parent groups, but more specifically groups of people who work together getting together in these groups. Thats why I said to me its not very different than guys going to watch football.

                3. Heather*

                  If that’s what you meant by “mommy groups”, then I misunderstood….but I think the larger points still stand:

                  a) Most women don’t have access to the same level of power as most men would in a similar position, so the potential career benefit wouldn’t be as high
                  b) Many people, hearing that female coworkers got their kids together for a play date, would take that as reinforcement of their belief that the women are more focused on motherhood than career. Men aren’t fighting a long-standing stereotype that they’re better suited for watching football than for working.

                4. Forrest*

                  Except as a nonparent, you can’t take part in a mommy group. The whole point of it is a mommy group and you lack a required trait.

                  Now, if these women were gathering and excluding you and being moms were just a condience, I’d say that’s wrong. But you’re the one who’s saying the group is moms first, women second.

                  In order for your football arguement to work, women would need to lack a football gene. They don’t. So yes, a group of male coworkers going to watch a football game without ever inviting a woman based on their gender could (sub)consciously discriminating.

                  No one’s saying there’s something wrong with a group of guys going to watch football together if they invited their female coworkers as well. Especially if the boss is going or has the appearance of a company gathering.

                  But that doesn’t appear to be the case with the original post.

              2. Jen RO*

                You do see how this could be interpreted, right?
                “Women are only interested in kids and diapers, so there’s no possible way they could talk about work while on a play date!” I’m sure you didn’t mean that, but since we’re talking about drawing conclusions based on very little data…

                1. Heather*

                  Someone could interpret it that way, but they would be ignoring its context. Women in a mothers’ group (or men in a fathers’ group, or both genders in a parents’ group) would be more likely to talk about diapers and kids because that’s what they all have in common. Coworkers (male or female) at a football game, golf outing, happy hour, whatever, would be more likely to talk about work, because that’s what *they* all have in common. Both groups can (and I hope, do!) talk about other things, but they have a primary area of interest that connects them.

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  @Heather — but what BCW was describing was a combination of parents group AND co-workers, where he, as a male and non-parent, was excluded from a group that included the manager. I bet both business and diapers were discussed, and he was excluded from the business advantages of that meeting.

                3. Heather*

                  My comment was made before BCW explained what he meant by “mommy group.” I thought he was referring to play groups, “Mommy and Me,” that sort of thing.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If you truly can’t repeat them without snarking, then I think you don’t quite understand those arguments. Reasonable people can certainly disagree on this, but there’s nothing here that should be producing snark, if you truly understand the historical context that the conversation is taking place in. (Maybe there’s a cross-cultural barrier here?)

            1. Jen RO*

              I understand the context, but I just don’t agree with the argument that men can not be discriminated against just because they are men and historically they have been the “oppressor”. It can vary from situation to situation, like in BCW’s example. I also disagree with positive discrimination, like hiring a woman who is less qualified to fill some sort of minorities quota – that is absolutely discrimination for any better qualified man who lost the job.

              I will admit that my perspective is tainted by some time spent in certain online communities where the simple suggestion that a man might not be the bad guy in an ambiguous situation got you banned. I’m very happy that people here can disagree and stay civil.

              (It might be partly cultural too, but the situation here is actually worse and the discrimination that goes on against the Roma in particular is disgusting. I completely disagree with it, and we have a loooong way to go there, but I still would argue against giving a Roma a job simply because he is Roma.)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t see anyone arguing men can’t be discriminated against. Of course they can. They’re arguing that women-only professional groups are not problematic because they seek to redress a historical wrong. That doesn’t mean men can’t be discriminated against in other problematic ways.

                For the record, it’s illegal to hire a less qualified woman just to fill a quota; sex-based hiring discrimination is illegal toward both men and women. The correct (and legal) thing for companies to do when they want to address gender imbalances in hiring is to do additional work to get highly qualified women into their pool of candidates to choose from. When the pool is diverse, hires are more easily diverse.

                1. Jen RO*

                  Thanks for clarifying. I was under the impression that some companies do hire minorities to meet some sort of diversity quotas.

                2. Jen RO*

                  Forrest: yes, I think this is what I meant. The wikipedia description mentions the things I was thinking about, but it looks like they aren’t applied as such in the US.

              2. Jen RO*

                And it’s also tainted by the fact that people (here and in some of the communities are mentioned) seem so eager to say “discrimination” when n other possibilities are just as valid. I do understand that a person who faces discrimination will be more sensitive to it, but it doesn’t mean that every single incident *is* discrimination. If someone is a jerk to me in the UK it probably means that person is a jerk, not that she heard my accent and thought I was a dirty benefits stealing immigrant.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t always see gender issues here every time others do, but this one has a clearly documented long historical context (documented by court decisions on this stuff and the experience of loads and loads of women). It seems almost willfully oblivious to ignore that.

                2. Jen RO*

                  I agree with the theory, in general. Yes, men are more privileged, white people are more privileged, and so on. I just don’t like it when it’s used as an excuse every time something happens and a minority is involved, and I don’t like it when it’s generalized to stuff like ““why do men need boasts when they’re already so far in the lead boast wise?” (see Forrest’s comment below). How is this generalization about *all* men helping anything?

                  I’m just saying that issues should be treated on a case-by-case basis, and OP’s case is not clear-cut discrimination. I’m sure many people will disagree, but I think that claiming discrimination in ambiguous situations will make TPTB dismiss even obvious discrimination as “eh it’s just those whiny women, they find something to complain about every week”. I find more productive to save my energy for the real important things.

                3. Anonymous*

                  I personally am not “eager” to see discrimination. I’d prefer it never happened. But raising the *possibility* of discrimination in response to a scenario where men got to knock off work and get drunk while women held down the fort is hardly unreasonable.

                  Here’s what I don’t understand — if I were doing something that gave the appearance of bias, I would want to know about it. It would probably make me feel rotten and embarrassed, but I’d feel WAY more foolish if I found out people were making excuses for me behind my back for why I should be allowed to continue with ignorant behavior.

                  I personally have witnessed enough racial and gender discrimination that I think it’s always worth considering, even if it isn’t ultimately the primary culprit in a particular situation. To me the question is not “Is this workplace filled with evil bigots who should be horsewhipped in the public square?” The question is, “Are our excellent minority/female employees being pointlessly alienated over behavior that could easily be stopped or corrected?”

                4. Jen RO*

                  “Men” do not need boasts. *Some* men do, depending on their individual situation.

                  If two women scheduled a work meeting in an expensive restaurant, their male coworker who couldn’t afford it would be unfairly excluded from a conversation pertinent to him. In this case, yes the man would need some help, even though men in general are paid better. This man in particular makes less money than these women.

                5. Forrest*

                  “How is this generalization about *all* men helping anything?”

                  It brings attention to the fact that this happens all the time. And as a woman, I’m over it. I’ll make my analogy again – I’m tired of people born on third base complaining about people getting help walking around the bases.

                  Its also how you talk about sociology.

                6. neverjaunty*

                  Conversely, you seem so eager to rush in the other direction – to assume that it can’t be discrimination or that we should only consider if it’s discrimination in the rarest circumstances.

                  Regarding quotas, have you ever considered that less qualified people who aren’t minorities get hired all the time, because they were a friend of a decision-maker, or had connections through the same fraternity, etc etc., but nobody gives them the evil eye and snarks about how some hard-working minority got unfairly pushed out.

        2. Forrest*

          Nope. They historically do not.

          Boy clubs maintain/enforce the power structure for the gender that has mainly benefited. “Mommy groups” are either maintaining the power structure or attempting to break it for a minority group that has not benefited before.

          Its the same as being born on third base and then complaining when other people get help with walking around the bases.

          1. BCW*

            So to paraphrase: Women getting a professional boost based on gender related social outings is ok or dare I say good. Men getting a boost based on gender related social outings is bad?

            Is that really what you are saying?

            1. Forrest*

              Your paraphrase is overlooking my last line, which I’ll repeat again ““Mommy groups” are either maintaining the power structure.”

              Men do not need more boasts than women. Men have been boasted so many times in American history and not even always based on merit. We live in a country where 50% of the population is women. Our congress – the place that runs this country – isn’t anywhere close to that. Last election, if I remember correctly, we were happy to get 12 women elected – an all time high.

              I just can’t wrap my head around a gender class that has overwhelming benefited from a 200+ year old society based on being born a certain way complaining because the minority group dares to try to implement techniques that would allow them to play a little bit of catch up.

              1. Forrest*

                Sorry, my last line was: Its the same as being born on third base and then complaining when other people get help with walking around the bases.

                Seriously though. Mommy groups aren’t exactly breaking the power structure here.

              2. Joey*

                I agree with you certainly, but what makes it difficult for me is when you don’t see that imbalance in a particular company/ team yet efforts are still being made to further the cause. For example its usually seen as a good thing when companies tip the scales the other way. I’ve seen predominantly Asian hiring, predominantly female hiring, predominantly [historically discriminated group] hiring all in the name of righting past wrongs. Is it really the right thing for a company to over represent? I’m all for equality, but when an employer starts pushing one group past all others to me it starts sounding like you have other intentions. I’m basing this on when the company makeup doesn’t reflect the makeup o the available job market.

                1. Victoria Nonprofit*

                  This is SUCH an interesting conversation, and I’d really love to see a separate forum for it (it’s own post, a thread on an open thread, etc.)

                  For now, here’s something you made me think about: Is the makeup of the available job market (I think you mean the available pool of potential candidates, right?) the right comparison? I can think of some others that might make sense to benchmark your hiring against: The national pool, graduates from local colleges, the population you’re serving, etc.

                  I’m not sure I’m making sense, so I’m going to use an example:

                  Say I’m the principal of a charter school, and I care about equitable hiring. What benchmark do I use to evaluate whether my hiring practices are equitable? I could benchmark against other local schools (and I could choose schools with similar missions, similar student populations, similar size, etc.). I could benchmark against the population of the neighborhood in which the school is located, or the city, or the metropolitan region, or the country. I could benchmark against recent graduating classes of local education schools (or education schools nationally). I could benchmark against the population of students that we serve.

                  Choosing the benchmark(s) I’d use would make a huge difference on my hiring. And none is the “right” answer. Interesting.

                2. Joey*

                  Well the available job market can expand and contract based on availability. For example traditionally affirmative action plans might consider the available job market for a receptionist just the greater metropolitan area since there are tons of qualified applicants. On the other hand the available job market for professional positions might also include the nearest towns and counties since people are willing to commute for higher wages and the skills become harder to find. Likewise the available job market for an exec position might be the continental US or even international depending on the industry.

                3. BCW*

                  Interesting question. In the teaching example, I do think its important to have your employees at least somewhat represent the population you are serving. So if you are an all black school, you don’t need an all black staff, but if you had an all white staff, it would be weird, even if out of those you interviewed, the white applicants were better. But I think when an organizations mission is to serve a community its a bit different than an organization whose mission it is to sell goods nationally.

                  I mentioned it once, I was looking to apply to an organization whose mission it was to work with low income youth, yet there was not a single non-white person on staff. That doesn’t match with their mission. However if it was a vacuum clearer sales company, I could care less about the racial make up.

                4. Joey*

                  So race is more important than having the very best teacher period? That’s not a very good business model. You’re basically telling students that they don’t deserve the best. That they won’t learn as much unless at least some of it comes from someone with the right skin color.

                5. Joey*

                  You know as a teacher I’d be highly insulted if I was hired based on my skin color or assigned only to the minority schools because white kids learn better from white role models and black kids learn better from black ones.

                6. fposte*

                  @Joey–I think you’re taking something very different from BCW than I am, and I think it goes back to Victoria’s point about how you get the pool. Most job pools aren’t random or a statistical cross-section even of the people who are qualified to apply, and most application pools don’t have a single inarguably best applicant. Additionally, most people’s prejudice isn’t conscious–an awareness of how they might select against diversity can be really helpful in reframing hiring practices, since complete race and gender blindness (under which minorities and women tend to be rated more highly) isn’t possible.

                7. BCW*


                  I’m not at all saying that they shouldn’t have the best teachers. However, I am saying that if you have an all black school with an all white staff, I think there are some problems there too. I’m not saying take a bad black teacher over a good white one at all. But if both teachers are good, and the white teacher is slightly better, sometimes there is something to be said to having a person who the students are more easily able to relate to. Its one of those intangible things that sometimes are taken into account.

            2. Forrest*

              So I guess my question for you BCW is “why do men need boasts when they’re already so far in the lead boast wise?”

              1. BCW*

                I’m not saying men NEED them, but I don’t think women always need them either. And my problem is taking the exact same situation (a social gathering of one gender outside of work) and saying that its bad in one situation, but good in another. To be clear, if you were to tell me that in a racially mixed place that all white people hanging out on a weekend was bad, but all black people hanging out on a weekend was fine, I’d have the same problem. I get history, and what has happened, but things aren’t always black and white. Sometimes people interact socially because of shared interests or situations. It may be children, which excludes those without kids. It may be certain sports, which can have a particular demographic associated with it. But I just don’t think its always this bad thing that its being made out to be.

                1. Forrest*

                  When women on average make less than men, then yes, they do need the boast.

                  And you really need to stop comparing social activities to work place activities. They are not comparable.

                  And in the OP’s situation, it was not made clear that this was based on lack of interest. People are inferring that all the women weren’t invited due to lack of interest, which I find hard to believe.

                2. BCW*

                  @Forrest. Well maybe the problem is we are arguing 2 different things. If you read my original post, I completely agree that when this happened in the workplace it was a bad situation. I did give other possibilities besides discrimination, but still said the OP should ask for an equal half day.

                  My further arguments though have been the fact that people are saying that even non-work social gatherings should be monitored and need to be inclusive to everyone. So thats why I brought up the mommy group, etc, because I don’t think THOSE things are different. I have no problem with a women networking group at lunch in a big company. I do have a problem wiht saying a group of guys in a department must invite the women if they go out on the weekend.

                3. Forrest*

                  I’m confused now. Were you talking about off work social gatherings between friends? Because then my comments would not apply.

                  But if you’re talking about off work social gatherings between coworkers my comments still apply.

                4. BCW*

                  I am talking about non-work social gatherings among co-workers (who may also be friends). You said I need to stop comparing work and social activities. I don’t think a social activity stop being social just because co-workers are invited. I agree that during work hours certain things need to be in place. Outside of work though, people can do what they want.

                5. Forrest*

                  What can happen during work hours can happen during non work hours well.

                  If we were talking about friends, my comments don’t apply. Since you confirmed we’re talking about coworkers than my comments stand.

                  I’m confused because your comments all over the post are going back and forth between examples of friends excluding you and examples of coworkers excluding.

                6. BCW*

                  Forrest, I think we will just agree to disagree, because you ARE essentially saying that a group of guys (or white people or heterosexual) getting together socially outside of work is wrong, but a group of women ( or black people or gays) is completely fine. Its too much of a double standard for me to be able to get behind. As a black guy myself, I can attribute that in more than a few situations I’ve been in, the minority groups tend to separate themselves more than majority groups exclude people. It can be chalked up to how comfortable they are with someone who is the same as them in whatever regard, but it happens. So its no more right or wrong if there is no malicious intent.

                7. BCW*

                  I’m not ignoring your points. I just don’t agree with some of them. I know why there are women who lunch groups and things like that. I understand the fact that in some cases women are starting off in a worse position. If we were simply talking about events that take place at work, or are company sanctioned, I would agree. But when it comes to what happens on personal time, I’ve always said people shouldn’t be judged based on that. Even if those things are with other co-workers.

              2. Jamie*

                Obviously I’m not BCW, but this is something that I’ve thought a lot about recently as it’s come up in another forum I read (but don’t post to) and this is where I fall on this.

                I understand we have historic issues of certain groups excluding others – in this discussion men.

                But for me there are two separate issues – men as a whole and individual men.

                If we had a couple of new employees where I work and they were new to the workforce and interested in IT – lets call them Greg and Marcia. If I took Marcia under my wing and mentored her specifically because she’s female then some people would say I’m redressing some long standing inequity where women had a hard time finding mentors or even encouragement in the IT. Men as a whole have had fewer barriers entering the field so maybe some see it as fair or even my responsibility as a woman to mentor the woman – because the man will have an easier road.

                Maybe that’s fair on a macro-scale…tipping the balance a tiny bit.

                But it’s not fair to Greg, the individual who just happens to be male. To deny him the opportunity to be mentored and learn, the same as Marcia received, would be sexism if the only reason I was excluding him was to give her an advantage based on her gender. He hasn’t harmed women in IT, he isn’t the reason there are disproportionate numbers of men (although getting better) so if she has an advantage because of gender how is that different than 30 years ago when he would have had that advantage because of his gender.

                On a micro level it fails – because I’m not helping “women” over “men” I’m helping one woman get an advantage over one man based on nothing more than their sex.

                TLDR but the point is men as a whole may be further ahead in some things but that doesn’t mean individual men should have that held against them when they are no more responsible for the past than we are.

                1. Forrest*

                  But isn’t Greg going to have so many more chances than Marcia simply because he was born Greg and not…Gregicilla? Or whatever the girl version of Greg is.

                  (Jan: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia)

                2. BCW*

                  Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Maybe Marcia was from a very affluent neighborhood and her parents were in IT and Greg was born in a very poor neighborhood and was the first in his family to go to college. Thats why JUST deciding to help Marcia over Greg presents its own problems. She could already be far better equipped to handle the IT world than he is.

                3. Forrest*

                  Maybe. But none of those examples were in Jamie’s argument. I took her argument that Greg and Marcia were on equal footing and the only difference was gender and responded accordingly.

                4. BCW*

                  But you aren’t taking the time to find out if thats the case. You are just going on “She is a woman, I should help her. Greg can navigate himself”. I mean even if everything about their upbringing is equal, I don’t know that as a new employee that Greg needs any less guidance.

                5. Forrest*

                  I am not. I frankly think Jamie should help both.

                  I’m simply pointing out that based on gender alone, Greg will have more chances than Marcia will.

                6. Jamie*

                  Maybe and maybe not. No one is guaranteed an easy time in this economy. I do see what you’re saying looking at it as a sociological issue. But I wouldn’t factor it in regarding opportunities I would be able to offer…because I don’t see how that’s different than how our gender was held against us.

                  I just think we have to be careful about unintentionally harming real people by trying to redress societal issues. I think the only way we’re going to move past these issues is one step at a time and everyone treating everyone else based on their individual merits and not their demographic data.

                  And while there are still wrongs to be righted…we’ve made giant strides. My dad was a wonderful man, but not what you’d call progressive. He started writing code in 1959 and was IT when most people had never seen a computer. When I was little and expressed an interest he told me that I was silly…and I was going to be a mommy not work with computers. But he still let me mess around with them.

                  When I started college he asked if I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher, because those were two occupations in his mind that would be nice until I quit to get married. But still he paid when I majored in business.

                  He never took it seriously though, and knew I would get married before I finished. College was something to do until I married. Period.

                  Ridiculous looking back on that now. And we’re talking my childhood in the 70-80’s – not the 19th century.

                  The landscape has changed – it’s not perfect but it’s better…and I think the only way to continue to be better is to try not to see each other as a collection of vital statistics or assigning levels of privilege – but as individuals who will sink or swim on on our merits.

                  Fwiw – I’ve been mentored by some amazing people in my career…most of whom happened to be men, none of whom gave a crap about my being a woman.

                7. Forrest*

                  I agree with you that should be the ideal Jamie. But I don’t see it as a realistic. I wish people could see everyone as individuals and sink and swim based on their merits. But its a sad fact that statistically speaking, minorities will always need to have more merit than the majority.

                  I have a friend who’s black who shared that as a white person, I can have off days and those off days aren’t considered my norms by other people. But due to stereotypes and discrimination, she can’t have off days. Because one off day can sink the rest of the days she’s on.

                  So I wish we lived in a world where everyone was judged on their merits. But we’re not there yet and we can’t get there until everyone is brought up to the same speed.

                8. Heather*

                  With Greg and Marcia (if I get the damn theme song stuck in my head all day, I am holding you responsible – haha!), the difference is that Greg’s opportunity to receive mentoring isn’t being taken away from him and given to Marcia. Rather, Marcia is being given an opportunity that she most likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s not a zero-sum game. Greg can still get a mentor if he wants one.

                9. Jamie*

                  Greg can still get a mentor if he wants one.

                  Maybe somewhere else, but in this job if he wants to learn IT I’m it. So if I denied him in order to tip the scales and add one woman without an equal man…he now has to decide if he’s going to leave a job in hopes of maybe finding another one.

                  I do agree with both you and Forrest that as a group society needs to get everyone on a level playing field.

                  I just don’t know how you do address that collectively without individuals being harmed as collateral damage. We can’t make a sacrifice of individual men just change the larger balance. Because those individuals are people and they don’t deserve to pay for the actions of other men.

                  There are no easy answers – but I just see the only way we’ll get past it is by changing our mindset as a society and treating everyone equally. Because by treating some unequally – however noble the motives – is continuing the damage, just in a different direction.

                  If my house burns down I don’t want someone to burn down the neighbor’s house to level the playing field. I just want to be able to rebuild my house.

                10. Jen in RO*

                  And Jamie swoops in and makes the point I’ve been failing to make for a few hours. Thanks!

                  Based on the replies, I feel bad for poor hypothetical Greg, whose only fault was to have been born male.

                11. Jamie*

                  @Jen – Greg’s fine. I will train both fictional employees equally and the one who is the least pita will get my parking spot when I’m out of the office.

                12. Victoria Nonprofit*

                  I don’t know a thing about IT, so I’m making up the examples here. Apologies if I get something super wrong or make any unfair assumptions.

                  Jen, nobody in this (hypothetical Greg & Marcia) situation has done anything wrong, and nobody is at fault. What’s at fault is a society that preferences men over women in a lot of ways, including in the IT field.

                  So the reason to mentor Marcia is not to right a historical wrong (although I’m also ok with that), but because Greg is male, he’s already gotten a lot of benefits that Marcia has not. For (made up) example:

                  – When Greg first told his high school teachers that he was interested in IT, they likely responded with an assumption that he could succeed in that field and supported him in going after it.
                  – When Greg was majoring in computer science at college, he likely noticed that all of his professors and most of his fellow students were male, and that felt pretty comfortable.
                  – When Greg got frustrated after he couldn’t figure out a solution in his first IT job, his managers probably didn’t think that his expression of frustration made him seem weak or overly emotional.
                  – Greg probably doesn’t have to wonder about whether how the lanyard he wears gets caught between his breasts is inappropriately revealing.

                  etc. The mentoring is to help Marcia overcome the *extra* challenges Marcia has experienced as a result of being a woman working in a male-dominated field.

                13. Jen in RO*

                  Well, my hypothetical Marcia had a computer since she was 8, had a dad who taught her MS DOS at 10, had a great (female) computer science teacher and was always encouraged to go into IT since she enjoyed it. (That’s me, by the way.)

                  My hypotethical Greg was born the son of a shoemaker and his father always thought he was wasting his time on that computer crap, so Greg had to support himself through college and has a strained relationship with his father because of that, so he is insecure at work because he wonders if the made the right choices.

                  You can’t just decide based on gender, without knowing each individual story.

                14. Victoria Nonprofit*

                  There is a lot you can derive from knowing someone’s gender – not about them as individuals, but about what their experience in society has been. Although my examples are made up, they are based on my real understanding of current American society.

                  Of course individual experiences vary. But I’d wager that even son-of-a-disapproving-shoemaker Greg had the kind of general social support that Marcia didn’t similar access to.

                15. Jen RO*

                  I find it sad that so many people who would be horrified if a boss offered more support to a male employee would be in favor of a boss supporting a female employee more, based solely on gender. To me, this is the very definition of discrimination.

                16. BCW*

                  Jen, you are so right. If this were reversed, and a manager said “I’m taking this guy under my wing because he is a man” people would be up in arms. As Jamie said, we are so bent on righting historical wrongs, that we are willing to essentially harm others to do it. And to me thats where the problem comes, people want to act like because its taking a group that historically was denied things, that its no ok to discriminate against the others. Treat people as individuals and don’t make assumptions about anything they may or may not have had to go through

                17. Jen RO*

                  And this can all end up as the discrimination olympics. Disabled woman vs black man? Latino woman vs gay man? Who was more persecuted? Who gets the mentoring?

                18. Forrest*

                  “We can’t make a sacrifice of individual men just change the larger balance.”

                  But no one has to be sacrificed. Both Greg and Marcia can be mentored (but not Bobby. Hate that guy.)

                  Really, what’s at stake here is the boys club being switched out for inclusion. It can be a person club easily with no sacrifices being made.

                19. Forrest*

                  “If this were reversed, and a manager said “I’m taking this guy under my wing because he is a man” people would be up in arms.”

                  Because it happens. All. The. Time.

                  That’s the problem. People saying “lets encourage women to do traditional male jobs” isn’t the problem. The problem is we have to make that statement in the first place.

                20. Jen RO*

                  Yeah Forrest, that’s the right decision – mentor both, I think everyone agrees with that. What we are having trouble with is the idea that it’s OK to just mentor the woman, based only on her gender.

                21. Forrest*

                  But everyone here is acting like the only way women can get ahead is if men take a step back and no one’s saying that.

                  Statistically speaking, the odds are in Greg’s favor, despite his background, that he will have more opportunities than Marcia once they hit the same place in the workplace. Heck, if they are both entry level and hired at the same time, odds are Greg is making more simply because he’s a guy.

                  So to me it seems weird that we’re discussing extending opportunities to Marcia based on her gender and kind of ignoring that Greg will most likely automatically have those opportunities based on his gender.

                  This of course taking them out of the “working for Jamie” situation since everyone is in agreement that Jamie should mentor both.

                22. Jen RO*

                  I was actually thinking of men vs women in the workforce today. Do women have lower salaries because they are worse negotiators (due to social conditioning) or because employers value their work less, so they deny them opportunities? There must be some studies, but it’s getting late here and I don’t feel up to googling.

                  As for the rest, we are coming back to a “men in general” vs “this particular man” issue. I still think it’s possible to agree that in general men are more privileged, but in particular cases it might not still be true.

                23. BCW*

                  Heather, interesting article. I get it, but I think it over simplifies the bigger issue. Yes most logical people can understand that straight white males have it easiest, but what about the other “difficulty settings”. Im a straight black male, so does that put me at a higher or lower difficulty level than a straight white woman? Do my experiences as a person of color get erased by the fact that I’m a man (based on some of these comments, I’d think yeah)? I get looking at the 2 extremes, but there are lots of shades of grey that aren’t addressed in these comments or in that piece.

                  Back to these comments. If Greg is black and Marcia is white, who should get mentored if the mentee is a white man? It really starts to get into “Who has it worse” and thats a losing game to play.

                24. Forrest*

                  “If Greg is black and Marcia is white, who should get mentored if the mentee is a white man? It really starts to get into “Who has it worse” and thats a losing game to play.”

                  But its not a zero sum game. Both can be mentored.

        3. VintageLydia*

          Because even in industries where women are the majority of employees (like porn and education) it’s still men who generally hold the position of power. They own the studios. They are typically the administrators and superintendents. It’s not just what number of people is in a particular demographic, but who has the power.

        4. Rambling Rosie*

          Because to do so ignores the systemic difference in power historically accorded to the two groups by society. As a man, you have male priviledge, and benefit from that whether you work in a female-majority workplace or not. Context matters, and not just the limited context of your own individual workplace, but the societal backdrop in which that workplace exists.

    3. Loose Seal*

      But I do think it would be fair to say “since everyone who went to the hockey game got a free half day, can I have one in the next few weeks as well”.

      I would do this for sure.

      I agree with your first paragraph. It may have just gotten big and exclusively male by accident (although the boss could have realized that at the pub and called up to the office to invite the women to come over). Especially if this is out-of-character for the OP’s office.

      If it were me (a female) and this was the first time I had noticed this happening, I’d ask for a paid half-day off soon and not do anything else. But if this were part of a pattern, I don’t know what I’d do — probably bring it up with the boss and, if I wasn’t satisfied, with HR. But I have never had a job where there were enough men in the office to even create a semblance of a clique so this hasn’t come up for me.

    4. some1*

      I grew up in MN where hockey is a BFD. I have been to tons of college and NHL hockey games (mostly on dates). Typically hockey players and fans attending the games are almost exclusively white.

      As an African-American, would you be cool with your white friends or coworkers not inviting to watch a hockey game because they assume you don’t like hockey because of your race?

      1. BCW*

        Good question, and I guess its hard to answer. I’m in Chicago, so everyone has been watching the blackhawks for the last few years, so in that case, yeah I may be upset. I know the team and can name a bunch of players (although I’m not a “hockey” fan)

        However, I have friends who get up at 6am on Saturdays to watch Premier League Soccer, and I’ve never once been invited. I assume its not necessarily because I’m black, but because I’ve never expressed even a passing interest in soccer.

        1. Jamie*

          Our company frequently gives out tickets to Bulls, Bears, and especially White Sox games and this is when I’m most popular because no one in my family likes sports so I’m one less hat in the ring.

          But the women who like sports – they get the same offers as everyone else. Sometimes it’s just about interest.

          (Although when Van Halen tickets come along I always have first refusal…and I never refuse. It’s only fair.)

          1. BCW*

            Thats what I’m saying. It may not be about discrimination, just about a perceived lack of interest. Maybe you are assuming because I’m black I wouldn’t like hockey or U2. Or it could be that whenever those conversations come up I never have anything to add to them, so it seems that I have no knowledge or interest.

              1. BCW*

                She asked how I would feel. As someone who is not shy at all about expressing my interests, I’m going by that. I see your point about company not assuming things, but that doesn’t mean co-workers can’t make certain assumptions based on your behavior and invite people along based on that.

        2. Bwmn*

          As a woman who does the early morning soccer watching in a bar – I can’t imagine casually inviting anyone along. Going to a bar at 6 or 7am (or even the 10am games) is definitely more than just “hey we’re hanging out, want to join”. It’s something that people will speak up and express interest in.

          However, it will be interesting to see this summer how the World Cup plays out in my office. The World Cup brings out more generic interest and also this year will have a lot of afternoon games. In my specific department (which is essentially just 3 people) – I’ve been given a wink that our hours will be very flexible during the World Cup. But office-wide (which is about 30 people?), the interested vs not-interested is pretty split along gender lines.

          1. Jen in RO*

            Same in my office. I wouldn’t expect the guys to invite me to a soccer match, since I’ve made my disinterest clear, but I would be welcome if I wanted to go.

  19. Sunflower*

    #3- I suspect there is something else going on in the office. If I had no indication that there was discrimination going on in my workplace and this event happened, I’d be angry because some people got to spend the day drinking and watching hockey while others had to stay at work. And if I wrote this letter in, I’d be focusing more on the fact that not everyone was invited to an event during office hours that was strictly social, regardless of gender.

    I work for a small company and have heard from several co-workers that the owner doesn’t like women. While there isn’t anything blatantly discriminatory going on, it’s very obvious he values men’s opinions more than women’s and there is no way in heck he would let a woman in this office make a final decision about anything regardless of their level or intelligence. There aren’t any opportunities to move up here but if there were I’m sure more men would be promoted than women and making more money. If this event happened in my office, I’d 100% believe it was discrimination.

    If you feel like this is just the way the office is, I’d advise you start looking for a new job. You don’t want to be somewhere you don’t feel valued and I don’t know if kicking and screaming is really worth it in this situation unless you love your job that much.

  20. HR Guy*


    Ugh. This is the kind of thing that makes me dislike HR people that aren’t me. If a manager came to with this I’m fairly certain my head would explode. Assuming you have other options, withdraw from consideration immediately. Also, if you have the contact information for a higher up in the company, email them and tell them why you are withdrawing. I would be mortified to learn that adults within my company behaved this way.

    1. some1*

      “Also, if you have the contact information for a higher up in the company, email them and tell them why you are withdrawing.”


    2. HR*

      Exactly. I’m curious what level this person is at? If it is an HR Manager, he/she should be fired because non-discrimination is HR 101, and if he/she is so incompetent at this then I would be afraid of what else might be going on.

    3. OP #2*

      OP here:

      Thanks for everyone’s comments. I’m just out of school, so this person’s comments made me really nervous and uncomfortable about future job interview etiquette.

      I’m not sure what the HR person’s title is. She is the one who did all the scheduling, but wasn’t in the room itself. Maybe she is HR assistant?

      1. HR Guy*

        Regardless of what her title is, her actions along with actions of the “uncomfortable manager” tells you that they have absolutely no tact, which may or may not be a representation of the entire company. Either way if you have options I say look elsewhere, what if you end up working under the “uncomfortable manager?”

  21. Joey*

    #2. Well that HR Rep is not a real HR person. She was probably hired by someone who thinks anyone can do HR. Although what’s interesting is I’ve seen people with HR degrees who do stuff like this. Don’t HR programs teach HR 101?

    1. KJR*

      Honestly this is just common sense! Like you, I wonder what this person’s background is. I can’t imagine a “real” HR person pulling something like this. And if they are, I’m embarrassed for them! Ridiculous. And if s/he keeps it up, they’re not going to be in HR for long.

  22. Amy*

    #2 – there are SO MANY amputees from the Boston Marathon Bombings. SO MANY. It actually gave me a new perspective of amputees, honestly. I am from Boston, so this has been heavily in the news for the past year.

    I’d go find a company who will respect your disability.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Really? What do you mean by SO MANY? Like 25, 50, 100s?

      I’m just asking because SO MANY sounds like 100s, but that was not my impression of the aftermath of the bombings. I could be wrong though.

    2. Us, Too*

      SO MANY? There would have had to be 20,000 amputees from that bombing in order for it to represent 1% of the total amputees in the US.

      1. fposte*

        I think this cross-threads a bit with the Ukrainian question–stuff that’s closer to us seems much bigger. I suspect that the overall statistics even for amputees in the Boston area weren’t hugely influenced by that, so it really wasn’t a big change to amputees overall, but because it got a lot of coverage people felt closer to the issue than they had before.

  23. Kate*

    Regarding #2 if you accepted a job there would they expect you to always wear pants because it made one person uncomfortable? I personally would be questioning in writing if this is affecting your job chances and responding accordingly. It seems like it could be clear discrimination.

  24. MR*

    For #1, I have three rules when it comes to success in the workplace: I don’t discuss religion, politics or other guys women.

    Following that has yet to fail me at work.

  25. ChristineSW*

    #2 – The HR rep was absolutely in the wrong; not only could she be opening up the company to legal trouble, I just don’t think it’s her place to be making suggestions about the OP’s interview attire if it is otherwise neat and professional.

    As for the hiring manager: Unfortunately, most people are uncomfortable with things that they aren’t exposed to on a normal basis, so please be mindful of other possible red flags. If you do meet with him again, just go in there and rock what you got. Show that you are confident in yourself and your abilities.

    All that said, I can somewhat emphasize with the OP’s hesitation. In addition to my eyesight, I also have a slight hearing impairment, but my hearing aids bring me up to just about normal. I can never bring myself to put my hair back because I’m so self-conscious about them. I know it’s something I need to get past.

  26. LPBB*

    RE #3:

    I think the gender aspect of this question has distracted from the real issue. If you strip the genders out of the story, what you’re left with is one segment of the office that was apparently given official sanction to leave in the middle of the day and do something entirely unrelated to work, something that (apparently) included drinking so much that they couldn’t return to work, while the rest of the office was not informed or invited and was expected to work the rest of the day.

    In other words, one segment of the office was privileged over the rest. That is a recipe for lasting resentment in the office.

    FWIW, I am a woman who is an avid fan of many sports. I have actually taken days off so that I could watch a sporting event or recover from watching a sporting event. But I would also never ask my boss if I could go to the bar in the middle of the work day to watch an event.

    1. Joey*

      So in your experiences have male co workers assumed you’re not interested in sports? Did you assume it was males only? And, if so how did you get them to see that you were interested in sports?

      I just wonder if the female experience is similar. For example co workers find out I play golf either through small talk in the office (ie how was your weekend?) or through some golf paraphernalia I carry around occasionally like my umbrella .

      1. Jen in RO*

        I’m going to add a data point – not sports, but gaming, another traditional male activity. I’ve never been purposely included OR excluded. Guys in the office just talked to other guys who also played (I was new). I didn’t see it as a personal slight – it’s all about the attitude. All the men I’ve worked with have been happy to include women in male-dominated activities if they women expressed an interest, even when the men initially assumed the women wouldn’t care. I think that’s a reasonable assumption in many cases, due to simple statistics. For example, I am sure there are a few men fascinated by makeup or wedding dresses, but I doubt most men would feel offended I’m not asking them about the new Sephora palette.

        In my particular case, when I heard a conversation related to WoW, I just joined in, and since then I’ve always been included. (I also brought my Deathwing mousepad to work, to make it extra clear to everyone that I played.)

        1. Jen in RO*

          And sorry for the incoherent comment – I’m using a tiny Bluetooth keyboard on my tablet and editing is hard.

        2. N.J.*

          But doesn’t it bother you that you had to express the interest to be included, when the other males in the office presumably did not? You noted here that you brought in a mouse pad specifically related to WoW to make a point that you are a gamer. You stated “All the men I’ve worked with have been happy to include women in male-dominated activities if they women expressed an interest, even when the men initially assumed the women wouldn’t care.” Assuming that a woman isn’t interested in an activity because of it’s history as a male dominated endeavor might make sense from a statistical standpoint, but in the context of work activities and team building, it is exclusionary.

          So in the case of the OP, even if the men in the office and the male boss weren’t trying to discriminate actively against the women in the office, they made an exclusionary assumption based on gender for an activity that resulted in the men being able to leave work for most of the day and the women being stuck at work, as well as the women missing whatever “team bonding” and any work discussions that took place at the event. So your coworkers assuming you weren’t a gamer may be logical, in that a lot of women may not play video or computer games, but their assumption would only be non-discriminatory if they assumed all new people, whether you were a new female employee or a new male employee, aren’t gamers and started to include new employees in conversations and activities related to gaming once that person expressed interest in gaming.

          Operating on stereotypes, whether unknowingly or maliciously, whether the stereotype is as seemingly innocuous as “girls don’t play video games” or as insidious as basing one’s opinion of someone’s intelligence or worth on parameters such as gender or race, is discriminatory, and it is appropriate to point that out. I would certainly suggest that a great deal of tact is required to point out discriminatory behavior without alienating the person you are pointing it out to, but I would support the notion that an individual should be aware of the discriminatory acts taking place around him or her and decide if it is worth it to point the situation out.

          This doesn’t mean that the OP or anyone else needs to harangue her boss or male colleagues about why the women weren’t invited, or that she even needs to say anything at all if it was an isolated incident, but she needs to be aware of what is possibly going on and not too quick to assume it is just coincidental, as seems to be the suggestion here.

      2. BCW*

        Great point. Often women who may not be interested, just want to be included in the discussion or invited to the event. So if a bunch of guys decided after work to go watch Football, some women may feel excluded even if they don’t really care about football. Whereas if the women were to get together to watch “The Bachelor” I doubt very much that many guys would care or feel left out. I’m sure there may be a few, but they would be in the minority. In fact, I do know a couple of guys who watch the show, but I still don’t think they’d be upset if all the women in their office had a viewing party and didn’t think to invite him.

    2. Bwmn*

      While I think it’s tempting to strip the gender component of this – I think that sports in particular have been an integral part of the classic ‘old boys club’ where the assumption (and often reality) was that as women weren’t interested it was a means of exclusion (intentional or unintentional).

      Not to mention that sports as a pastime has one of those semi-acceptable seals of approval for missing work or being flakey. Beginning of March Madness week – numerous articles show up on how to call off sick. Olympic noon hockey – it’s ok to stream it at the office while working at half speed. Now without getting overly stereotypical about women’s hobbies vs men’s hobbies – I can’t really think of a more female centric area of interest that gets the same kind of leeway.

      I’m a female sports fan – and I’ve always found that I’ve been put to task a bit more to “prove” my interest. But as soon as my current boss found out about my soccer interest, he said “hey – World Cup – all the flex time we need!” Now he only manages me, so there’s no risk of anyone being left out or relied on to pick up the slack. Beyond sports though, I have a hard time thinking of a more “female centric interest” that would get that kind of reaction.

      1. BCW*

        To that point, yes I have wasted time watching sports at work. And during the royal wedding a couple months ago, the women were wasting time watching that. Now that is a more rare event, but there are things for which it could happen.

        1. Jen RO*

          I was going to post that my coworkers and I watched the royal wedding at work, but I decided it wasn’t applicable because we didn’t exactly have management approval for that :)

  27. Brett*

    #5 The most positive way I could actually see this is that the company had a job position on the shelf because of a lack of candidates. In that case the department head might have looked at your CV and, combined with other CVs they had seen recently, decided to dust off the position and repost it.
    It is not because of you specifically, but rather the idea that there are candidates available now, so it would be a good time to re-advertise the position. This is partially based on my own experience, where we have three positions sitting on the shelf right now because we have not seen any viable candidates in the local market (and have no budget to recruit outside of market right now).

    1. OP#5here*

      Finally a positive outlook!
      Thanks, I had just about given up. I applied to the position anyway and did as Alison suggested. Fingers crossed..

  28. Ruffingit*

    Am I the only one who would pray for/think good thoughts (whatever applies) for the Ukraine and then eat the cake?

    I just can’t see making a thing out of this because CAKE!

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