all the men in my office are taking weekly outings together

A reader writes:

I work at a small law firm that is about 80% male, 20% female (I am a woman, and young). Normally this gender imbalance is only a mild bummer (but is something I have spoken out about in the past). However, this month, I found out that all of the men in my office, from senior partners to junior paralegals, had planned an outing to a local sporting event. None of the women in the office were officially invited. I was shocked when I found out about this…I mean, this is a textbook example of what they say not to do in HR courses. I’m used to more subtle expressions of sexism in the workplace (and let’s be real, everywhere), but this was just beyond.

Some more details, in case helpful. A couple of the women were asked in an off-handed way if they liked watching the sports event in question (think, “Hey Lucinda, do you like the 49ers?”), but none of us were ever asked about it in the context of a formal office event (“Hey Lucinda, we are planning an office outing to see a 49ers game, would you want to come?”). They used work emails and calendars to plan the event, and it occurred during the workday (none of the men took official PTO to attend). This would be irritating enough on its own, but due to the nature of our work, if 80% of the office leaves halfway through the day, it means that everyone else’s timelines get compressed to account for that, and also, men who are junior to me on cases were not available as a resource for that afternoon or evening.

I did not do anything about the first outing, as I didn’t want to be the wet blanket responsible for it being cancelled, nor did I want to be invited to the outing in a reluctant, awkward way. But I do think I need to do something, especially since there is talk about this turning into a monthly thing. I’m honestly just really sad that in 2017, in a liberal, progressive city, in a company that generally considers itself to be pretty “woke,” I’m being put in a position of having to be the one to say something about this. Shouldn’t the man who organized this have had one second of doubt as he was composing an email to only men?

We don’t have an official HR function, and the man who organized the event is senior to me. He is also directly above me on some cases, so he contributes to parts of my review, etc. If you were me, what would you recommend? Keep quiet and stew in outrage? Talk to the partners of the firm?

Yep, it’s a pretty textbook example of what employers are supposed to know not to do.

It’s easy for people going to these single-sex outings to think, “We’re not intentionally excluding the women. It’s just that none of them would be interested in this 49ers game / golf game / strip club / dark back room where we’ll all smoke cigars.” But the point is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re interested. In a professional setting, it’s not okay for men to segregate themselves in ways that exclude women from the kind of bonding, networking, information-sharing, and actual business that happen at these outings. It’s the kind of thing that contributes to men having, on average, more of the relationships, mentoring, and sponsorships that help their careers and women having fewer.

Of course, that’s not to say it’s intentional (usually). Very few men participating in all-male bonding with colleagues intend to deliberately freeze women out. Plenty of them probably even consider themselves champions of equality and just haven’t stopped to think about the impact of professional boys-afternoons.

But the impact is a real one, which is why smart companies keep an eye out for this kind of thing and step in when they see it happening. That’s even more important in companies and industries that are already struggling to attract and retain women, like your 80 percent male office.

So, what should you do?

Everything you’re struggling with — not wanting to be a wet blanket and worrying about causing tension with people who review your work — is exactly what women struggle with when this stuff comes up. It’s what makes it so hard! If you could just file a complaint about sexism and not have to worry about professional ramifications … well, there would be a lot more complaints being filed, that’s for sure.

The thing that really sucks is that even if you’re pretty confident that there won’t be overt professional ramifications (and there probably won’t be blatant ones, because companies tend not to want to be sued once they realize they’re in legal-land-mine territory), it’s harder to ward off more subtle ramifications. If men in your office end up thinking that you’re easily offended and that they have to tiptoe around you, that’s not exactly conducive to developing the professional bonds that you’re annoyed at being locked out of in the first place.

One thing that can help: There’s safety in numbers. Are there other women in your office who would be willing to speak up about this with you? If a group of you speak up, it will be harder to label any one of you as the Uptight One. It’ll also be harder to blow off your concerns.

As for whom to say something to, it depends on whom you have to choose from. If you had an HR, you could start there, but since you don’t, is there someone who manages the day-to-day operations (like a COO)? A partner who’s particularly open-minded or approachable? If you’re not sure, or if you’re junior enough that you feel awkward approaching a partner, you can always start with your own manager and ask her advice about whom you should talk to.

If you’re up for it, you can also talk to men in your office individually, especially those you have a particular rapport with. For example, you could say, “It seems problematic to have all the men in the office getting together without any women.” Or, “Offices typically don’t do men-only work outings anymore because they put women at a professional disadvantage.” (And if someone points out that there are professional events and groups geared specifically toward women, point out that those groups exist to address the historic disadvantage that has left women out of leadership pipelines for generations, and that men as a group don’t face that kind of institutional bias.)

It may be that simply pointing out why this is problematic will be all it takes to solve it, and that your male colleagues will be sheepish about not realizing it in the first place. It’s also possible that you will be seen as the killjoy who ruined all the fun.

I don’t know which it will be in your situation — I hope the former — but you and your female colleagues are going to learn something valuable about your employer and your co-workers, however this plays out. (Here’s hoping they learn something, too.)

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 401 comments… read them below }

  1. Nervous Accountant*

    Unlike the last question, this one is VERY VERY SEXIST. This situation sucks. I hope to hear an update on this one.

    1. Justme*

      Very sexist, and made me so mad. Football game DURING WORK HOURS and excluding all the women in the office?

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        It’s like the example that the HR rep during training gives with a laugh as like “Oh yeah, and no one’s this stupid, but don’t do this.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Sometimes it’s like you can hear Barney Stinson in the distance, announcing “Challenge accepted!”

            1. Anonymoose*

              Or would he just raise an eyebrow and straighten his tie, then get distracted when his secretary walked by?

              Hm, ya, Barney would be stupid enough to accept the challenge.

      2. Myrin*

        Also, the fact that on this day, 80% of the office just up and vanished? Like, did OP and the other women even know about this event by then or was there just a sudden mass exodus of men leaving astonished female workers behind? Did the one woman who was in the bathroom during that time come back and meet with nothing but empty space and a swinging office door? Incredible.

        1. kittymommy*

          I’m picturing something like Left Behind/ the rapture, where there’s just all these empty desks with little piles of clothing in the seats

          1. Lauren*

            Can OP please reference the rapture of men disappearing when she texts someone asking where everyone went?

      3. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

        Not to get on a tangent, but the problem here is excluding women from the invitation. It’s not that the football game is “DURING WORK HOURS.”

        The partners of a law firm are its owners, and if they want to do a social event “during work hours,” that’s certainly their call. And it’s a relatively common occurrence at law firms, where the distinction between “work hours” and “non-work hours” tends to be blurred in any event.

        I was working on a project in London during the summer of 2012, and it was very common for companies to buy tickets to Olympic events during the day.

        1. Jennifer*

          What if your company had only allowed the men to use the Olympics tickets? The women were just expected to continue working and pick up their slack because of course women don’t care about sport.

        2. otherworldling*

          While I agree that excluding the women is the bigger problem here, the way it happened “during work hours” still isn’t okay in this situation either. If someone runs their own office and wants to take the entire office to a football game during the day, I have no problem with that. If cliques within the office want to hang out on their own time, sure. But if there’s a event during work hours that not everybody gets to go to, it’s doubly unfair for those who weren’t invited have to stay and pick up the slack in the office for those who did leave.

        3. StrikingFalcon*

          But it’s doubly an issue because it happened during work hours, since those who stayed behind had to pick up the work of those who left. So it was sexist to exclude them but also unreasonable to saddle them with extra work for it.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        It seems like a really tough place to make a career.

        If it were me, I would have said that I love going to football games, brushed up on (team/rules/trivia/whatever) and gone along with them to the game. Or, speak up and say that you love football and wanted to go, and that you’ll go next time.

        Even with safety in numbers, you’re going to be a buzz kill if you complain. It’s totally wrong but there’s the non-confrontational way out. Especially with no HR dept and an organizer who you sometimes report to.

        1. AMPG*

          This reminds me of the “Insecure” episode where Molly tries to schmooze with one of the senior partners at her firm at a hockey game, only to be completely brushed off the next day. Bottom line, someone who doesn’t think you “belong” is going to find a way to exclude you.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            I think it’s worth showing that she does belong. Assuming it’s unintentional, of course. Going to the game will show where everyone falls.

            1. NorthernSoutherner*

              I’m one who *wouldn’t* want to go to the game. I agree with those who say if the men want to exclude the women, they will. Heck, they could linger in the men’s room (and I suspect they do), discussing office business. I don’t mean office gossip. I mean the boss who has one promotion and two candidates, one of whom is the kid who’s gone to all the football games and had some great ideas when they discussed business during half-time. Who’s he going to pick?

        2. 42*

          >> If it were me, I would have said that I love going to football games, brushed up on (team/rules/trivia/whatever) and gone along with them to the game. Or, speak up and say that you love football and wanted to go, and that you’ll go next time. <<

          One problem with this is if the OP really doesn't want to go (and rather simply objects to not being invited and given the option to attend in the first place), then the OP is now somewhat obliged to attend, and incur costs, because she specifically brought it up.

          Better to just ask to be included in plans, *whether they take the offer up or not*.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            So if she is included in the first place or have to ask to be included, she still incurs those costs…not sure I understand.

            1. Someone else*

              The difference is being invited in the first place and having the choice, vs being entirely excluded.

              1. Hills to Die on*

                I agree, but I a man not speaking to how it should be, but how to address the actual situation. I think we can all agree it should not be like this.

        3. Reya*

          This is a textbook example of what I consider to be one of life’s cardinal lessons:

          Invite everybody, even the people you know won’t want to come.

          It costs nothing to add an extra name to the invite, and is worth everything in terms of avoiding hurt feelings later. If people don’t want to be on the circulation list, they can ask to be removed – but in lieu of that, you’re getting invited. I know you won’t come. You know you won’t come. But we’re going to keep up appearances anyway.

  2. gwal*

    The photo! “See no, speak no, hear no sexism!” Seems very representative of the public conversation on this topic…

    1. Just another voice in the echo chamber*

      I also thoroughly enjoyed the photo! Love how NYMag always styles the AAM posts with vintage workplace kitsch!

    2. Cary*

      Oh my god yes.

      Especially the dude who’s first comment was all, “but NFL games are on a Sunday”. Well he’s wrong in that score, but sure keep making nit picky comments that completely invalidate her experience.

      Oh and the the commenter that justified rampant sexism by saying sometimes men that work 80 hour weeks just want to head to the strip club, and make gross comments about women’s bodies, and having a female colleague along for the ride would stop him doing that.


      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

        Look, missy, sometimes A Man has to comment about “some female’s cans” because it’s what his penis is compelling him to do.

        (Seriously, everybody, that is a not-exaggerated reference to the commenter Cary is referring to in the last paragraph)

  3. Anonymous Poster*

    This situation stinks. I’d bet it isn’t even crossing their minds that this is a gender-segregated thing at this point, and having it once a month is a sure-fire way to cause a really bad atmosphere for women within your organization.

    I understand wanting to let an HR person know, but since you don’t have it, would it be possible to talk to the organizer and say something along the lines of, “You know, many of the women like Francesca, Judy, and myself would be interested in attending the next one of these events. When will that be?” I’d hope that the person would realize what’s gone on then. At the very least, I’d hope that it would push them in the right direction of inviting everyone along for these sorts of bonding/business activities. After all, you don’t have to like the sport to like hanging out and chatting with your colleagues.

    That is, I’m hoping asking the organizer for an invite, because clearly this is a work event at this point, would help this time. It won’t change the pattern, unfortunately, but it should at least let them know that you’re paying attention, this isn’t okay, and the be equitable.

    1. Fine Dining Porkchops*

      Additionally, I think this approach would not only bring to light the sexism involved in this arrangement while giving the participants the benefit of the doubt, it would be done in such a way that retaliation (subtle or not-so-subtle) might be less likely; since this is something the OP is concerned about, and rightly so.

      1. Naruto*

        Yeah, I think this is the safest approach with the least risk of even subconscious, subtle retaliation. It probably results in all the women being invited, too, which more or less solves the problem.

        I get that ideally these kind of firm events would be thing that everyone is into, or people of both genders are into on an even basis, or whatever. But that’s a lot trickier to navigate.

    2. Infinity Anon*

      That is the least confrontational way to do it. It also might result in the event being canceled. It sounds like they are counting on the women running the office while they go have fun (which is so gross).

      1. Xarcady*

        Yes, they are just layering on the sexism here. All the men go to the game. And if anyone suggested asking the women if they’d like to come, someone probably responded with, “But who will answer the phones?” Ick.

    3. Janice*

      That is absolutely the way to go!!!! And as far as ” A couple of the women were asked in an offhanded way if they liked watching the sports event in question (think, “Hey, Lucinda, do you like the 49ers?”), but none of us were ever asked about it in the context of a formal office event (“Hey, Lucinda, we are planning an office outing to see a 49ers game, would you want to come?”). ” There is a huge difference between being interested enough to watch on TV and wanting to have a fun outing. The thing is, at least some of the women should go otherwise it will look like “so and so made a big deal out of this for nothing”.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        And this needs to be clarified. When the men say “I thought you weren’t interested in (sport)” your answer is “But I am interested in networking and enhancing my career”
        They may then respond that it’s “just” a sporting event. At which time you point out that it is occurring at work, on company time, and leaving the work for the women. It isn’t happening after hours and it involves most of the men in the office. This changes the nature of the event.

        1. Myrin*

          That’s great wording!
          I’m not at all interested in team sports but I’ve been to a fair amount of tournaments and stuff regardless and I loved the sense of camaraderie (and even fun!) I got to feel then – so a team outing would have to be actively off-putting for me to not want to take part in it even if I didn’t exactly like the activity, and I’d bet that many of the women at OP’s office feel the same way.

      2. Chinook*

        “A couple of the women were asked in an offhanded way if they liked watching the sports event in question (think, “Hey, Lucinda, do you like the 49ers?”), but none of us were ever asked about it in the context of a formal office event (“Hey, Lucinda, we are planning an office outing to see a 49ers game, would you want to come”

        It is also an unclear question when asking if someone likes to watch a live game. Up here, if someone asked if I liked the Stampeders, my response would be a simple no because I am an Eskimo fan (but I wouldn’t say so in enemy territory). But, if they asked if I wanted to see a CFL game, my response would be “of course.” Then again, the CFL understands its fan base and rarely has games during the week, so it wouldn’t happen.

          1. SJ*

            don’t you get an extra point if you kick a field goal through the goal posts after scoring a touchdown? (I know nothing about football, I should warn you.)

              1. Eliza Jane*

                Do not know if you are still tracking this, but Canadian football has the concept of a single, which you get for… um, things involving kicks and the end zone? Kicking the ball out of the end zone or having it unreturned in the end zone or similar things? In the US, that’s just a touchback, but in Canada they get a point and the ball starts further up the field.

        1. BlueWolf*

          Exactly. I am not from the area originally, so I like my home state’s sports teams rather than the local teams, but I can still enjoy a day at the game (sponsored by the company especially).

      3. Frozen Ginger*

        Heck, maybe some women have a different preferred team. “Hey, Lucinda, do you like the 49ers?” “Not really. [thinking to herself] I’m actually a Seahawks fan but I don’t want to start up that conversation!”

        Also, I’m one of the people who abhors televised sports but LOVES attending live events.

        1. Amy*

          I’m not a fan of baseball but when a vendor who has a fancy box at the local stadium invited us I went because it’s a really nice box.

          1. SAHM*

            I don’t particularly like sports (except hockey) but I LOVE stadium junk food! I don’t mind going to most sporting events simply because I can have nachos and pretzels which I never get otherwise.

      4. MacAIlbert*

        Yea. I rarely ever watch hockey on TV at home, but I like going to a live game every now and then, or watching in a bar. Totally different vibe and environment.

      5. SusanIvanova*

        Yeah, my answers to “do you like the 49ers” and “do you like going to a football game with a group of people” are very different!

      6. babblemouth*

        Right. I am utterly bored by watching sports on TV, but going to an event in person – that’s really fun! It’s a completely different story, and establishing that someone is not into Thing A is completely different from them not being into Thing B even if the two are somewhat related.

        Additionally, the blanket assumption that All Men Are Into Sports is also weird. Plenty of men are not interested in this, and there might be some guys attending this bored out of their minds, but feeling like they might lose some colleagues’ respect if they admit to not caring.

    4. Camellia*

      And then ask brightly, “And since the women want to attend also, who will be handling the work in the office while we are all gone?”

      1. Starbuck*

        Yeah, exactly. I’m kind of wondering if the gendered exclusion was intentional to make sure the office is still staffed. Maybe the men realized that they couldn’t empty out the office, so they figured they’d leave the women out because (how convenient) they don’t want to go anyway!

        1. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

          Law firms don’t generally have every lawyer (and paralegal) working on every deal/case. Specific attorneys work on specific matters, and by and large they can’t substitute for each other. It’s not as if the female attorneys could “staff the office” for the men. Most likely there was a sexist assumption that women weren’t interested in sports.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            But, according to the LW, it both creates more work for the women left behind, and makes it difficult to do the work they already had:

            due to the nature of our work, if 80% of the office leaves halfway through the day, it means that everyone else’s timelines get compressed to account for that, and also, men who are junior to me on cases were not available as a resource for that afternoon or evening

      2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

        I would think this question, but not a chance I would ask it. That problem is firmly in the organizers court. I’d just get my invite and walk away, lest they try to make ‘home’ office coverage somehow my thing to figure out.

  4. Snark*

    Whomever secured New York Mag’s access to an apparently limitless archive of ’70s stock photography for Alison’s column needs a raise and a holiday fruitcake, because I lost it as soon as I saw it.

    Oh, and this is sexist as HELL.

      1. Snark*

        Every detail is so perfect I can hardly stand it. His tie knot is bigger than some newborns’ heads. Hear No’s goldtone digital watch. The camel suit.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I, too, loved this photo. It may be my all-time favorite NY Mag AAM photo, to date.

  5. Alli525*

    This one is so obviously gender-discriminatory that I would be genuinely surprised if NONE of the lawyers at this law firm thought “hmm, that might blur the lines a bit.” I doubt the Good Ol Boys meant it maliciously, but this reminds me of the woman in Silicon Valley, whose name escapes me, who recently wrote that article about all the tech bros who emailed her to ask “hey was I ever sexist toward you?”

    Eyerolls galore.

    1. Snark*

      Or like Lady Gaga: “Can you, oppressed class, hold me by the hand and tell me all the ways to not oppress you?”

    2. Engineer Girl*

      None the less, if someone asks that question then seize the day! They are at least a little open to instruction. Blind spots are called that for a reason. If someone asks you if they have one, let them know. Don’t get disgusted that they’re so clueless

      1. Alli525*

        True, but in the case I mentioned (now I’m mad I didn’t save or post the link anywhere!) the request came across as just “Hi, I guess Silicon Valley really is sexist, I used to work with you and possibly treated you in a sexist way, can you please dredge all that up and also tell me how to not be sexist?” It’s just asking for emotional labor on top of emotional labor, and reeks of entitlement, instead of genuinely coming prepared, doing one’s own research, and asking for a discussion.

        1. JenB*


          Also, in my experience, when men have asked me if they’ve ever been sexist to me or in front of me, and I’ll say “Well, there was that time when…” 70% chance of one of the following responses:

          A.) Oh come on, it was just a joke, you took it out of context… (Mm-hm.)
          B.) But I didn’t mean it like that! I’m a nice guy, I’m not sexist. Don’t you know I’m a husband and father of a daughter, I always pay for dinner and hold doors open and I’d NEVER… etc.
          C.) Well, you should have TOLD me, how was I supposed to know! (And risk you acting defensive and weird like you are now?)

          Men, if you really wanna know some common unintentional sexist behaviors without burdening a woman with the question, just do some research. Google it. Follow feminists in your industry on Twitter. Read more books and articles by women, not even activist-centered books but just books about their experiences. Listen to women when they do choose to share with you, without getting defensive or dismissive. You’ll learn. (

          1. seejay*

            and the same goes for learning about *any* -isms actually. I’ve been doing a lot of research and reading on racism over the past year and learning a tonne more that I never actually understood well and one of the things I took upon myself was making sure I never made it someone else’s job to teach me (at least without me having done a bunch of research and educating first and then asking good, intelligent questions that showed I’d done a lot of legwork on my own in the first place).

            If you want to be an ally and understand where you might’ve screwed up, don’t make it someone else’s job to teach you where you screwed up, especially if your response is going to be defensive and double down on the excuses. There’s a lot of stuff out there already that will help explain things without putting the burden on someone else to explain it (it’s called emotional labour). If you do homework first, then there’s questions afterwards, you definitely come across as having done some legwork about it first.

    3. Specialk9*

      I’m seeing blowback for anyone who names the problem, and lots of tiptoeing to get this one issue handled, without addressing the underlying sexism.

      So what about a Glassdoor review? (Under a new anonymized account, not on your home ISP)
      “Dewey Cheatham & Howe has a good cafeteria and on-site gym. Long hours like most law firms. At least 80% male, at all age groups, and 100% male partners. (The average firm has 47% women first years.) Monthly work sponsored networking events are only available to men, and the 20% female workers are left to cover the 80% male worker who are networking at luxury events. This sums up the many gendered interactions at this firm. Recommend women apply elsewhere.”

      See if that gets them to sit up and take notice!

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Ooh! Like this one! I know Alison isn’t in favor of anonymous feedback, but there’s no reason the women in the office should suffer any consequences for some bozo’s dumb idea.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It’s horribly passive agressive. You don’t even know if the firm will see it. It certainly doesn’t create an atmosphere where you can discuss solutions to the problem.

          1. CrazyEngineerGirl*

            I don’t think it’s necessarily passive aggressive. If an employee genuinely fears retaliation and isn’t in a position to risk their job and livelihood taking a stand, doing something like this anonymously is an option I don’t think should be discounted. As we’ve seen here on AAM over and over, there are a lot of workplaces where it doesn’t really matter what you say or do, nothing is going to ‘create an atmosphere where you can discuss solutions to the problem.’ We can’t force people to risk retaliation and I don’t think these situations should be treated like cases of ‘all or nothing.’

            1. Engineer Girl*

              It may be wrong, but it’s not your place to seek revenge. Just leave and let the company die because they can’t keep good workers.

              1. CrazyEngineerGirl*

                Everything other than the opinion that the cafeteria and on-site gym are good and the last two sentences in the example review, are factual statements. Even if they were just personal experiences/opinions, is that not the entire point of Glassdoor reviews? I don’t see how this is categorically a person seeking revenge. If a current or former employee has this kind of experience to share than I applaud them for posting it to a site like Glassdoor. If I were a job seeker, this is just the kind of information I sure as hell would want to see.

              2. neverjaunty*

                What’s wrong with warning others?

                And it’s a comforting fiction that karma will ensure the company quietly dies.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            It may be, but so is only inviting guys to the game. Given the backlash that she faces–and I promise you she will–it makes sense to protect herself.

      2. V*

        I am a female engineer, and I have worked in tech for the last 11 years (since graduating college).

        Original letter writer: start looking for a new job ASAP. Buy Ellen Pao’s book and read it.

        These people are not going to change. They might change the men-only outings to football games in the middle of the workday, but the death-by-1000-cuts of subtle sexism is going to eventually start sucking the life and happiness out of you. Any reputation the firm has cultivated as being semi-woke was likely done to make more money. It takes actively checking one’s bias for a firm to treat all people actually equally, and the fact that this football outing happened once is a huge red flag that nobody there cares about equality.

  6. Myrin*

    I know that the pictures at NYM are usually spot-on and hilarious but this one is simply fantastic – could be an actual piece of modern art!

    As for the letter itself, I see two people to approach – one, like Alison says, the man (or men) you work most closely with and who value you both as a human being and a colleague, and two, the most senior woman. Unless you are the most senior woman, obviously, but if that’s the case, I’m sure you’ll be seen as a small hero by the women under you if you decide to take a stand.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Doesn’t surprise me at all. Law firms (IME, and yeah I am sure that some firm out there, somewhere, is not like this ) are just hotbeds of good ol’ boy network type sexism. It’s pretty awful.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, but usually it’s way, WAY more subtle. Usually, it’s just rationalizing manage-out and of-counsel promotions in lieu of partnership as people being on the “mommy track” or academic snobbery trumping actual achievement and knowledge (a/k/a classism).

        Our employment counsel, executive committee, managing partner, and HR would be all over a situation like this and it would not be pretty for the event planners. I suspect the theme of the conversation would be, “Are you an idiot?” followed closely by “Are you TRYING to get us sued?!?!” and “I cannot believe that we have to tell you this.”.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oy, welcome to law. Especially law firms. But really, just all of law. There’s a reason we’re still nowhere near parity despite women comprising the majority of law grads.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yep. Exactly what Jessie the First and PCBH said. Even law firms that handle employment discrimination.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, those are my favorite (plaintiff-side employment law firms with horribly sexist and discriminatory practices). I think my all-time favorite is still the DV and women’s rights legal nonprofit with an ED who swore she would fire anyone (in her all female staff) who became pregnant, and that they were welcome to try to sue her but by doing so they were just hurting survivors… and she’d drag it out until it bankrupted the fired former employee. She said many other things, but that was my favorite anecdote.

        1. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

          It wouldn’t fly in any law or finance firm I’ve worked at, either. It’s not a coincidence that LW stated she works at a small law firm.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it depends on your firm and practice group. I have seen this fly at AmLaw50 firms… but I see it much more often at midsize firms and even in nonprofits—law is magnanimous about its gender discrimination problems.

  7. Bend & Snap*

    Um super sexist. I would be really leery of being the one to speak up given the hierarchy, but someone has to!

    I worked at a small company where all the men shared a p.orn subscription held by a senior partner, but that exclusion didn’t bother me. It was disgusting and disturbing though.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Yeah, that’s treading the knife edge between super questionable and hostile work environment.

  8. BenAdminGeek*

    This is the most textbook example of gender-based exclusion I’ve ever seen in the wild. I can’t imagine why no one noticed this was unbelievably discriminatory.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I once had to point out to a senior colleague that his plan to take male intern out to play squash as an end-of-internship gift, and his plan to get female intern a t shirt could be seen as problematic.

      He agreed once I said it and scrapped the plan. But, he had followed a similar line of logic as the letter – it was based on ‘interest’ rather than gender, but it would have just happened to allow male intern an entire day of one-on-one facetime with him.

      It’s surprising to what degree these things are not obvious to the people who make plans like this. Here’s hoping OP that the men in your office react similarly. Good luck!

      1. PB*

        And did he think the female intern was interested in tee-shirts? I’m glad he listened to you, but it boggles my mind.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          I mean, I’m a dude and would totally rather have a t-shirt than have to exercise, but that’s just laziness on my part.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Definitely a double-edged sword, because please oh please don’t make me essentially relive gym class in high school. :-) How about we all go to ComicCon instead, boss?

    2. Blue Anne*

      I can.

      The same thing happened to me at a Big 4 accounting firm 2 years ago. All of the males in the audit department (and maybe some other departments?) in our office were invited out to the races, from senior partners down to interns. None of the women were invited.

      I mentioned to one of the dudes how it was pretty weird, and he muttered about “The social committee will probably organize something for the girls… shopping, cocktails…”

      This was in a country more liberal than the USA, where I had been told by senior management that sexism in the firm would probably sort itself out as millennials got older.

      I didn’t stay in the firm long enough to see it play out.

      1. OhNo*

        Y I K E S

        That is some intense obliviousness on… well, all the dudes’ part, to be honest, but especially that one dude.

        1. Blue Anne*


          In the same office, I listened while many of my male colleagues kept up a running commentary on the clothing of women walking by the audit room, and had to ask a manager not to make dead stripper jokes. (He was very apologetic when I said WTF at him.)

      2. Delta Delta*

        As a woman who loves going to the races, I can’t tell if I’d be more upset that the women were left out or that they were left out of an activity that I love.

        1. Lucius*

          I used to work in a 95% female workplace and one of the occasional outings was to the races. I had no interest in it myself, but it was reasonably well attended as far as I know.

      3. Charlotte Collins*

        I grew up not far from a racetrack and never thought of it as a “men-only” activity. And don’t women stereotypically like horses? Mind boggled.

        Then again, my grandma liked to play the ponies, so…

  9. Janelle*

    I don’t know. I’d care less personally. Beyond the picking up their slack while gone I really wouldn’t care. Then again I loathe all work group activities and a sporting event would make me want to gouge my eyeballs out. Personally I’d probably enjoy the quiet in the office.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      In which case, you’d opt out of the invitation. The problem is that none of the women had the opportunity to accept or decline an invitation to participate.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yeah – “I’m not personally interested” is not an acceptable response to the problem here, which is an issue of gender discrimination.

        I mean, it’s a perfectly acceptable response to “Janelle, would you personally like to come to the office sporting event we are having next week?” but it is NOT an acceptable response to “should all the men in the office organize a men’s only outing on work days, without inviting any women, and leave all the work behind for the women to manage while all the men take time off together?”

      2. Janelle*

        Ya but that goes back to feeling obligated to attend work events to be a team player. I’m by saying they aren’t wrong just that I’d be grateful I wasn’t even subjected to it.

      3. PB*

        This. I’d likely opt out, too, but I would be livid in the OP’s circumstances. All of the men in the office (80% of the employees) got to take work time to enjoy a sports event, and no woman was even invited. That’s a huge problem.

    2. Ellie*

      Yeah, but what’s so bad about it is the women aren’t even being asked if they’d like to go. It’s just assumed that they will stay behind and hold the fort!

      1. Starbuck*

        Yeah, that part especially makes me think this was not an accident/unintentional. They know exactly what they’re doing.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      I hate socializing outside of work, but I would want to have at least the opportunity to decide whether the face time and the networking would be worth it.

    4. LQ*

      I DESPISE the work fun activities. But you know what? When they are with my boss and his boss and his boss and I want to advance? I go. Because in a perfect world I’d be promoted based on my skills but here in the real world these guys are getting an extra chunk of time with the boss’s casually AND not having to do work? I want to be asked because I may just suck it up and do that thing even if I hate it because that’s how the world we live in works today. And until I get power I can’t change it.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This is where I land. I’ve toured two stadiums with my team at work, even though I don’t like sports, have issues with professional sports in general, and actively LOATHE football in general and the NFL in particular. And I deeply resent that some of my hard-earned money is paying for said stadiums. Fortunately for me, I seem to have married one of the few men in the US who doesn’t care about football. (The tours were actually mildly interesting, anyway – just because I’m a person who enjoys knowing about the logistics of putting something like that together. So for that and for team bonding reasons, I don’t feel like the time was wasted.)

        But all that said, you can bet that if there was a work event that centered around attending a football game, my behind would be in a seat and there would be a smile on my face. And I’d be chatting pleasantly with those around me and thanking the bosses for hosting the event. Because I’ve been painted with the “not a team player” brush before, and it sucks. So I’m not going to open myself up to that again if I can avoid it.

    5. Mookie*

      But, then again, you’d probably choose a different profession. Networking matters here, and it’s unreasonable to deny those normal opportunities to each and every female colleague because they chose the ‘wrong’ answer when casually asked a seemingly inconsequential question.

    6. JenB*

      This event sounds terrible and I’d never want to go, but even if they just gave me the day off I’d STILL be pissed because my male co-workers are getting networking time and pal-around-with-the-boss time that I don’t have access to. The empty office would be nice in the short term, but in the long term when those guys get promotions and raises at a higher rate than me, it wouldn’t be so great anymore.

      Frankly I don’t think these events that only appeal to some people should go on at all. Just give people the day off to optionally spend at a ball game with their buddies that *aren’t* their boss.

  10. kristinyc*

    This is definitely problematic.

    However – if my office planned an all-staff event to go to a football game, I would have no interest in going. I’m really not into football at all, and would rather be at work . I know many women love football though. I don’t love drinking, but I try to make appearances at team happy hours to bond with co-workers while sipping seltzer. If it was a team outing to see a play or do some kind of art project or volunteer work, or I’d be all over it.

    I’ve worked at places that do a company wide fantasy football league, or betting on the super bowl. Even though it’s offered to everyone to participate – I still feel left out of the team bonding parts, since I really don’t want to participate in the football parts (but I also wouldn’t want to take it away from people who enjoy it).

    I think the trick is to have a VARIETY of optional team social events so that everyone has opportunities to bond with co-workers – if they want to. People who hate sports (men and women) shouldn’t have to sit through football just to be accepted at work.

      1. kristinyc*

        Agreed! But if most/all of the women are like me and hate football, and then decline to go, it would be too easy for the men to turn around and say, “See? We didn’t invite them because they wouldn’t have come anyway!”

        1. Bleeborp*

          But there was zero harm or skin off their nose to invite the women, even if no one takes them up on it (which seems unlikely since clearly some women want to network and have positive face time with their employers regardless of their interest in football.)

          1. kristinyc*

            I hear you. But as a person who hates football, I’d start to feel resentful if the only way for me to get those benefits is by participating in a 5 hour activity that I hate. Every month.

            Everyone should have been invited, yes, of course. But my point is that people who hate football are being put in a no-win situation, and by raising it, they’ll be seen as ruining everyone else’s fun. SO their options are:
            1. don’t get invited at all and miss out completely
            2. be invited, go, and be bored (but still get some facetime)
            3. be invited, don’t go, and miss out on the networking/be seen as “not a team player.”

            1. Mookie*

              Just to say, that would definitely be a problem, as well, only providing opportunities for socializing and elbow-rubbing in an environment unfriendly or unaccommodating to the majority of female staff (like a strip club or summat). Men don’t have a patent on sport, though, and there are plenty of men bored stiff by it all and plenty of women who aren’t. The solution, I should think, is to switch up venues regularly enough that you’re not alienating people. To resist doing so, particularly in the face of concerted objection, reveals intent.

              1. Lucius*

                I have virtually no interest in football, but I know plenty of women who like it a lot and even more who at least enjoy going to games from time to time. I don’t think this (if everyone were invited) falls into anything like office trip to the strip club territory. I think we risk getting into as much stereotyping as the men in LW’s office are if we start to assume a football game is inherently uninteresting to women.

          2. Starbuck*

            “But there was zero harm or skin off their nose to invite the women”
            Ah, but what if they had invited them, and they all said yes? Who would then have to stay behind to staff the office? OP’s letter makes it sound like coverage is necessary in the office during these events. I think these guys are getting way too much credit. I think they know exactly what they were doing.

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t love sports, but I want to be part of activities of the group and bonding so I went to a fair number of baseball games with colleagues back in the day

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, this is akin to when you start dating someone who likes an activity you’re meh about–you go with them some of the time, and they come to your activity some of the time. It builds the relationship.

        We have a minor league baseball team and stadium here in StupidCity. I am not a fan of baseball but if my work wanted to go, I would probably do it at least a couple of times.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I agree there should be a variety of events, but I also think women who work in male dominated industries have to adapt a little. The company definitely must invite the women!

      I’ve been to NFL games, NHL games, MLB games, and MLS games, and the only sport I really care about is baseball. So what? It’s a networking or team-building activity, not a sports event. I also don’t particularly like to volunteer for charities in a service role, and we do that at my company, too. If you can’t do these things with your own team, the company won’t ask you to do them with clients, and you might miss out on some good opportunities.

      If there is not a business purpose to the activity (networking, team-building), the company shouldn’t be doing it with company funds on company time. If there is a business purpose, then the women cannot be excluded because they don’t like whatever activity it is. It doesn’t make sense because that’s not the driving purpose.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Women who work in male-dominated industries do adapt, and more than a little. The leaders of these male-dominated industries also need to adapt, however – because being male-dominated is a problem, really; they are missing out on skill and talent, and often they are missing out not because “women don’t math and science!’ but because the fields are very clearly labeled, in all sorts of intangible ways, as Women Not Welcome Here. Some women power in and adapt and thrive anyway (or power in and try to adapt and don’t thrive). But having barriers to entry and barriers to success for half the population is not good business.

        SO, yeah, I agree – women in male-dominated industries should (AND DO!!) adapt. But it is not too much to ask the businesses in these industries to, like, think for 5 seconds about what they’re doing, and if they don’t need to do it in a certain way, mix it up a little.

      2. Blue Anne*

        We do adapt. I would not do nearly as much binge-drinking if I didn’t work in a male dominated industry. And I probably wouldn’t have to report conversations like “it would be great to be a woman, you could get a ton of time off work just by having a baby, they’re so lucky, we should get extra compensation because we can’t do that” to HR.

    3. Nea*

      I would rather cut off a toe than go to a sportsball event of any kind. That said, I am also not volunteering to do everyone ELSE’s job once a week while they swan off during working hours regardless of the reason.

      It’s not a case of having to go to the game to be accepted and it’s not even a case of the job not offering a wider range of reasons for people to skive off during work hours. It’s that a specific subset of people are being handed extra work to keep the office running while another class of people swans off, and that the determination is made not by interest, but by genitalia.

    4. LawPancake*

      I think that the law firm context makes it even worse. Having an opportunity to interface in a positive social way with the higher-ups and partners in a firm is a huge deal for young associates and has a massive impact on the type of work they’re assigned or mentorship opportunities. I don’t care about football nor would I enjoy the game but I would have been all over this as an associate for the face time.

    5. Quinalla*

      I agree with you, the primary problem here is this being a men-only event. Yes, this is definitely a textbook example of what not to do, but I know in my HR course, ALL of the examples they gave us of what not to do were real-life examples and all recent ones! I would be so upset if something this blatant happened at my company and I would try to speak up with a group of women or go to one of the principals that I know would listen to me and not retaliate even in an unconscious way.

      But I agree, there is a secondary problem if all the company outings are sports-related as lot of people don’t like sports. It would definitely be better to have some variety. It is like with companies where all outings are happy hours where everyone is expected to drink. I personally enjoy sports (though I recognize their problematic elements for sure) and a good drink, but not everyone does for a variety of reasons and having an awareness of that and making an effort to have a variety of activities is important!

  11. hbc*

    I would probably bring up the sexist element as a side component. As in, “Hey, when 80% of the office leaves for the day, the other 20% really needs to be consulted much further in advance or we need to shut down the office. It was very hard for those left behind to cover. Also, if these big bonding things are going to continue, there should be a variety of activities and people included, because anything that ends up with all of one gender going or staying doesn’t look very good.”

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Yes! I live in an area where *everyone* is assumed to love football and the local team. If there were a “boys-only” (I hesitate to use the term “men”) outing like this, they would hear about it, because the sexism would be even more obvious.

        Also, even if you aren’t interested in the sport, if the company has a box (which I would assume is the case to accommodate all the boys), I’ve heard those are pretty sweet in general.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I agree but would adjust the wording a little. I think the first part: ” “Hey, when 80% of the office leaves for the day, the other 20% really needs to be consulted much further in advance or we need to shut down the office. It was very hard for those left behind to cover.” is spot on!

      The second part I would adjust to something like: “If these outings are going to be a regular thing we need to ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to participate. I worry how it will look to those on the outside when all the men are getting to go and none of the women are so much as invited. This also has the potential to cause moral problems or, even, a legal problem for us down the road.”

      Use the works “us” and “we” a lot so you are placing yourself on their side while pointing out the massive headache this will cause the company.

      1. sometimeswhy*

        This is a great tactic, especially if there’s member of the included group you can get to deploy it.

        I used it successfully when a member of management kept trying to set up happy hours for team building when a significant portion of the team (the portion who all belonged to a protected class that no one who would attend belonged to) were teetotal. Sure they were all invited but with the expectation that they’d decline.

        It probably also helped that I had the benefit of not belonging to the excluded group and could point at it and say, “this looks bad, is probably illegal, puts the organization at risk, and your justification is so transparent it’s shameful.”

  12. CatCat*

    OP may find that some of the men have picked up on this as well and are not comfortable being the only one to bring this up (especially, junior associates and paralegals) so the safety in numbers could be with both men and women from the office.

    Could OP also be pretty neutral? Like in the vein of, OF COURSE this is an oversight that will be corrected because it’s just too ridiculous for it to be otherwise. Something to the organizer like, “Hey, I didn’t get the firm Sportsball invitation. I think the distribution list may be incomplete. Are all the attorneys and paralegals supposed to be on the list?”

    I hope this works out.

    1. Willis*

      I was thinking along these lines as well. While this totally deserves to be named as sexist, if OP and/or others don’t want to complain outright about it, I feel like something in that vein could make it clear to the organizers that this isn’t right. “Oh, well, isn’t the whole office invited?” “Who’s organizing the monthly social event…I’d (or we’d) like to be added to the invite list.” etc. would hopefully get the point across.

      Honestly, if this continued after folks pointed out the issue, or led to retaliation, or was so likely to that I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything, I’d be applying elsewhere.

  13. Secretary*

    Is there a way the OP can file a EEOC complaint anonymously? If there are other women in the office the men won’t necessarily know who filed it? I know that normally it’s best to try to resolve the issue first, but isn’t the EEOC there for this kind of circumstance?

    1. Important Moi*

      I would say no, this is not what the EEOC is for.

      Maybe if it were part of a pattern of treating women badly? On its own, no.

      1. seejay*

        Also bring in the EEOC at this point is like dropping a nuke when a frank talk is what you need first.
        Don’t raze the ground when the situation doesn’t call for it yet. It’s just this one situation (so far, based on the letter anyway) that can probably be dealt with by confronting it head-on. If the sexism is far deeper, more prevalent and more insidious, that’s when you raise the level of how you deal with it.

  14. NW Mossy*

    In some ways, grappling with this kind of subtle sexism shares some Venn diagram space with being in a meeting where someone with clout is floating a spectacularly bad idea. You’re scanning the room to make eye contact with someone else also wearing a WTF face. You have that kind of eye-conversation – “Are you going to say something?” “Heck no, I’m not a masochist!” “But it’s so dumb, we should say so!” “I KNOW, but it would also be dumb to lose my job over this.”

    And whether the dumb idea is panning for gold in the office toilets or being a storybook sexist, the outcome’s the same – the level of stupidity doesn’t feel “dumb enough” to justify the risk of blowback. And thus, it persists in that classic tragedy-of-the-commons way where we all ruin it for everyone by making the low-risk calculation for ourselves as individuals.

    Alison’s advice is spot-on – find a lower-risk way to put the “um, kinda sexist, yo” idea out there and see if it takes. It’s totally reasonable to say “Hey, when all of the guys are out for an afternoon every month, it’s squeezing our timelines and we’re at risk of being late – we need to fix that, because as lovely as Boys and Brews is, we still have to get the work done and I don’t think our clients are going to buy that male bonding is a good reason to make them wait.”

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      And whether the dumb idea is panning for gold in the office toilets or being a storybook sexist, the outcome’s the same – the level of stupidity doesn’t feel “dumb enough” to justify the risk of blowback. And thus, it persists in that classic tragedy-of-the-commons way where we all ruin it for everyone by making the low-risk calculation for ourselves as individuals.

      Absolutely brilliant. Thank you for articulating this so well.

      1. Mookie*

        Seconded. This stuff is pernicious because, individually, it all seems so low-stakes, but when taken together, it’s one of the reasons why institutional prejudice resists ferreting out. It’s EVERYWHERE and it all looks and behaves so benign, coincidental, unintentional.

    2. Merci Dee*

      I’m forever going to carry with me an imagine of an old-timey prospector hunkered over a flushing office toilet, shallow pan dipped into the swirling waters, with his bare-bones camp set up in the stall and his faithful burro Maria by his side, trying to eat another two or three squares of toilet paper from the dispenser.

      Thank you for this.

  15. Anonymous in Texas*

    Ugh …sorry. Speaking as a “semi-woke” guy, I would be mortified if I knew that the ladies of the office weren’t invited to an office sporting event. I would seriously question the integrity of my peers if that were the case. It’s one thing to plan arrangements with colleagues off company time, but it’s another to arrange fun times as a company activity and deliberately leave out female colleagues.

    Once upon a time, a group of us were attending a technology conference and my boss made arrangements for us to go to a baseball game. He didn’t make arrangements for the lone girl attending the conference with us.

    Upon finding this out, another developer and I promptly canceled our plans to attend the sporting event and found the nicest dinner in town our company would pay for and included our lone lady in our dinner plans. I left not too long after that and I don’t feel an ounce of remorse for skipping the game or having a fun night out.

    1. Anon attorney*

      I hate to be critical when you are clearly trying to help, but (a) if I’d been your female colleague, I’d have preferred an invitation to the event (not only because that means I would have been included rather than treated as a special case, but also because I like watching sport) and (b) if your colleague was over the age of 16, she is not a girl, she is a woman. That may seem picky, but it reflects a general paternalistic vibe I got from your comment, as if you get some pleasure out of seeing yourself as a rescuer of the poor “lone lady” – if so, that’s not fatal, but it also doesn’t mean you see your female colleague as an equal. As a female professional, I don’t want male colleagues to rescue me, flatter me, or feel that they’ve got to make special arrangements for me – I just want them to treat me as a professional equal, or in other words, the same way as they treat each other. As you’re obviously concerned about sexism, which sadly not all of your compatriots are, I hope you’ll take this as friendly constructive commentary, as it’s meant.

        1. Anon attorney*

          I’m not going to derail the entire discussion, so this is all I’ll say, but I think the issue of men referring to adult women as “girls” (and to a lesser extent “ladies” goes far beyond nitpicking language. It is indicative of an overall attitude to women in business and society which deserves critical attention.

          1. Anonymous in Texas*

            I agree – I apologize I should have phrased my comment better, but the die is cast and I can’t seem to retract my comment. Allison (or other moderator) if you could delete my comment that would be kind.

          2. Anon8*

            And I hope you feel that way about women referring to men as boys, as was done repeatedly in this discussion. Heck, one poster above even purposefully refereed to them as boys and not a word about it from anyone.

        2. Cucumberzucchini*

          I don’t see it as nitpicking. Grown woman are so frequently referred to “girls”, we must work together to help correct this pervasive issue. I literally was at a meeting today where the presenter referred to a a 60 year old as a “girl”.

        3. Sally*

          I disagree. There is a big push to cease the use of the word “girl” to describe a woman. It’s diminutive and meant for children. The corollary to “man” is “woman”. My boss isn’t a “boy”, he’s a man.

          A lot of people feel uncomfortable using the word “woman” and thus revert to “girl” or “lady” instead. This reflects an instinct to see women as young, soft, feminine – instead of strong, adult, and equal.

        4. Bostonian*

          I disagree. Not only should the “girls” vs “women” distinction be made as others have, I also got a “savior” vibe from the story. I think it’s awesome that the coworkers decided not to go once they realized someone was being excluded, but did you involve her in making the plans for the night, or just make that decision for her…?

      1. Anonymous in Texas*

        Footnote: I grew up in rural Texas, in a family of 3 boys and many uncles. My family embraces “machismo” culture in every way. And now I’m all grown up and have blue in my hair and sometimes paint my nails with sparkly glitter. And I don’t think of myself any less of a man (even though I would have family members disagree).

        It’s hard for me because I’m gay and don’t see the world with a gender lens anymore. But I know it’s hard to have this conversation. All I can do is keep showing up to the table and trying to engage in the dialogue and learn.

      2. BPT*

        I’m guessing that the reason they couldn’t invite her to the event was that the boss already bought tickets and couldn’t buy more or get seats together. I’d much rather have colleagues bow out and come hang with me than know that I’m hanging out alone all night at a work conference while all my other coworkers are living it up at a baseball game I wasn’t invited to.

        1. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

          “I’m guessing that the reason they couldn’t invite her to the event was that the boss already bought tickets and couldn’t buy more or get seats together.”

          In that case, the appropriate way to handle it is for the managing partner to send out a message to all attorneys that says “we’ve got ten tickets to today’s game, and they go to the first ten people who respond.”

        2. neverjaunty*

          Nonsense. They invited only men – ranging from senior people to staff. They didn’t reserve the tickets for the top senior ten folks. They didn’t say “hey, we only have X tickets to the game, let us know if you want to attend and if we have more takers than tickets, we’ll assign randomly.”

      3. Observer*

        I’m sure you would have preferred and invitation, and so would I – but it wasn’t up to AiT to provide invitations.

    2. Blue Anne*

      Good for you, man. I agree with other commenters that a baseball invitation would have been better, but I doubt that was in your control.

    3. Anonymous in Texas*

      Howdy fellow posters! My original comment (while well-meaning in spirit) reeks of privilege. After further reflection, I wholeheartedly AGREE that the narrative reads – quite accurately – of a man suffering from “White Knight” syndrome. And I also erred in referring to women as girls. Unfortunately I can’t redact my commentary, but please be kind in your well-meaning responses in pointing out my folly.

      Blame it on the Texas? :)

      1. anon attorney*

        So many people are defensive and unwilling to acknowledge their own privilege – it says a lot for you that you are not. Thanks for contributing to a good discussion!

    4. ..Kat..*

      I am sorry people are criticizing what you did. You tried your best to rectify a company’s sexist actions in an imperfect way. But, you and your coworker were trying to do the right thing. Thank you for that.

  16. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

    Another possibility is to respond in a way that gives the appearance of assuming goodwill but makes clear the underlying problem and necessary solution.

    Hi Fergus,

    I’m so glad the last outing went well enough that this is going to become a regular ongoing event! If we will be making this a regular thing, let’s make sure that the next invitation goes out to the whole office rather than just the folks who attended the last meeting – we woudn’t want to give the impression that these are boys-only! Also, we should clarify if these are going to be official work-sponsored events or not. If they are, I think we need to make that clear in all of the invitations so that everyone can take that into account when deciding if they want to go. We should also consider offering a variety of events, not just 49ers games, if we go that route – we’ll want to be careful that the kinds of events we’re officially sponsoring don’t suggest any potential biases. If they’re not official work-sponsored events, let’s make sure they’re either scheduled outside of regular work hours or that people know they’ll be expected to use PTO for the game.
    Thanks so much for taking the lead on organizing this!


    1. lawyer*

      This email reads to me as something a superior would send to a subordinate…from the letter, I don’t think the OP is in a position of authority over those who organized this.

      1. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

        I wouldn’t send an email like this up but I would send it sideways. I had missed the detail that the organizer was senior – that does make it trickier. (I only learned emails like this after moving to the South, previously I would have just been able to send an email saying “Just a heads-up but you realize the options of this are totally sexist, right? I know that wasn’t your intention, just wanted to make sure it was on your radar before you send out the next invite.”)

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I wouldn’t send that one sideways either. The forced “we/us” language when you clearly mean “you” would rub me the wrong way if I got such an e-mail from anyone I didn’t report to.

        2. lawyer*

          I actually like that a lot better, to be honest, and feel like it would be more effective and better received. And I’m in the south, FWIW.

    2. LoL No*

      If I received that passive aggressive attempt at “managing up”, I would roll my eyes and hit delete.

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      Seriously, I’m trying to come up with a response more cogent than “oh my stars and garters!”

  17. Student*

    I think that if you go with AAM’s specific advice on this, you may win the battle and lose the war. The outings may stop, but you’ll have frostier relationships with men who are important to your career progress.

    I’d go with a different tactic for this case. I’d say something like, “Hey, I heard that a bunch of you folks all went out to the sport event, and might do it monthly. I was a bit disappointed I didn’t hear about the first outing, it sounded fun! Any chance you’ll open these outings up to the whole office next time? I’d love to go.” Part of the strategy is to deliberately not name the gender elephant in the room yet.

    Even if you don’t like to go to these sport events, say you’re interested. Attend, and strongly encourage the other women to attend with you. Ask questions about the sport. Learn about it.

    Sure, it’s not as satisfying as pointing out the open sexism and asking them to knock it off. It’s not as great as if they’d choose something with broader cross-gender appeal, or not do sexist stuff like this in the first place. But, these are (presumably) smart guys. They will realize with a message like this that the women have noticed they were excluded, and want to not be excluded. They will basically be socially obligated to invite you and the rest of the office next time, which gets you what you want – equal networking time – without taking away their toys or putting them on the Sexism Defensive. Or they’ll have to spell out the sexism pretty explicitly and own it more – at which point you have a much easier starting point to work from if you divert to AAM’s script about excluding women from company networking events, because they will have already conceded the core argument.

    1. Just another voice in the echo chamber*

      I agree with this. You wouldn’t be dying on a hill to make the world a better place, but it would serve your purpose and is a safer course of action if you are committed to staying at this job. I would consider it in the OP’s shoes.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Part of the strategy is to deliberately not name the gender elephant in the room yet.

      I think this is probably sound. Remember the social rule about how to avoid hurt feelings you either invite everyone in a group, or less than half? Pave the off-ramp for the person approached to think to themselves, “Gosh we accidentally didn’t invite everyone last time for an event that grew to include more than half the office, next time we should formalize it a bit and make sure everyone is invited.”

      1. Temperance*

        I’ve heard that rule, but it’s a social rule, not a workplace etiquette rule. Plus, these are dudes, who, stereotypically speaking, aren’t exactly up on their Ms. Manners.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s a social rule applied to workplaces for extra-work social outings. Wedding invites being the obvious one for invoking it, though it works for holiday barbecues too.

          But if you turn the question to whether or not it’s a problem that a group of bonded socializers is forming, then it’s relevant whether the group is, say, a minority of the accounting staff who like triathloning, versus most of the accountants who ‘just like hanging out at the sports bar’ minus a few lonely outcasts who ‘don’t fit in.’

          Also a huge problem if the group is set up to include those with more power at the office, plus a select subset of underlings who are the same gender, or age, or race, or alumni, or so on as the group who already have power.

    3. Lora*

      Agree w/ this. I have zero interest in sportsball of any kind, but I like nachos and beer and watching my colleagues make idiots of themselves and also for my colleagues to remember that I am a sentient human person not a piece of furniture.

      Once you have a stronger relationship with them, you will both better know how to tell them they were being jerks in a way that will have the best outcome on their behaviors and also have enough social capital with them that you can afford to be blunt if you have to. It’s a long game strategy but it works, especially when you have to deal with these ding-dongs every day.

    4. Elizabeth H.*

      I don’t like including the line “Any chance you’ll open these outings up to the whole office next time?” because it makes it sound like not including everyone is a plausible decision rather than an unfortunate oversight. Just saying “I was disappointed I didn’t hear about the first outing, I would love to go next time – please add me to your invite list.” That is pretty blunt. You could even say “please add me to your invite list. I don’t think [Francesca, Judy, Elizabeth] heard about it either” if you want to be more direct about making them aware that women should be added to the invite list.

      I think the idea here is to point out very directly that because it’s a company time event organized at work, obviously every member of the company should be invited.

      1. Student*

        Part of that -opening this to the whole office – is the implied threat. You say that you want them to invite the whole office, but you really want them to invite the women on an equal basis. You don’t want a personal invitation – which is what your request goes to – you want an invitation to the department’s women.

        The subtext is that the women have been excluded, the women have noticed this, and the women are asking you to stop. The implied threat is that the women of the office will do something more serious, like get the social outing cancelled or file lawsuits or make life Very Unpleasant if you don’t do what they’ve nicely asked.

        There’s a carrot and a stick on the table, which is important.

        This is counting, specifically, on the sexist dudes being smart enough to realize they are being sexist quickly – seems like a pretty sound assumption given the OP’s info – and also not wanting to dig in on that when called out, provided you don’t back them into a corner. Calling out the sexism explicitly puts them in the Sexist Corner, where they will do and say anything to avoid being called a Sexist – there’s no carrot, only stick and more stick.

        This approach gives them a carrot to escape with – they still get to goof off on work time and schmooze – but now they also have women present. It gives them a stick of something vague and bad and inevitable if they don’t comply, which is often more effective than a specific threat – they don’t know exactly what the women will do if they aren’t included, so they can’t ready a specific defense; each one of them will dream up the most horrible possible retaliation the women could bring to bear, often worse than what the women can actually do; and “the women” are a group of people who seem more powerful than any one individual and are harder to target for any retaliation.

        1. neverjaunty*

          These are lawyers in a “liberal” urban area. I assure you they are 100% aware that inviting only men (of all levels) to a football game on company time is Not Okay and this wasn’t simply cluelessness. That’s why they got cute with “do you like Specific Sports Team?” rather than an actual invitation – so they would have a pretext to say “oh she isn’t interested”.

          There is no way to avoid the existence of the stick here. None. They knew it was a risk when they issued the invitation the way they did. Anything the OP does other than STFU is going to imply that stick exists.

          All she can do is, in good lawyerly fashion, to phrase things in a way where they can save face and she’s letting everyone pretend it was an oversight.

    5. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

      Student is right. If I were OP, I would say, “I love me some 49ers, and so does Lucinda! We’re coming next time.” This will lead the male attorneys to draw the conclusions for themselves, rather than being lectured on the matter.

  18. Zip Silver*

    I don’t know that saying “hey, this is sexist” out right would be helpful. I think it would probably be better to go to the coordinator say “I’m irritated I didn’t get to go to the 49er’s game”. It should solve the problem of these sorts of office hours bonding activities by making it known that you expect an invite to outings like this, without making others in the office feel like they have to tiptoe around the OP.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Except the problem is far bigger than ““I’m irritated I didn’t get to go to the 49er’s game”” and I don’t think it is helpful to pretend that the only problem is that this one person didn’t get to go to this one thing.

      Sadly, she probably does have to worry about “making others in the office feel like they have to tiptoe around” her – even though *they* are the ones who are desperately in the wrong, and it is not wrong of OP to *notice* and call them out on being wrong. But I think it should be done in a way that is bigger than this game.

      Several people have pointed out strategies that I think are good ones – going to the organizer and saying that when 80% of the attorneys/paralegals left for the day without advance notice, it really put the remaining 20% in a very tight spot with clients and deadlines, so what will the process be for this for next time so that the people who stay aren’t tasked with more than can reasonably be done; and that the invite list to the event appeared to be incomplete, as a fair number of us did not receive invites and were surprised to find the office so empty – is this a regular thing that will be happening?

    2. Kelly L.*

      I disagree–I think that wording makes it sound more personal and less of the systemic problem than it actually is.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, this is the giant catch-22 with sexism (and every other -ism). Most people react really negatively to any suggestion that they did something sexist (or that might be perceived as sexist). So you end up either trying to address it without actually saying “this is sexist,” which often downplays the seriousness of the problem, or trying to point out the sexism as gently and nicely as possible, with tons of “I’m sure this wasn’t deliberate” and still run the risk of being viewed as the person who’s looking for reasons to get offended.

  19. Nephron*

    There is a lot of discussion of the sexism and logistics issues, but a not so small issue that struck me beyond the blatant sexism and poor planning in 80% of the office leaving is the harm this could do to the junior male staff members.

    LW mentions she was unable to work with more junior attorneys on cases because they were at this event. A more senior female attorney, or a male one that opts out of these events, is going to get rather frustrated and the junior attorneys may not even realize what is going on until they find themselves shifted off cases because there is a court or filing date the day after one of these events are planned. The junior male employees are being taught that 80% of the office disappearing is normal, they probably though the more senior women they report to knew about it because this is a work event so they will be confused when they come back to annoyed supervisors/bosses/coworkers.
    This office has a sexism issue, but it also is not very well organized.

  20. KS*

    You’ll imagine that things will not improve in this situation.

    The men all go out to a sports game away from the women in the office, have a good time, and come back content.

    Now let’s assume in the best case scenario the 20% of the women storm up to the VP’s office complaining that they weren’t invited. What’s going to happen?

    A) The men begrudgingly invite the women to the next lad’s day out, resenting the women
    B) The men just make plans after work, offline and keep the women out of it
    C) The men just don’t have any more outings and resent the women for it

    I just can’t imagine the boss slapping his cheeks and saying “Oh no! I totally forgot! I apologize profusely!” and then everyone has an inclusion training session and then they all go skipping off in the sunset at the next co-ed mixer.

      1. Gimme-A-Break*

        PLEASE! Ever hear of “Ladies night”?? Women do it all over the planet – do I get all upset when I don’t get asked out to “drinks with the ladies”?? Not only does this happen everywhere, there is a whole industry dedicated to ladies night events.

        The fact of the matter is that a group of all ladies can’t and won’t act the same if a man is there, and the same is true when the roles are reversed.

        1. beanie beans*

          Ladies night is not the equivalent of what’s going on here. If the dudes want their own time to bond they should do it outside of work hours.

        2. Kelly L.*

          If you mean “ladies night” in the context of a bar, that’s not for women at all, that’s bars trying to use women as the bait to get more men to go there. It’s all kind of icky, actually.

          If you mean a “girls’ night out” event among friends, can you not see the difference between an event organized by people on the same level and taking place during off hours, vs. an event being organized by the boss and taking place during work hours? If your female boss ditched work with all of your female co-workers to go out drinking during work, have valuable work bonding time, and left you with all the actual tasks of the day, you’d be fine with that?

          1. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

            “If you mean a “girls’ night out” event among friends, can you not see the difference between an event organized by people on the same level and taking place during off hours, vs. an event being organized by the boss and taking place during work hours?”

            I don’t think Gimme-a-Break’s analogy is particularly apropos. But to play devil’s advocate here, if a group of male attorneys had organized an off-hours event for guys only, would that be appropriate?

        3. seejay*

          Or why we don’t have “Straight Pride Day”! Or “White Entertainment Channel”!

          When you’re not part of the dominant group, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. And we’re talking about business networking where women are *struggling* to be on the same level playing field and they’re being shut out. Are you being obtuse intentionally?

            1. seejay*

              I *was* going to put in “all live matter!” as well, and I tried googling for an image that I had seen somewhere on Facebook (and saved) but bugger me if I can find the darn thing anywhere that lists about 8 majority things that people started suddenly yelling about when the minority issues started coming into the news. But then I brain-farted and only got out the “straight pride” and “white entertainment network” before I had to hit post.

        4. Specialk9*

          You know that ladies night is for really good friends, not co-workers… And also, not really a thing for most of us past a certain age?

          Also, if only 20% of the firm is female (and I’m going to take a wild gander that at the partners level it’s way less than that), even if women did do an event together, it would not be career building networking. Because at that firm, women have no power and no standing. They are literally excluded from the big kid table because of their vaginas.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Also, Ladies’ Nights in bars don’t exist many places anymore. Around my part of the woods there were some legal battles. Turns out it’s sex discrimination to give some people lower-priced drinks based on their gender… So, no more Ladies’ Nights. (Since I am no longer 21, I don’t really care…)

    1. Amber Rose*

      You don’t call it a “lad’s day out” with most of your coworkers during a work day. This was a work event. I doubt many of the dudes would’ve resented having the women around, it was more just that they assumed the women wouldn’t want to go, which is a different kettle of fish.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      A “lad’s day out” is what dad and the sons and sons in law might sometimes do. Or you and three of your friends from university. Setting up the office with “the very special people who get paid midday outings, after we inspected their genitals” and “the other ones” is not okay.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Yeah – so sit down and shut up, girlies, stop making trouble?

      It’s odd that you include only resentment as the only possible outcome – and that you portray the women bringing up the issue as “storm[ing] up to the VP’s office complaining…”

      Noticing a problematic gender issue (or issue with disparity regarding race, or religion, etc) doesn’t have to involve “storming.” It can be rational, it can be done in a way that helps others save face.

      Also, not all men’s-only outings are organized by men who deliberately want to exclude women, not all are done specifically in order to avoid having to hang out with women. Sure, there are misogynists in any industry, but I find that sexism is nowadays more subtle and unconscious than that in the professional world – not always, of course, not by any means (sadly) but it’s often enough to not to have to automatically assume nefarious intent.

      You assume that the goal was to exclude women and that they absolutely do not want women around. But it’s also possible, instead, that they simply have blinders on. That they assume “these women don’t like football, so let’s not bother them.” In which case, a heads-up – not a “storming” and not a whining to the VP – could be the wake-up call they need to behave appropriately in the office.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m missing option D) in the above list, “The organisers realise that this was a weird blind spot for them and do better in the future”. Not that we need to be unrealistically optimistic at all times but only ever foreseeing sinister outcomes doesn’t mesh with real life either and doesn’t exactly facilitate change.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Yes. It’s naive to be optimistic about it all the time, but many (most!) men I know aren’t on a mission to never talk to/never hang out with/never have fun with women. The “old boys network” in the legal industry exists, at this point and IME, because of ignorance, of not thinking, of habit, of opportunity – not because of “I don’t like women and I have fun only when those terrible hens are away from me.”

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This attitude is why women still earn less than men for doing the same job and don’t get the same advancement opportunities as their male colleagues.

    5. Nea*

      How about the women go calmly and professionally to the VP’s office and point out that they have been asked to pick up 80% of the work when most of the office just up and left, so how about their paychecks reflecting these extra responsibilities?

      What’s going to happen?
      A) The women get nothing, the men continue to blow off work, eventually someone gets fed up and the company gets its ass sued and some really bad PR headlines to live down, not to mention paying out when-not-if they lose the lawsuit
      B) The VP wonders why in hell 80% of the office is drawing a paycheck to blow off during work time and tells everyone to knock off leaving the office without PTO/makeup work for any reason whatsoever because that’s time fraud
      C) The VP notices the genders of the people talking to him vs the genders of the people going out and VP rides the “WTF, if you lay us open to a lawsuit YOU are the problem” pony like it was a derby winner because VP grasps that backlash against the excluded class will only bring on a lawsuit much, much faster

      It’s amazing how the view changes when you stop looking at it as “overemotional women deserve backlash for rocking the boat” and instead look at it as “what needs to be done to run a productive business that doesn’t want to end up in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons.”

    6. Mookie*

      Men being “content” and not “resentful” or in any way bothered or upset is not the only thing that matters here. The OP and her female colleagues are not these men’s servants, they are their peers. Men don’t need the hand-holding and coddling you are suggesting they do.

      everyone has an inclusion training session and then they all go skipping off in the sunset at the next co-ed mixer.

      I can see your contemptuous sneer from over here. So divisive!

      1. Manuel*

        I read it differently. I think KS is just being very pragmatic and I agree. I think the women should organize a weekly event for themselves, too, and address any increased workload issue with their boss. Ideally, they could address the sexism issue head-on, but if their work environment is already out of touch, maybe addressing the issue a different way would be more effective.

        Either way the men in this office seem sort of selfish and I’m glad I don’t work with them! I can’t imagine taking off once a week and burdening 20% of the workforce with 100% of the workload. Doesn’t seem like a good way to run a business or retain good employees and clients.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          “Women should organize a weekly event for themselves too” – do you not see the problem with this? Why on earth should an office staffed by adults be in any way divided along gender lines?

          1. Manuel*

            No, but that is just my opinion based on my belief that people are ultimately responsible for themselves, their actions, reactions, etc… If I want something at my job, I take steps to make it happen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Personally, I like Lora’s suggestion in the comments further down a million times better than my own.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              You say that people need to “take steps to make it happen” if they want something at work, but then you propose an idea that does nothing to “make it happen.”

              I mean, organizing a women’s “weekly event” – hey, that’s a cute idea, I guess, if what you want is a random day off. But what OP wants is not to have a day off. She wants the internal networking opportunities that the senior (male) partners reserved for their junior male colleagues- because in the legal profession, internal networking is how you get the good cases and how you get promoted to the partnership.

              Your idea to double down on gender segregation ignores the problem and does not provide a solution. In fact, it makes the problem worse.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              If I want something at my job, I take steps to make it happen.

              Aren’t all of these suggestions that you’re poo-pooing exactly that – steps to make it happen?

  21. SarahTheEntwife*

    Are there any men who you know aren’t actually all that into sports? If they were invited, it makes it even more obvious that this was — subconsciously or intentionally — about gender rather than about all the sports fans just happening to be dudes.

    1. many bells down*

      Yeah you couldn’t get my husband to a football game if you tied him up and kidnapped him. He hates sports and “being outdoors” mostly. His office still keeps trying to get him to do their golf tournaments, though.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        My boyfriend is the same way. He’s more of a camping and hiking kind of guy and considers spectator sports pointless. (When you’ve built your own fire without a modern lighter, then you’ve accomplished something!)

        On the other hand, my sister loves sports & knows more about them than anyone else I know.

  22. Anon attorney*

    This is a really tricky situation. Although these events ought to get shut down, like you I wouldn’t want to be the person who complained and was seen as the killjoy. If that happened in my office, I think I’d innocently ask what happened to my invite, and keep asking (somewhat disingenuously) until I had got someone to admit that they had only invited the men. That clearly begs the question of why. Sometimes you can get really good results by asking questions you know the answers to (like any good trial attorney) as if you do it right, the other person will end up either realising that they’re trying to defend something that is unjustifiable, or will tie themselves in knots trying to find an explanation. It also means that you are not the person labeling the bad behaviour. Before I embarked on that, however, I’d want to sound out a senior ally, and possibly have them to hand to deal appropriately with the situation once it had been acknowledged.

    This is a disgrace and your firm ought to be extremely embarrassed about it. In some ways, you’d be doing them a favour by forcing them to pay attention to it before an employment judge does! Wishing you luck.

  23. Amber Rose*

    I’d be so PO’d. Do I watch/pay attention to football? No. Would I like to go to a game and watch in person? Hell yeah. I have a rough idea of the rules and positions and think it’s interesting. I don’t follow it because, quite frankly, I don’t care who wins, but I do think it would be fun to be there in person. Someone randomly inviting me to a game I knew nothing about is why I now have season tickets for lacrosse.

    Anyways, I wouldn’t touch the sexism. I don’t think it’ll help, tbh. I would probably express disappointment that I wasn’t invited, and see what happens from there.

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s being organized by a higher-up and happening during work hours–this is a work event, from which a whole chunk of the workforce is being excluded.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        The partners are going to this event. So it is face-time with the people who bring in the clients, handle reviews, decide raises and vote on elevation to the partnership.

        Yeah, why bother trying to fit in there? [end sarcasm]

      3. Observer*

        Why should there be an “all men event” AT WORK? Are there work tasks – in a LAW FIRM – that only men can accomplish?

        1. Artemesia*

          Well sure, being promoted is one. And how can you promote these people who never seem to be around when you have a chance to get to know them. It is a mystery.

      4. Temperance*

        Uh, no. This isn’t about social fun time. This is about career-building opportunities, and at a law firm, a bunch of high-ranking dudes bonding with lower-ranking dudes means that lower-ranking dudes are going to get more career advancement opportunities than women of similar rank.

        1. Jessica*

          Not to mention that the dudes who go to the baseball game are going to be considered as more promotable than the women who actually DO MORE WORK, by virtue of being left at the office to cover for the baseball-watchers.

      5. Student*

        Have you ever actually tried this?

        It depends on the culture but I usually see one of two things happen:

        (1) Woman who organizes the social events becomes “department mom” or “department social chair”. She is expected to entertain the group. She is regarded by the higher-ups as someone who does frivolous morale things on the Social Committee instead of leading the Productivity Committee or Cost-Benefit Analysis Committee. She gets taken less seriously by colleagues, gets less promotions, and is expected to use her work time on morale events while also getting her real job done.

        (2) Nobody shows up. The woman herself isn’t important enough to get people to attend for networking purposes. The men are leery of attending an even a woman is throwing – how could she know what men would enjoy, what would people think of me socializing with her, will it piss off my wife, etc. The women are leery of attending – they view her as competition first, they don’t really know her, she isn’t someone they want to network with because she’s not senior enough, they don’t want to be associated with fun-team type stuff instead of serious work business, etc.

        I had this happen recently. I tried to organize a couple of fun social outings for a work group. Nobody would show. Men organized largely identical outings – everyone invited showed up. I had one social outing where a lone male colleague decided he wanted to come out of several men invited, and he invited a female colleague that I had invited twice previously. Female colleague accepted his invite to my event without a second of thought. Female colleague turned me down twice, with ever-increasing levels of social conflicts each time, when I invited her. She wasn’t showing up to network with me; she was coming to network with the guy.

  24. Granny K*

    Not only is this sexist, it’s completely unfair that the women are expected to continue to work while the guys go off and have fun. Also, I bet there’s a lot of bonding and networking that goes on, that will probably be held against the women during review time. I personally would bring this up, but also start looking for another place to work.

  25. Falling Diphthong*

    The headline here says “weekly” and the one at NYMag says “keep having”, but it actually seems to be the case that it happened once, and they are talking about making it a monthly thing.

    Which makes it somewhat different to address than something that was already established. But one problem is that the ideal time to speak up about this being a discrimination issue is probably when the second event is being planned–but it isn’t clear OP would know about it until she notices one Tuesday afternoon that the office has experienced another gender-specific rapture, putting her always in the role of complaining after the fact when no one can change what already happened.

    1. Willis*

      But if OP has already heard about the possibility of a second event, she can be proactive about with something like “Hey, I know most of the office headed to a football game last week, and was talking about making it a regular thing. Please email me the info about the next event, cause I’d like to go too” (with the language adjusted to however pointed she wants to be about it having been a guys-only event and that the whole office should be invited).

  26. Jiffy*

    From time to time in the Navy, my shipmates would organize an outing at some restaurant or sports bar, complete with pitchers of beer and sangria and cases of fancy cigars. I (female) was never interested in the smoky cigars, but I was always welcome to attend and usually did. Lots of fun to hang out and network and just chat away from the grind. Sorry that your coworkers are clueless cavemen : (

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The lower ranking 20% of the office can have their own segregated bonding and networking events, so long as they don’t impinge on the bonding and networking events held by the more powerful 80% of the office? Gosh that’s generous of you.

      1. nonegiven*

        But some of the men invited were lower ranking in the firm than some of the women who were excluded. If they have to exclude someone to keep the office open, maybe it should be the most junior/ paras. Maybe they need to close the office or half the people go one time and the other half next time.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Countering sexism with sexism is not helpful. Also it disturbs me that you think the men and women can’t do activities together because the guys would have to behave, like they’re some sort of cavemen when they aren’t at work while women are perfect prim princesses. Most of the dudes I know, much like most of the women I know, are equally capable of being inappropriate, and also vice versa, during their free time. It also disturbs me that you think guys going out and blowing off steam during work, as a work event, is in any way acceptable.

      Just because you’re fine with the sexism in your office doesn’t mean it’s a good thing, or something that other offices should be fine with. Also I foresee lawsuits in your office’s future. :/

    3. Sunshine Brite*

      Wow. That’s highly inappropriate and out of the norm if it is done on work time.

      Female bonding has it’s place in the world but again, workplace events should be accessible by the whole workplace as best as possible.

  27. TotesMaGoats*

    If someone I worked with had tickets to the Ravens games and I wasn’t invited. The holiest of hells would be raised. Orioles games…not so much. That said, I would still raise a moderately holy hell (joking, I’d be pretty pissed) regardless. Do they want to get sued? Is that the goal?

  28. Office Manager*

    Sounds like the times that my boss takes the guys in the office snowboarding, while the women have to stay here to “keep the place running.” We don’t get to take any random days away from work while the guys “keep the place running.” It’s not a great feeling, let me tell you. And I have no real recourse. He claims it’s a “Sales Incentive” since that’s basically how it works out, but his male assistant also gets to go snowboarding, so there’s that…

  29. Snargulfuss*

    I hate that we have to suggest all of these nice, non-confrontational ways to address this. I’m the type of person that wants to totally call them on their sexism and make sure that everyone is 100% clear that this is what’s going on…but I get that we live in the real world and have to think through the possible ramifications. Still.

    1. beanie beans*

      I’m with you. I know there are risks in calling it what it is, but dancing around the situation doesn’t really address the issue and risks that it will continue in the future. If this is a law firm, a simple “You know this is incredibly sexist, right?” would probably wake people up a lot…

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. Making myself sound all polite and non-confrontational just makes me feel like Dolores Umbridge.

        “I’m sorry, so silly of me, but it sounded, for a moment as though you were implying the Ministry ordered that football outing!”

        I mean, there’s a time for it, and that time is probably more common than I want to admit. But it bugs me.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I think it’s less about ramifications (although that is a thing, sadly) and more about… constructive action, for lack of better wording. If I charge in somewhere yelling SEXISM! SEXISM EVERYWHERE! Then people get sort of defensive and what could have been a useful conversation instead turns into a painful argument against ‘splaining and digging in of heels.

      Nobody likes being told they are being discriminatory. And I like to believe most sexism is unintentional, like a habit rather than maliciousness. But if you mildly call stuff out to people without getting all accusatory, sometimes you can kind of course-correct them without a fight.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s placing the emphasis on effectiveness rather than on being right. A bit of a theme in a different column today, on parenting–all the “but I am technically correct, I am RIGHT” isn’t going to help if other people aren’t listening to you when you repeat your spiel of correct thought, and you need to change your approach. Even if you are right.

        Reminds me of the sad tale of Semmelweis, who came up with the germ theory of disease and managed to greatly reduce deaths in childbirth in his own ward…. but he was a curmudgeon who wasn’t well-liked, and his ideas didn’t catch on. It’s why a lot of jobs today value communication and other “soft” skills–it doesn’t matter that you are sitting alone being right, it matters that you can communicate what needs to be done in a way that other people respond to. And history teaches us that just technically being right has usually not been enough to change hearts and minds.

      2. Mookie*

        Sure, but at a certain point it’s okay for people exercising blind privilege to be diplomatically clued in to the actual problem and why it matters. If their intentions are good and their error genuine, they may initially take it poorly but it shouldn’t trigger a hugely angry and bitter reaction. Everyone is an adult here. These men have heard of sexism before. It’s really okay that when they behave badly, someone does them a favor and tells them. I’m not suggesting the LW has to do so in this case — I think the first step is a good faith Hey We’re All Invited In Future to These Things, Right? — but if it continues, yeah, point out the optics to them. They can handle it.

        1. Amber Rose*

          True, if it becomes A Thing and keeps happening, then it should be mentioned a little more firmly. But it still doesn’t have to be all confrontational. Getting confrontational hardly ever works. Tact is much more useful, as much as the raging voice screaming BUT THIS IS BULLSHIT inside us wants us to clash horns with people.

          And trust me, I hear that voice so strongly. But part of being an adult in society is smiling at people instead of screaming at them. It really is no fun to be an adult sometimes.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yeah, so, if his assistant gets to THEY ARE LAWYERS. They’re not fainting violets. And they know exactly what they’re doing.

        2. beanie beans*

          Right – I think this can be handled in a way that is stronger than “Hey I’d like to be invited” but less harsh than “THIS IS SEXISM AND WE HAVE TO YELL ABOUT IT.” I guess I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t realize the impact of what they are doing. I feel like it’s important that it’s clear why this is an issue but soft enough that it’s pointing it out and not accusing people of being intentionally horrible.

          1. Mookie*

            Which does not mean to say they should be insulated from the consequences of their actions or never prodded into changing. The level of pushback we’re talking about here is not commensurate with that of other members of Schroedinger’s flock.

  30. Managing to get by*

    We had the opposite issue at my former company. The VP of our division would have “ladies nights” at her house. A couple of these ladies nights included a presentation by an MLM that one of her friends reps. I was the only woman in management that did not go to even one of these events.

    Her male exec assistant was the one to send out the invites. I declined, and on the first declination included a note to him that I do not attend single-gender work functions.

    I thought her events were so inappropriate on so many levels: no boys allowed, a VP inviting people in her reporting line to an event where her friend was selling over-priced crap, using work email and her exec assistant to plan the functions, gave her friend the work email list to send out materials on her products, and heavy drinking at the parties with people driving home after.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yikes. An after-hours opportunity to hear a multi-level marketing pitch from my boss’s friend seems like the opposite of an instead-of-work trip to the ballgame.

      1. Managing to get by*

        Yeah, listening to a sales pitch is not fun. But also not appropriate that the only people allowed the opportunity to socialize with the VP in her home were the women managers and directors.

  31. Jeanne*

    There is no relevance to professional women’s groups that take place OUTSIDE of work and are not made up solely of your coworkers. This is about what happens in this specific workplace. The women need to be invited to every event AND they should not be responsible for all the work left behind while the men go play. If it is during the day then the office is closed. If some have to stay back and work, then they need coverage from all the different levels: secretary, paralegal, lawyer.

  32. nnn*

    Before we even get into gender issues (which others have covered better than I can), I’m rather mindblown that they think it’s okay to take 80% of the workforce out of the office without making sure that their work gets done before they leave or anything!

    My first thought (without knowing how law firms work) is to wonder if it’s possible to not cover for their work, with the plausible deniability that you were never informed, so the football people end up looking bad. I don’t know if law firms work that way though.

    (This also makes me think of the LW a while back who took all the team except for the one employee on beer runs, and then resented that employee for staying back and covering for the team.)

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “My first thought (without knowing how law firms work) is to wonder if it’s possible to not cover for their work, with the plausible deniability that you were never informed,”

      No, professional responsibilities to clients, court deadlines, etc. It would reflect poorly on every person at the firm and would carry real reputation risk (and depending on the circumstances, risk to the professional licenses) to the people left behind at the office if they refused to cover. (Especially because at law firms, often it is not “person A does X work” but “person A, B and C are working on X client’s case” – so it’s not exactly covering for person A and B if they leave the office, it is just that fewer people are around to do the same work; and if you are a senior attorney, it is often that you are the lead on a case, but you rely on support from junior attorneys. If they are gone, you still have the same work, you just now have no support.)

  33. Lady Phoenix*

    I think the problem is mentioning the game, because despite the obvious secism the dudes can argue, “But none of your girls said you liked 49’ers.”

    Maybe steer it towards company wide events that could raise everyone’s morale?

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        While I don’t do football, I know at old job pretty much EVERY gal on the register was obsessed with the Ravens and asked me for the score.

        But I dunno if the ladies in OP’s office are also football fans, and if they are not then the guys can argue that they are just doing something “girls aren’t interested in”–when the actual issue is that these dudes are doing network and fun activities and leaving the women with all the work.

  34. Debits*

    I’m in the reverse situation from OP (a guy who works in a group with 90% women). The women will do weekly lunches and happy hours on their own without extending invites to the guys. Can Alison’s advice work both ways here? I’ve always felt it was pretty crappy, but I’m afraid of raising a fuss with HR and facing reprisal.

      1. Morning Glory*

        I disagree. If it’s all of the women and none of the men then it’s still pretty crappy. I wouldn’t be happy with lunchtime men-only networking/bonding activities, either.

      2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Mmm…yes and no. The getting left behind to pick up the slack was a big part of it, but another big part was those left behind not getting “face time” with the senior leaders. So I’d say that if senior leadership is attending these outings from Debits’ workplace, even if they are after hours everyone should be invited. If it’s basically a peer group type of thing, though, it’s still cliquish and rather unkind, but isn’t hurting anyone’s advancement prospects.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the ideal way, as here, is to somehow pave an on-ramp that this configuration probably arose by accident, no ill-intent, and could they be more inclusive of the whole office? You’d like to come.

      Like maybe it was initially well under half the office and they weren’t thinking about the configuration as it grew. Maybe when it started they asked the two men on staff, who said ‘no’, and it didn’t occur to them to ask the new ones a year later. Even if not strictly accurate, if you can find a way to offer something as a plausible veneer, so they’re not Mean Excluders but instead nice inclusive persons who hadn’t realized that the event had morphed into this shape over time.

      (I think the social invite rule of less-than-half-or-all transfers over here–if an office subgroup has 10 people in it, it’s usually not a big deal if three of them form a special subgroup of close friends. It’s often a problem if seven of them do.)

    2. Somniloquist*

      Yes, you should say something, or ask to be put on the list. I’m part of women’s business associations and they all include men at lunches and whatnot.

      I think it’s a bit odd because in my experience, women will usually include men unless they think the men wouldn’t want to be a part of it. Not an excuse, but a reason I can think of.

    3. J.B.*

      I think what has happened to you is basically how these exclusionary things happen and it is no fun on any side. Your best bet is probably to talk to the most approachable joiner. And if this group happens to include a supervisor talk to your supervisor about “hey I’m being left out of something, can I be included”. The idea with the supervisor being that is where the lack of face time has the potential for long term consequences for you.

    4. Specialk9*

      Debits – yeah, that’s not cool either. Especially lunch.

      I realized recently that I had been setting up coffee and lunch only with women my age. I’ve now included the guys, and people of all ages. I’m kind of embarrassed to have caught myself doing that.

      In your situation, how about you do a non-gendered invite to lunch, on a day they’re not already scheduled, at a place people like? Then just make it a habit. People often just kinda follow the sheepdog and don’t think much beyond that.

      If that doesn’t work, find someone in the group who you know is kind hearted, and tell her it kind of hurts your feelings not to be invited to lunch with everyone. I wouldn’t go into gender parity – because you will sound tone deaf on male privilege – but hurt feelings and feeling excluded would resonate with kind people.

    5. Sue Wilson*

      I know everyone is saying it’s equally bad, but I actually think it depends on what the purpose of those are for. If those lunches are about orienting women on how to handle oppression in the industry, I do think your participation is neither needed nor is it something you’re morally entitled to, even if you might legally be. But if it’s just a fun thing to do (and I do think that’s the purpose of this), you should definitely be included.

      Like, I’m sorry to say, because it’s clear the 14th amendment and civil rights law was never intended to consider that not all classes have equal (or any) systemic oppression going on and that righting the actual oppression that was going on might actually need some discrimination of the privileged classes, but well, it does. And we shouldn’t be shutting that down because the privilege classes suddenly understand how being shut out feels, when it’s not the same context at all, because like it or not, that will only perpetuate oppression.

  35. Iron Thunder*

    The best solution without stepping on any toes is to say that women in the office love sports and sporting events and are very upset they weren’t invited.

    It (1) makes sure they get invited and (2) makes the men feel dumb without directly calling them out on sexism, and (3) likely won’t ever happen again.

  36. Debbie Jellinsky*

    You do this during the workday? On the company’s dime? While all the women employees are back at the office working/covering for the men out of the office? Because that’s what the OP says is happening.
    Also, I’m curious about your use of the word “networking” when saying the lady-folk should just unclench & make their own fun time. It’s not an unfair assumption that when referring to coworkers & networking, the networking that’s happening is job/career-related. Can you please clarify that you think it’s okay to have a networking event that only includes male employees?

  37. Economist*

    I experienced this situation in an office where I was the only professional woman. All the men would go out to a strip club, during work hours, without saying anything about leaving the office or where they were going. BUT THIS WAS IN 1985! Not that it was OK then, but gosh, you’d think that things had changed by now. The guys were so shocked when I started teasing them about it, “What, you know about that?” They were not as good at keeping their secret as they thought they were. OP, wishing you the best.

    1. Specialk9*

      My old office did a fishing trip. It was technically open to women, but I didn’t know how to fish. They were also super into watching professional sports as bonding. There weren’t any female senior managers, though there were female PMs and subject matter experts because our proposals were scored on diversity. It didn’t seem deliberate, but sexism was certainly a thing.

    1. ladyfed*

      I get that this is probably tongue-in-cheek, but I’m going to be honest, this feels adversarial and passive aggressive. I think a more straight-forward address of the situation would be more appropriate.

  38. Nana*

    Had a friend, a junior attorney (and the only ‘girl lawyer’ among six or seven in the corporate firm) who noticed this kind of thing…and found a memo or three from a Big VP saying, “Be sure all the guys know about xxx” Went to the Biggest Boss about it…and got a settlement big enough to go out on her own, doing rights-related law. And this was in the mid-1980’s.

    1. Here we go again*

      When I originally saw that the letter was linked to an external source, I had seriously hoped it was a repost from the ’70s, then it hit me that AAM wasn’t around back then… Then I saw it was 2017.

  39. Lora*

    The answer to “do you like (manly thing)?” as a woman in a male-dominated workplace is always “no but I like beer/nachos/fighting Yankees fans.”

    Another option I have not seen mentioned: set up a thing on your own which is inclusive of both men and women, where everyone is invited. It should be a fairly gender-neutral or even manly thing; I used to have poker nights where we ordered pizza and basically sat around drinking beer and chatting with cards in our hands. In this way the menfolk see you as someone to socialize with and more organically begin to include you in events. Many many men began to see me as a real person instead of a Woman (terra incognita). The men who didn’t see me as a real person and didn’t go to poker night (which evolved into Gaming Night), began to feel excluded themselves.

    It wasn’t fancy, literally I spent $25 on pizza and $10 on beer and it was BYOB. We sat around my house while it was under renovations, drinking beer and playing poker. Occasionally we went to someone else’s house and I just sent out invites.

    Totally worth it. Best career investment ever since grad school. Three pizzas (with coupon!), a couple of six-packs, two decks of cards and a set of poker chips, one big email including directions and one reminder email with the address. Invite EVERYONE including people in other departments, people who are senior management, everyone. Just every other month is plenty. Nothing fancy, very casual. Over a few years I met just about everyone who is anyone in my field and got loads of good advice and learned about job openings and all kinds of things.

    I am an introvert’s introvert, I work in a super male-dominated, conservative industry, and I managed this. Seriously don’t make a big deal of a party, just pizza, beer and cards. Or board games, or Xbox tournaments, whatever floats your boat. Assume that only 1/3 – 1/2 the people you invite will come, and that’s OK. You only need like 5 people for a decent round of Hold Em or Settlers of Catan.

    1. Becky*

      Part of the issue though would not be solved with having an outside of work even that everyone is invited to–the other part of the problem is this was a work sponsored event on the clock, paid for by the company that left 20% of the employees handling the work of 100% of the company. Any work event that is company sponsored–whether or not it has a gendered list of invites–needs to include plans for coverage or notification of office closure; otherwise, even disregarding the sexist implications it is problematic on a business level.

    2. Mookie*

      In this way the menfolk see you as someone to socialize with and more organically begin to include you in events.

      I’m not criticizing you or your advice, but I loathe the notion that grown men need to be educated by their female colleagues that women are human, good to know, and fun to be with just as they are, or that only male-coded hobbies* are “neutral” and not threatening to men, and that in order to ingratiate yourself with a man you need to play Chill Girl who loves nachos, as opposed to just being whoever you are liking whatever you like. Ickle male colleague is grossed out and triggered by my uber-feminine interest in cross-stitching and needs a mancave safe space to keep out the embroidery cooties? Good. I mean, pitiful for him, but at least I know which way the wind blows on that particular dude. I’ve no problem and really genuinely enjoy being exposed to other people’s hobbies — it’s fun watching people you know but don’t Really Know geek out over whatever geekery they’re into outside of work — but enabling men to feel that work territory belongs to them and that advice will only be doled out to women under certain conditions provided they ape what is construed to be male behavior is just not helpful or tenable. Women are not responsible for helping men to “organically” discover our fundamental humanity and equality to them. I just don’t see men as dopes who need to be carefully initiated / blackmailed / tricked into treating women well. That’s the default. They can learn that on their own time. I’m not being paid to try to convince someone I am a full-fledged human who, surprise!, contains multitudes. I pity men who need that kind of training, but I don’t think many actually exist. They’re just a convenient trope pulled out when women get tired of some aspect of sexism and the sexism needs to be explained away as More of A Guy Thing, like a legitimate trait all men are born with. Nope. I think too well of men, as fellow people, to engage in that kind of essentialist thinking.

      *”menfolk”** own beer and pizza now?
      **we are not separate species; they’re just men

      1. Lora*

        I agree that they are not the majority, but in this case – these *particular* men have already demonstrated that they are in fact like this. And I don’t think it is a conscious thing at ALL, it’s simply what makes them comfortable.

        Like I said, I work in an EXTREMELY male-dominated industry. Every single one of my married male colleagues? Wife either stays at home or works part time in a feminine-coded job (nurse, teacher, artist, very low level technician of some kind, HR admin, etc). I’m sure they don’t think of themselves as threatened by women whom they would consider their intellectual or professional equals, but…they are. We make them uncomfortable. And yeah, I agree that dudes should have to man up and what the heck, but the reality is that when you are surrounded by sexist ding-dongs, the chances that they will achieve enlightenment in your tenure at this workplace where their personal comfort level is supported and encouraged are pretty slim.

        The women colleagues at my level are often married – but not to men in the same industry. I have met their spouses and they all seem very nice, enlightened type of folks, I know for a fact that there are a great many dudes in the world who are not so chauvinist that they practically grunt/squeal. I’m just saying that in this particular instantiation, they have shown you who they really are deep down inside, and you should believe them. And it’s not nice, and this is one way to deal with it which has worked for me. It may not work for others, it doesn’t give the satisfaction of the Wrath Of HR for sure, but as someone upthread said: you can be Right all day long, but you still have to deal with the practical reality, and that involves ingratiating yourself and being seen as human by a bunch of idiots who have unfortunate habits of behaving badly to women.

        Important note: I don’t care what they *think*, whether they deep in their hearts meant to exclude women, or what they feel in their fragile souls. Their behavior is what is at issue, and their behavior is the behavior of ding-dongs.

        1. Mookie*

          but in this case – these *particular* men have already demonstrated that they are in fact like this.

          Right. So the solution is not to perpetuate those convenient and comfortable myths about how women can ‘adapt’ to the professional sphere, by aping and otherwise catering to men’s prejudices.

          I’ve worked for nearly two decades in turf management. It’s all men, all the time, and yeah, a lot of them are openly hostile to me. I didn’t get promotions and landed plum projects because I burped on cue or became One of the Guys. We all have masculine and feminine qualities. I think this Cosmo-style, quasi-anthropological advice (“watch your quarry and then mimic his strange ways”) is old-fashioned and not sustainable; it might help individual women navigate certain situations, but it’s not going to get the job done beyond that.

          “Wrath of HR” and other like comments here are curious. Literally no one has argued that the OP kick up a huge fuss, and yet people are dredging up these Woman on the Warpath clichés, almost like women, simply by pointing out a problem or trying to diplomatically change something, are too negative. It’s not about Being Right or Winning an Argument. These are women’s professional lives at stake. Nobody has to wait for that great feminist utopia in the sky; if men really mean well here, they can handle this.

    3. Specialk9*

      This is a really good idea, Lora. I can totally buy how much that changed people’s perceptions of you. And poker and games night just sounds fun.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      This is a good partial solution – modeling the behavior you’d like to see. The other parts are still needed though. Like going to the organizer and telling them you want to be included. And asking the question on how to fairly distribute the work.

      1. Lora*

        Well, it is a law firm – wouldn’t the work be documented via billable hours? Unless they’re falsifying that to cover up that the trip was on company time, which is a whole other can of worms that would make OP the bad guy for bringing it to the VP’s attention…

        Agree on telling the organizer, “hey I might not like the 49ers but I like having a break in the middle of the day and tailgating, count me in next time!”

  40. Aphrodite*

    This situation reminds me of the time I was finishing up my BA at Antioch University in the late ’90s. I took a seminar (though I cannot remember the specific class), and there were about eight women and one or two men. During one class one of the guys whose family owned an insurance agency brought up how the men in sales were paid differently than the women. The men were credited for all their sales and they lived and died on those. The women, however, were paid a salary and had all their sales credited to the sales manager. I immediately latched onto that and the conversation went as follows:

    Guy: The women have children. They need the security of a regular paycheck.

    Me: Umm. *looks thoughtful for a few seconds* And how many of the men who are in sales are married and have families?

    Guy: *blushes fiercely and stammers* Well, all of them.

    Me: Hmm.

    The guy looked stunned into the next year. He had never once considered that the policies regarding sales had been so divided. It just never occurred to him so he was shocked. But next week, he promptly announced that he had dismantled the old system. Everyone in sales was now responsible for their own sales and credited with them and as a result even in that first week both women had racked up sales that would take their monthly paycheck beyond what they had earned previously.

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      This is profound and beautiful. I’m going to remember this–sometimes one conversation at the right time can have ripples that last forever.

  41. Not sure about this one*

    I read this blog a lot and I’ve never commented before, but a couple things in this post strike me as false.

    1) Title says weekly events, but the post says monthly events.
    2) Post says that they all left 1/2 way through the day, but unless they are going to Wrigley Field most sporting events start at night.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I just messed up the title. Not sure how. Can’t speak to the other thing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve gone to daytime ball games (against my will).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, but now I see you are the same person I banned earlier today for sexism and trolling (and who continued to try to send through gross sexist comments after being banned), so never mind.

        1. seejay*

          Someone *really* wants to insist that this isn’t sexist and the women just need to suck it up and find their own way to do things that don’t ruin the mens’ fun outings? O_O

      2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        I follow two MLB teams and both regularly have afternoon weekday games. Sometimes NBA games are too, I think, and perhaps the occasional preseason football game? Also, I wouldn’t necessarily assume the casual example of the 49ers question would mean that the event itself was football. Or perhaps they left the office early for some tailgating…

      1. many bells down*

        I tried to go to brunch a couple weeks ago near Big Sports Stadium and got stuck for 45 minutes in the traffic for the baseball game that i hadn’t realized started at 1:30.

    2. Nephron*

      As someone who works near the stadium in my city, it does not matter what time the event starts they will be there hours in advance and there is always things to do. They also could have decided to have a late lunch outside the stadium and then go in for the game after so less money spent at the event, lunch+travel time would be a half day.

    3. HRish Dude*

      Assuming this poster is in San Francisco based on the 49ers post, every Wednesday home Giants game that is not on ESPN starts at 12:45. There were 11 of them this season. And this is seriously the stupidest thing to take away from this article.

      1. Temperance*

        The Phillies regularly have day games, too. I’m an EPL fan, and they regularly have games that are broadcast during the workday in the US. I think there’s always going to be that one dude looking to prove that women lie about sexism, so this is the point he harps on.

        1. NW Mossy*

          To which: may he be reborn in his next life as a woman so as to experience it firsthand and learn in that life what he failed to in this one.

  42. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I don’t know if this has already been mentioned, but it’s also possible that not all of the invitees realized that their female colleagues weren’t included. This type of thing usually have an organizer or two, who in this case deliberately left the women out, but the others may not have realized it until they were actually walking out the door.

    So, benefit of the doubt aside, this is super sexist and I would 100% bring it to their attention. Alison’s wording is great. I could also picture myself taking a more passive-aggressive stance (which I know isn’t the recommended thing but it helps from chickening out) and say something along the lines of “will there be a rotation of people who get left behind in the office? Female Colleague and I would love to attend one of these events!”

  43. Hiring Mgr*

    The one good thing to come out of this is that at least the men have already been punished by having attended a 49ers game.

  44. MassMatt*

    What an infuriating situation, and on so many levels! I’d be tempted to unleash a furious email to the company, or address it in the next big meeting. This behavior calls into question the common sense, integrity, legal acumen, sense of awareness, and just plain fairness, of the entire company. But that would probably get me fired or frozen out.

    I would recommend talking with the other excluded women and see how much solidarity there is and how many care about the issue, and then decide what course of action to take. Maybe there’s an approachable person in upper management? It stinks, but if they are so out of touch as to do this, they may react poorly to having their behavior called out.

    Please send an update, whatever happens!

  45. Gandalf the Nude*

    Sorry if this was mentioned already, but my sympathies also to any men in this office who don’t like sports, etc.. I’ve seen where activities like this were opt-in* for women and opt-out** for men because it’s assumed the men will want to join and the women won’t. It totally ignores what many have said, that some women may like to go with a group regardless of their usual feelings on the activity because of the workplace benefits from sucking it up and that the reverse may be true of any men. As a poor example, my partner’s not shy about bowing out when he doesn’t want to do something, but it always surprised his boss when he passed up (insert “manly” activity here). Other men in such a situation could easily feel pressured or even shamed into going along and hating every minute of it (with potential bonus resentment from the women who had to hold down the fort in their absence!)

    Just one of the many ways sexism hurts everyone, regardless of gender.

    *assuming they realize “Do you like X?” is an invitation to a group X outing
    **assuming they realize “We’ve got an office outing to The Game on the 4th” is optional

    1. Temperance*

      I just don’t really agree with this. It’s not similar. Even if the men dislike sports, they get all of the workplace benefits of “sucking it up”, so they can deal with a boring activity and resentment from women not being afforded the same opportunities.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I wasn’t saying the consequences were equal, just that there can be negatives for everyone. Women bear the overwhelming majority of those negatives, but it helps no one to pretend they are the only ones harmed by sexism.

  46. Sportsing Real Hard*

    It would not have been appropriate to invite 80%of the office to a single event anyway (at those numbers, it looks like people are being deliberately excluded instead of it being a fun general work event or something special for a specific group.) But yeah, wow, the sexism takes it over the top.

  47. Candy*

    I would just show up. Don’t wait for a reluctant, awkward invite. They’re planning a staff-outing and you’re staff, you have just as much right to be there as any of the men do.

    This doesn’t solve the inherent sexism of your company, of course, but it is a roundabout way to get you what you want (the bonding, networking, and information-sharing)

  48. Ace*

    I feel that the occasional “boys night” (or “girls night”) isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they can have a very different dynamic to mixed -sex groups. Having said that, they aren’t something I would want to see occur regularly, and certainly not during workplace hours and in a work context.

  49. Indie*

    So event organiser goes round asking the women what they like to do and then organises to do the exact thing they say don’t want to do? What the frack? This seems really deliberate.

    If he was already dead set on this particular sports event, he would have sent the invites out straight away. According to the common sense book of etiquette, invites and RSVPs are apparently the best way to gauge interest in your upcoming event if it’s definitely going ahead anyway.

    I wouldn’t be able to help reading this as a deliberate Not Welcome message of ‘we need to get away from your kind occasionally by finding stuff to do you don’t like’. I can’t help but feel if the women had said “The 49ers? I love em!” He would have responded with: ‘Well, how do you feel about being slapped in the face with a fish? Which we are also considering’. This may explain greyhound racing as a hobby, actually.

  50. Greg M.*

    I think what I’d do is maybe be like “hey anyone not going to sporting event want to join us at local restaurant for a fun lunch while everyone else is at the game”
    don’t bring gender into it just pass that around.
    Then you’re offering something alternative and when (and I say when) there is blowback you can just say “well all the others get to leave for the game why are we stuck here?” and then at that time you can probably work in the gender issue. You can then also lead into asking about why the women aren’t invited. it’s basically a roundabout way to bring up the issue that may not make you look like a wet blanket.

  51. bookartist*

    To all my sisters here who are saying “I don’t care; I hate sports anyway,” you can bet there are men in that group who also hate sports but are going to attend because they value the face time.

  52. neverjaunty*

    LW, I’m sorry to say that you just got some very important information about your firm, and what your career trajectory is going to be compared to that of your male colleagues if you stay at this firm.

    First, lawyers damn well know how to frame a question. If they wanted to know whether you were interested in attending a 49ers game with other co-workers during work hours, they’d have asked that outright. Asking “oh, do you like the 49ers?” is a fake question – they wanted to pretend they asked you if you’d go, but in a way that avoided letting you actually give an answer that might have required them to invite you.

    Second, what they did is Not Done in terms of law firm culture unless they really were trying to leave the women behind to handle the work while they played. Inviting by work grouping (all partners, all senior attorneys, all paralegals, etc) is normal. Cutting across those groups but excluding the women? No.

    Attorneys in this state have mandatory CLE about ending bias. Your bosses are not ignorant. They are telling you, very clearly, that they value you less than your male subordinates and they will reward you accordingly.

  53. Niccola M.*

    OP, do you have any friends amongst the men of the firm? I’m wondering if any of them would be willing to make an “innocent” comment about the party being a sausage fest either in passing before the game or during.

    Or you could float a theoretical past the bar ethics hotline. You’re trying to protect the firm from lawsuits, after all.

  54. Where's the Le-Toose?*

    I’ve been pondering this one all day because I want to be helpful to the OP and offer advice on how to deal with a misogynistic small law firm. I’ve been a lawyer for 22 years, and I’ve spent the last 7 of those years as either a managing or supervising attorney. I think it’s clear that this firm has no female partners because I can’t imagine a female partner saying that a men’s only event is okay. I think it’s also clear that the male partners, if they had a good head on their shoulders, wouldn’t tolerate a men’s only event. To me this means the OP is not going to have a lot of support in changing the culture of the office. Most small firms are no more than 20 to 25 lawyers, with support staff. Maybe 50 to 60 people tops. Heck it could be a firm of 10 attorneys with 10 support staff. So here are my thoughts:

    1. OP, have there been other instances of discrimination against female employees besides these sporting events? Have all employees in your classification received the same type of raises for the same work? Are assignments given out based on experience and talent? Are there other events that are all office events where the office closes and everyone is invited or are the sports events the only events your firm has? Is there a male dominated pecking order in the firm? I ask all of these things because you may want to sit down with an employment law lawyer and just see what your options are. It can’t hurt to know your options.

    2. Are any of the rainmakers in your firm supportive of ending the practice of men’s only events? In the world of law, money talks. And it’s sad to say that if the partners think a lawyer is going to take his or her book of business and walk out the door, they will listen more intently.

    3. A lot of law firms thrive on hierarchy. If you don’t have a HR department to turn to, and if you want to try to resolve this issue, start with your boss.

    I wish I could give you more, I wish I could be more helpful. But I’m stumped on this one. OP, I wish you nothing but the best of luck!

  55. Specialist*

    I used to think that this type of behavior would slowly fade away, but it doesn’t appear to be happening. I had an experience at the last executive meeting of my local specialty society. It is a male-dominated industry. The newest, youngest guy on the board made a joke about getting strippers for the annual meeting. So I looked him in the eye and asked how much the Chippendale’s charged for an event. Then later I apologized to our (female) society management person. Ten years ago it was one guy stating that the reason we have a shortage is because there are too many women in the field. Two women at the table, one holding a fork in a menacing manner and the other vehemently disagreeing with him. Unfortunately all the other men at the table were agreeing.

    I do think we need to actively work to help people understand that this is wrong. I would encourage the original poster to address this directly with the person who originally planned the event.
    “I’m asking you for some help on this. The day in the office wasn’t productive as 80% of the staff were gone. Some of the people left in the office would have appreciated the event. Then there’s the issue with the PTO. Your invitation list fell directly on gender lines and I’m sure you can see how this could be a problem. I think the event sounded like a lot of fun and a great opportunity for bonding–I am sorry that I missed it. I’d like to work with you in the future to expand this concept, make it more of a regular event, and to make it apply to the entire office.”

    1. Zip Zap*

      Yeah. People seem to be losing sight of the idea that we’re all equally human regardless of gender. I’m seeing more, “Men should do the thinking”, “Men should do all the intellectually challenging jobs,” etc. than I did ten years ago. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it. We do need a wake up call.

    2. Manuel*

      I really like your phrasing and think it would be very effective. If not, one could probably assume the event organizer’s intentions were sexist and his judgement is questionable at best.

  56. Zip Zap*

    The opposite thing happened at a place where I worked. All of the women were required to go to a spa together for facials and massages. I don’t like strangers touching me, I didn’t like the gender stereotyping thing, and I didn’t want to be partially naked in front of my co-workers. I tried to politely decline. I was told that it was required team building and that if I called in sick that day, I could lose my job. So I went along with it. But omg. Yick. And the person organizing it even said, “You’ll enjoy it because you’re a woman,” when I tried to say no. I really don’t understand some people… Believing in traditional gender roles, fine. Forcing that kind of thing on people at work – no thank you, I’ll just do my job.

  57. Printer's Devil*

    If I found out all the men in my company were taking company time and going to sporting events, and not inviting me or any of the other women, there would be holy H-E-double-hockey-sticks to pay. Blatantly sexist behavior, coupled with sexist assumptions (at least in my office, the most passionate sports fans are mostly female), is unacceptable.

    There’s got to be someone you can talk to, either directly or obliquely.

  58. Winston Smith in Room 101*

    Just to clarify: if the outing had been on personal time (say Sunday afternoon) and each person paid for their own ticket, transport, refreshments, etc, would everyone here be ok with it, then?

    1. JamieS*

      Short answer: I’d most likely still take issue.

      Long answer: It depends. Was it specifically organized or would it just be a really wild coincidence? Did Fergus email all of his male colleagues inviting them to attend or did Fergus go to the game of his own volition and discover to his amazement that the majority of his male colleagues, also of their own volition, had the exact same idea?

      If it was organized I’d still take issue. Having a work organized meeting that excludes one sex isn’t suddenly made acceptable by virtue of having the meeting outside normal work hours. If it was a wild coincidence beyond anyone’s control I wouldn’t care so long as it doesn’t snow ball from there.

    2. Tealeaves*

      After reading some past AAM, I think it’s worth pointing out that being friends with only select coworkers outside of work is problematic if it cuts across management levels. It gives the appearance of bias and allows those employees more facetime with the bosses on a regular basis.

  59. JamieS*

    Maybe this is just me but I’m not seeing what exactly the problem is for the OP. Yes obviously she’s dealing with sexism but is the problem she’s not being left out of the baseball games and wants to be included or does she not want to attend the events but wants them to not take place at all?

    If it’s the former why not just tell the guys that she, and other like-minded women, want to be included? If it’s the latter, or a significant of women are still being excluded, would it be possible to have a discussion and come up with alternative things to do that everyone (or most) would enjoy instead of just trying to shut it down? Admittedly I’m not a fan of non-work outings during the workday but that seems to be a thing in OP’s office. I guess it can be categorized as “team building”.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      The problem is that she and all the other women at the office were a) excluded from an event that took place on company time, involving face time/networking/whatever you want to call it opportunities with the partners and b) all the women at the office were left behind to do all the work of the entire office while that was going on.

      Double sexist whammy.

    2. Zip Zap*

      It’s during work hours and only the men are allowed to participate. It’s only about gender, not job function or interest in the activity. That’s clearly discriminatory.

  60. AnonymousCookie*

    Or how about organizing a women’s day out? Something makes me think OP wouldn’t have cared to go even if she was invited.

      1. Bow Ties Are Cool*


        And also, once more for the deliberately obtuse: the women were not invited. They were, in fact, deliberately excluded. This is not okay.

        And finally, in the LW’s situation, a “women’s day out” would leave 80% of the office (the men) to cover for the absence of 20% of the office (the women), which is quantitatively different than what happened to the LW and her female colleagues.

      2. neverjaunty*

        And it’s also not the same thing as attending an event organized BY decision-makers, which is also pretty damn obvious.

        It’s amazing how many people are angry they aren’t allowed to LARP Mad Men in the workplace.

  61. Guy Incognito*

    Oh, this totally happened to me at a former job. I was working in IT for a government contractor and I was one of maybe 7 women in a 40-person department. The guys would organize bro-only events on work time and leave the women behind to work. It made me angry, because I would’ve loved to go too but I was young and didn’t know what to do about it and didn’t want to be resented. Now I would absolutely question it and make a fuss about it because, come on dudes. Really?

  62. Former Employee*

    The problem is:

    1. She and her female colleagues are left to do 100% of the work with only 20% of the staff while the men are out playing.

    2. Even people who are more junior than she are included in a non-work event during working hours without taking any of their personal time off simply because they are men.

    3. People get to know each other at these events in ways that they don’t in the office. The restrictions of hierarchy fade when you are away from work and sharing a non-work experience, especially if beer is involved. Suddenly a senior partner discovers that a young attorney shares his interest in something and that young attorney will be the one the senior guy picks to work with him on “The Big Case”.

  63. boop the first*

    I find it incredibly unlikely that ALL of the men expressed an interest in the game. Extremely unlikely.

    How did you find out about it? Did you all know ahead of time that you were going to be abandoned? Has anyone put on their concerned-and-confused face, walk up to the boss and ask: “Where did everyone go last thursday? Why were all of the women left behind to cover the office?”

    Why didn’t they shut down the office for the day if no one was going to be there???

    1. boop the first*

      I hope y’all had your own party after they left, too. Maybe they’ll let you do your own thing while they’re gone the next time? Go bowling? It would extra revealing if they refused you that.

  64. 49ersSuperFan*

    “it’s not okay for men to segregate themselves in ways that exclude women from the kind of bonding, networking, information-sharing, and actual business that happen at these outings.” If this is what women expect happens at these events then it is precisely why they are not invited. The last thing you want when watching a game is someone talking about work or treating it as a networking opportunity. Have you ever watched men when they are watching a game? If you are interested in seeing the game then you can rightly be annoyed not to be invited but otherwise the claims about networking and other happenings are likely vastly overstated. Wouldn’t the issue of PTO be between the individual and their manager?

    1. Candi*

      You come across as either blessedly ignorant or deliberately obtuse. There is absolutely bonding that goes on at any kind of social event, even if nary a word is ever said about work.

      This leads to a tighter feeling of closeness and friendship with those who participated in the event or attended that event.

      And this absolutely has an effect at work and on work bonds.

      Others on this site have said it far better, and in greater detail, then I -including users who identify as male. I suggest some time in the archives.

      1. 49ersSuperFan*

        Ouch! I choose blessedly ignorant it’s cuter right? But anyway, I accept I was deliberately obtuse and flippant as I am very skeptical and negative about networking. It is the antithesis of my personality and I consider it as incredibly creepy and sycophantic. I do not like to think that anyone would get ahead for non work-related reasons because they go to the work functions and someone else doesn’t. Hiring should not work this way.

        Secondly I think most are largely missing the point. The story given above where women are excluded is clearly wrong and unfair (I do not comment whether this is deliberate or ignorant, I don’t know). Excluding any group is just wrong and does not need an explanation of consequences (no bonding / networking opportunities) to justify that it is wrong, whether those consequences are real or imagined. For example substitute the event of going to a game for all the men were given a box of chocolates. The consequence of this is not likely to have any career impact but it is ipso facto wrong and discriminatory. By arguing the consequence rather than the act you are shifting the conversation onto a debate on consequences (which is debatable) rather than on the original act (which is indisputable).

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