do I have to come out at work to support diversity initiatives, new boss sends our team ads for other jobs, and more

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

1. Do I have to come out at work to support diversity initiatives?

I’m a bisexual nonbinary person who works at a Christian college. The college is somewhat liberal and I have other LGBT colleagues, but I’m not out at work. I’m a fairly private person as is, and I don’t want to deal with misgendering or potential harassment (less from my colleagues, more from the broader campus community).

For the past few years, the college has been working to implement and improve policies geared towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. As part of these initiatives, the area of the college that I work in has established support groups for employees of marginalized populations. One of these groups is for LGBT employees.

My department head has been very involved in these initiatives and has encouraged attending these groups if we self-identify as belonging to one of those populations. But these groups have had low attendance and my department head is taking it very personally. He even went so far as to say in a department meeting that this low attendance means we — members of these populations and allies (who were specifically told that these groups were not spaces meant for them and that they shouldn’t attend) — don’t care about these initiatives succeeding.

Even if my department head’s reaction wasn’t a factor, I’m still hesitant to attend the LGBT employee support group. While it would be nice to get to know my LGBT colleagues better and support them, I’m very hesitant to come out at work, even in what is theoretically a safe space. I do like my workplace, and I do want it to change for the better and be more welcoming to marginalized populations, but is it wrong to not want to put myself out there to do it?

No. You have absolutely no obligation to out yourself for any reason — not to satisfy your department head and not to make your workplace more welcoming to others. It is 100% up to what you want to do and are comfortable with. Your sexual orientation and gender identity are not diversity initiatives, and your employer has no claim on them.

2. New boss sends our team ads for jobs at other companies

My new boss keeps sending our whole team jobs ads for outside the company. Then he follows it up with one-on-one emails that explain why he thinks we’d be good for the job. The last one I got said, “I know you applied for Tom’s position and for my position so I think this role would really suit you.” He included a link for a mediocre job at our top competitor.

Should he really be sending staff to the competition? Or does he just want to replace everyone and bring in his own people?

Many managers genuinely care about their employees’ career development and will share promising leads that could help them advance, even if that means losing them to another company. It’s not awesome that he’s linking you to a mediocre job but I wouldn’t read anything into this beyond that he genuinely thinks he’s being helpful — unless he’s given you any other reason to think he’s trying to push you and others out. (It’s weird that he’s apparently doing this on a mass scale to the whole team though. It’s … an unusual level of enthusiasm.)

If you want, you can ask him about it: “I don’t have any plans to leave any time soon, and I want to make sure there’s not any sort of message I should be reading into the job ads you’ve sent me. It’s made me wonder if you think I’ve outgrown my role here — I don’t want to miss that message if so.”

3. I wasn’t flirting

A couple of years ago I was asked to cover some travel for an employee in another department for a meeting with a customer and their end customer. This travel is in my job description, but it’s generally known that my job is kind of the end of the line, no one else can go option. It was the second time I was covering this meeting.

I thought it went okay. I was kind of nervous because I was still a newer manager and felt like a kid at the grown-up table. During the meeting, I was seated next to an intern at my customer’s company who was in their equivalent of my department. We were chatting and he mentioned he wanted to travel to my area in the future with his girlfriend, and we got to talking about the area. I also asked him for his help explaining some food at lunch because I wasn’t familiar with it. That was it.

Fast forward a couple of months, and another person from our customer’s company who wasn’t even in the meeting was visiting our office for another project I was involved in. A group of us went to lunch and I mentioned I had been at his office a while back and he said, “Oh! You’re the girl who was flirting with the intern!”

I was shocked. I definitely didn’t intend to flirt and I didn’t think I crossed any professional lines. I immediately said something along the lines of “I wasn’t flirting, I was helping him plan a future trip with his girlfriend!” We were with several of my coworkers, who proceeded to spend the next couple of weeks (lightly) teasing me about it.

I was a young female manager in a male-dominated field, and I simply wasn’t 100% sure how to handle this situation, and honestly I’m still not sure now how I would handle this now. So what should I have done?

Ugh. Men and women can have social conversations without flirting, and there is something very gross about assuming any friendly discussion between them might be flirting. (And how did this guy even hear about the conversation? He wasn’t in the meeting but someone’s hinky analysis of this “flirtation” somehow spread to him anyway and he thought it worth mentioning to you?) There’s something about it that’s rooted in sexism, too — like any presence of a young woman near a similarly aged man somehow means things must be sexually charged.

It’s often hard to respond well to this type of thing on the spot because it’s so uncomfortable and weird; you’re far more likely to come up with good responses after it’s already over. But I’m a fan of “Why on earth would you say that?” or “What a bizarre thing to say.” Or if you want to spell it out a little more: “Surely you’ve been around long enough to know men and women can in fact speak to each other without it being flirtatious.”

It’s also okay to shut down the teasing from your coworkers afterwards. For example: “Can you cut that out? It’s pretty gross.”

4. Can I cold-email a company when their ATS rejects me?

I’ve been rejected twice now (different jobs a few months apart) by a company where the electronic applicant tracking system (ATS) is almost definitely the one rejecting me. It’s clear a human probably never got the chance to see my application, because both times I submitted my application well outside of normal business hours and received a rejection email from their ATS about an hour later. And both times, I felt I was decently qualified for the position and I tried to have a well tailored resume and cover letter.

This most recent time, I spent the bulk of my day researching the organization and the work, finessing my resume and trying to optimize it better for ATS readers by including keywords from the job description, crafting my cover letter, and trying to clearly communicate why I’m interested in the position and what I bring to the table and how I match most of the requirements, and sending my resume and cover letter to a couple friends to read over before I submitted it. My background is in a different but related industry, and I tried to explicitly explain how my experience could be applied to this position. But apparently that wasn’t enough to get past the ATS.

I don’t know if I’m the best person for the job, and I’m sure they probably have a large number of applications and have to screen them somehow, but it’s a bit frustrating that after spending so much time and effort, no human at the company will get to see my application. I don’t have any personal connections at the company to ask for advice. I know generally you don’t recommend this, but do you think in this case it’s worth looking up someone from HR or from the project I applied to and cold-emailing or LinkedIn messaging them to ask what’s up with their ATS? If so, how should I approach that? Or should I just consider any future job at this particular company a lost cause?

Don’t email a company to ask what’s up with their ATS. Because the thing is, what’s up with their ATS is that a human programmed it to screen in a particular way. If it’s rejecting candidates for not having experience with a certain software or X years of experience in Y (or whatever it might be), that’s because a human set up those requirements. Now, maybe that human was incompetent (that definitely happens), but it’s not the way you want to frame your question.

If you were an extraordinarily qualified candidate, it might make sense to try to contact the hiring manager (not HR, but the person who’d be managing the position) and see if they think you’re the right match for the job. But you described yourself as “decently qualified.” If that’s not false modesty and you’re an okay match but not a stellar one, you shouldn’t try to circumvent the process they’ve set up; that’s more likely to be annoying than anything else. (That’s pretty much always annoying unless it’s a truly outstanding candidate doing it, and even then it can be a little annoying.)

What you could do, though, is to try to network with the company/team more generally so that you get to know them and have more of an in the next time they have an opening (because that creates a situation where you could reach out to them directly).

5. Including month of graduation on a resume

I graduated with my bachelor’s in the fall of 2019. Thanks to a series of unfortunate events, my resume gap extends from graduation until now, broken up by only a few months of volunteer work this year, and one day in 2020 as a poll worker. I’m now earnestly searching for a job and I worry that “Class of 2019” on my resume makes my gap look longer than it already is. Is there any reason not to write “Class of Fall 2019,” “Fall 2019” or “December 2019” instead? I know there’s a lot of advice not to worry about a gap during the pandemic, but mine began a few months before then so … I’m a little worried anyway.

It’s fine to specify Fall 2019 or December 2019. Don’t write “class of” though — do it like this:

Porridge College, B.A. in Oatmeal, December 2019

More on resume gaps here.

{ 361 comments… read them below }

  1. Blue*

    LW 3- fwiw, I think your response sounds pretty solid. Much more elegant than I could come up with when put on the spot. I like Alison’s suggestions as well. A dry “you can’t be serious…” goes a long way too.

    1. lyonite*

      I was literally on a (semi-social) Zoom call tonight with a dude who kept talking about all of the women he was interviewing with (!) were definitely flirting with him. A couple of us tried to gently disabuse him of this notion, but some people are beyond help. (Needless to say, he remains unemployed.)

      1. Forrest*

        I once stood in a queue behind a man complaining to his friend that his yoga teacher “hated” him because she never responded when he flirted with her. Turns out I CAN’T make people drop dead simply by glaring at them, because I certainly tried there.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          The day I finally develop that superpower will be a bleak one for humanity.

        2. RussianInTexas*

          I have a customer (I am in customer support, but not face to face) whom I hate, who absolutely flirts on the phone. He probably thinks I hate him because he flirts and it’s ain’t working. He is not getting discounts or expedited service, regardless of how many times he calls me mija.
          No, I hate him because he made me chase him for 3 months to get a payment.

        3. Autistic AF*

          There’s a great book from Naomi Alderman called The Power that is very topical here – it may even have been one of Alison’s recommendations.

      2. CheeseWhizzard*

        A colleague of mine was just fired for similar behaviour. He was spreading rumours that various clients and our boss (!) were in love with him and wouldn’t leave him alone. We just hired him, too. Some people have no sense.

      3. Pickled Limes*

        There is a certain subset of men who cannot perceive any difference between a woman who is being polite and a woman who is flirting. I have no idea how to fix that problem (and as a woman in a customer service job where I’m required to be polite to those men, I really, really want the problem to be fixed).

        1. AntsOnMyTable*

          It is so frustrating because then you get so sick of politeness = interest to these men that you start becoming more standoffish and then you get called a name for that too.

      4. Loredena*

        Many years ago I was the team lead for several other consultants assigned to the same client. One was struggling and I was asked to spend time at the client after normal hours both tutoring and assessing his skill level. He was pulled from the client because they were dissatisfied and eventually our employer fired him. He complained that it was retaliation — apparently my attempt to tutor meant I was flirting and he didn’t respond because married. No dude. Helping the less experienced team members was my job!

      5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        This kind of thing drives me nuts. I am a friendly person in conversation, but I do not flirt, period. I am, quite frankly, not good at it. Plus I am not looking to get involved with anyone even in a minor way. And yet you get certain people who think that if a youngish woman is being at all friendly with a man, she must be flirting. And if you are not friendly, well, then you are that awful woman who needs to smile more of course! What is wrong with people?

      6. CoveredInBees*

        Nothing ruins a conversation faster than a man who thinks general politeness and interaction is flirting, especially when they think the best way to respond is to turn you down for a date you never asked for.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed. It sounds perfect.

      With gossipy-type topics like this, I think the ideal tone in response is bored with maybe a hint of annoyed. Rinse and repeat.

    3. WFHHalloweenCat*

      I agree completely! Especially as a genuine shock response to such a ridiculous comment. I had a similar situation happen, where a coworker was hired right after I got out of a relationship and because I helped with his training, he would come to me with questions and to chit chat. My boss said something along the lines of “ooooh i think he likes you.” My response was a shocked, curt “if he does, he should stop since he’s married” and that was the end of her comments on the subject.

    4. Lego Leia*

      My comment would be more pointed. “It’s so sad that a woman can’t be nice to a man without it being considered flirting”.

      1. LunaLena*

        I wish I’d known to say this when I was 22 and in my first full-time job. I would often chat and joke around with co-workers (many of who were much older and/or married), and one day the receptionist laughed that I was so flirty. I was really taken aback because I was really obtuse about flirting (and still am) and I honestly thought we were just having fun chats. I think my response was a dumbstruck “that was flirty?”

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            But, but, you were BREATHING!
            I remember a musical my parents liked for the music. One of the songs had the words “On the list of things I will not miss”.
            And I thought marrying my husband would let other men know that I was not interested.

  2. Magenta Sky*

    LW #1: Your department head’s reaction – taking it personally – suggests to me that he’s not interested in diversity and creating a safe space for marginalized employees so much as he is in feeling – and being seen as – important.

    Which wouldn’t make it feel like a safe space to me.

      1. Failed Manager*

        Ok I have to agree fully that should not be outing yourself! I would like to provide another a couple of options that may work if these options are safe for you. I do believe that you and other teammates should provide the DEI rep or HR rep feedback on what the manager said that people are not going to these meetings. I also think you and teammates if possible provide feedback on what would make these meetings more accessible such a charge number or REAL support from leadership. I also would consider going to a LGBTQ+ professional society in your field. I am a cis white gentile straight woman in engineering. I have noticed that my company promotes OutinSTEM for LGBTQ+ engineers. You may find support in professional groups outside of work. The reason why I am giving you this advice is that I have really enjoyed and gotten support from the woman’s group at work. I am all for these Diversity and inclusion groups. They can be helpful. However the organization must make safety a key component.

        1. LW1*

          There is an LGBT caucus for workers in my specific department that’s spread across multiple colleges in my particular area. It’s been difficult to attend the meetings with my (very off-hours) schedule, but I do want to keep trying because I feel like it would be easier for me to attend a larger group, even if other people from my institution would be there.

          The committee in charge of these support groups said in their most recent monthly update that they’re going to solicit feedback soon. If there’s a way for me to bring up my concerns without outing myself, I’ll certainly try to do that.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I’m saying this as someone who basically jumped out of the closet 25 years ago, is findable via Google for an array of queer-related activities and writings, is in general highly favorable of coming out, and finds DEI initiatives useful to get this part of me into the social structures at my work:

            Coming out is a personal decision. You don’t owe anyone anything or have to do anything according to anyone else’s timeline and, *especially* not to make your employer more efficient and a safer place than they are. No one has a moral standing to pressure you.

            The only ethical consideration that I personally accept is a responsibility for those who come after me and the culture in the spaces I inhabit, and that HAS influenced my decision to be more open at times. However I also never worked in a Christian college or have had to deal with career-threatening homophobia directly, ever. So it’s really your own trajectory here.

            All the best!

    1. Sara M*

      Yes, 100 percent!

      I agree with the advice BUT I have one thing to add. On your own—without involving work—I think you would be wise to do some reading on “passing privilege” only for your own personal thoughts.

      This is because it’s important to understand that not all our queerfolx are able to treat this as a choice. And I think it’s be wise to make sure you personally are clear on what privilege you do have here and how it works. I mean this 100 percent nonjudgmentally. It’s a good distinction to be aware of in life!

      1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

        The thing about “passing privilege” is that it’s highly situational, at best. In the part of the country I grew up in, I was harassed on a fairly regular basis by complete strangers and my use of public restrooms was questioned – less often than the street harassment, but often enough. Where I currently live, neither of those things happen, and only fellow queer people have clocked me as such. *I* haven’t changed. The culture of where I live is just different from where I grew up.

      2. Ben*

        Honestly, this is pretty uncalled for. Whether we’re clocked as queer or not does not map well to experiences of oppression and interpersonal violence. Transwomen who have “passing privilege” are still at significant risk of being murdered precisely because they were passing.

        There is no reason to drive by in the comments and ask someone to take on work or a sense of obligation to the community when you have no idea what they’ve been carrying.

        1. Aquawoman*

          Also, “passing” is a psychic, mental and emotional burden. Passing means hiding some part of oneself which may actually take a lot of effort and/or create dissonance. E.g. a nonbinary person passing as CIS might be wearing clothes they’re uncomfortable in. I’m ND and suppressing my ND traits is tiring (no fidgeting, make eye contact, wear uncomfortable clothes–it adds up).

      3. Beth*

        This strikes me as a weird suggestion for this particular post. I don’t see anything in the post that confirms for sure that OP passes. They’ve said don’t like to talk about their identity at work, but that’s an inward-out approach to identity. Passing, on the other hand is an outward-in measure of identity, based mostly on others’ perceptions of you rather than necessarily having anything to do with what you say your identity is. OP might always pass, might sometimes pass, or might rarely pass; we really don’t know how people around them view them.

        I also don’t see anything that suggests that they’re unaware of the privileges of passing. On the contrary, they openly acknowledge that it’s easier on their campus to not be perceived as LGBTQ+.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I can imagine letters where that would be a helpful comment but this doesn’t strike me as one of them.

        2. pancakes*

          +1 to all this. The letter is seeking advice. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive summary of the author’s identity or relationship with their sexuality or with other LGBTQ people, etc.

        3. Let's Just Say*


          “Check your privilege” has its place, but I don’t think the LW needs that reminder in this context.

      4. John Smith*

        I dunno about this passing privilege or about inclusivity groups. I don’t think any single person who, after coming to know that I’m gay, has treated me differently than before they knew.

        That is except….. Other gay people who don’t believe I’m gay and ask me to prove it by, for example, snogging some random male person (or my then partner).

        One of the most homophobic places I have been to is a supposedly inclusive gay quarter of a city in my country, where you’re not accepted (or made comfortable) as gay unless you fit a stereotype. And I found similar in my organisations LGBTQ forum that I went to once. It was made obvious that I wasn’t a fit in there because, as one person put it “you have to be seen to be gay to break down barriers”. I did contemplate either debating this or going on a mincing, screaming queen rampage in drag throughout the office complex but just decided these people are not for me and left.

        There are many people whose sexuality is a very small part of who they are and don’t feel, need or want to let that aspect be the definition of who they are as a person. I’m a person who happens to be gay, not the other way round, and no-one should need anyone elses approval for being who they are.

        1. Lora*

          100% agree.

          Last time I went to a popular gay nightclub (obviously pre-Covid and actually several years ago), as a woman dressed very femme for Dyke Night, a drag queen without speaking a single word to me reached over and squeezed my breast very hard (really aggressively) and then stomped off. In a straight bar, the bouncer most likely would have said / done something when I complained, but it was blown off because it “wasn’t sexual”. Okay, bye, I’m done with this scene. Other places have been the opposite, very accepting and comfortable and normal, and still other places I was very much rejected for presenting femme and dating other femme women, for not being vegetarian, for not wanting to go to their Meditation Group or support group or whatever. It just really depends on the individual organization/location and who is running it and the tone they set, and if people aren’t buying into this particular one there’s probably a reason. Or a lot of reasons.

          Companies really need to get over the whole “let’s have a Tuesday night apero!” approach of culture change and think about what they can do to change structural inequality. It’s sheer laziness. For example, at CurrentJob I was told that I can’t move up unless I want to relocate – and the sites I was offered to relocate to are all in places where being gay or bisexual is either very dangerous or outright illegal. No, I don’t want to go to a country where I can be publicly whipped or deported if they find out I’m bi, thanks so much for offering. Maybe make a career development path that doesn’t require people to move away from their very liberal greater metro area? I’m sure Saudi Arabia offers a whole world of opportunity but I’m not going there either.

          1. John Smith*

            That’s absolutely terrible. “It’s not sexual” shows they don’t understand, but they don’t need to understand that it’s unacceptable. They just need to accept that it is unacceptable, and I think they’re two words people get confused with – understanding and accepting. I don’t give a monkeys if someone hates me because I’m gay or thinks that I should have more or less rights than they do. They just need to accept I have the same rights as anyone else (or should have).

          2. Observer*

            and squeezed my breast very hard (really aggressively) and then stomped off. In a straight bar, the bouncer most likely would have said / done something when I complained, but it was blown off because it “wasn’t sexual”.

            And why does it matter? This person hurt you. Would it have been ok for someone to the beat you up as long as it was “not sexual”? “Hands to yourself” is a rule that applies across the board!

        2. A Library Person*

          First of all, I trust OP when they imply that they’d rather not be out in any fashion in their work environment. They know their environment and their situation, and as both you and OP point out our preconceptions of what might and might not be “safe” or “welcoming” don’t always match up to reality.

          I had a similar experience to the one you describe when I came to (a very large) college from a relatively conservative city in the early 00s. I was so excited to become part of the queer community there, but I attended the opening picnic event and felt incredibly unwelcome there; over my next years at the school I never got the impression that the core queer community was a particularly welcoming or open-minded one, and I found my own community and friends outside of it.

          All of this is to say that OP shouldn’t feel compelled to out themselves or to align themselves with any particular group if it doesn’t fit their comfort level or interest, and *especially* not to make their boss feel better about diversity efforts in an environment that OP doesn’t feel totally comfortable being out in. Mandatory outing does not build a truly inclusive community or workplace, and all queer interest groups do not fit all queer people.

          1. pancakes*

            I agree with your last paragraph, but fitting under the LGBTQ umbrella doesn’t imply anything about a person’s personality. It’s not shorthand for being easy to get along with, welcoming, or open-minded, for starters, even within an affinity group.

            1. A Library Person*

              I think we agree here! I found that out the hard way myself, which is all the more reason for OP (or anyone in a similar situation) to think carefully about whether this particular group would be a welcoming space for them even outside of the boss’s pressure to join it.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, you’re dealing with a bad local community. Just because someone is gay doesn’t make them any less likely to be an asshole, remember. But be assured, reasonable, focussed, generous communities do exist.

      5. PspspspspspsKitty*

        I don’t understand this suggestion. OP is hesitant to go to these groups. OP has some evidence that the head is taking these things personally. They aren’t treating it as a choice and has written in for perspective. Anyone who hesitates coming out due to fear does not have the choice. Comparing these kind of privileges is like asking if you rather have a half bitten sandwich or burger. It still sucks all around and can be worse depending on a multitude of factors.

      6. Lobsterp0t*

        I don’t think this is a helpful thing to bring up here. This is conveniently always levied at bisexual people first, before they are allowed to be concerned for their safety or belonging as fellow queers. I’m sure you intended well, and it is always valuable to understand the intra community and heteronormative dynamics but honestly this didn’t sit well with me

        1. English, not American*

          This is why I (asexual) don’t identify as being part of the LGBT+ umbrella. A is for ally and I don’t have the energy for oppression olympics.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Right. It’s like in some parts of the community there’s this almost kneejerk “but you pass” reaction to bisexuals, which is so disheartening and makes it so difficult to feel included. It’s why I’ve pretty much given up on trying to get involved. I think it’s so strange to respond like this to a person that we know literally nothing about; if anything I think many bisexuals are very well aware of the concept of passing privilege because people keep telling us about it whether it’s relevant or not.

          1. Sylvan*


            And we don’t always pass. Other LGBT people (in my experience, gay men) simply decide that we do, and we must have never experienced homophobia, and we must need to be reminded of how sheltered we’ve been.

          2. Miss V*


            I was told I shouldn’t be allowed to go to pride because I’m “straight” (bisexual and in a relationship with a man) by the person who set me up with a woman I dated for three years.

            I’ve got a bisexual pride flag sticker on my car, I go to pride, and if asked I identify as bi. But I’m fully aware I ‘pass’ as straight to most people, straight and queer alike, because my partner is a man. I’m too gay for straight people and too straight for gay people, and a lot of people from both groups don’t hesitate to tell me that.

            1. Michael Valentine*

              Yes, my experience too. It’s like I’m stuck between two worlds. I joke with my partner that I identify as weird, knowing that there are so many of us, enough of us in fact, that there’s a more than zero chance we’re “normal” in the statistical sense of the word.

              As for the OP, I’m not out at work, partly because I don’t want my employment record to have the “LGBTQ” box checked (yes, they have a checkbox) so they can advertise how inclusive they are. But also, I just don’t want to get into the “if you’re queer, why are you married to an opposite sex partner” debate. It’s exhausting, and I’m not up for it.

            2. pancakes*

              I know that this sort of thing happens pretty frequently, and it’s awful. I’m a bi woman in her mid-40s and it’s happened to me a couple times. It makes me uncomfortable, though, that quite a few commenters seem to see people who are jerks in this particular way as ambassadors for their sexual orientation, or even for the broader LGBTQ community. They aren’t. And that doesn’t change even when they try to position themselves as ambassadors or gatekeepers. I’m not trying to say that exclusionary behavior is therefore not a problem, or that people new to the community should lower their expectations into the ground. I’m trying to say that it’s inherently problematic to give other people power over one’s own sense of validity or belonging, and to emphasize that people who try to hold themselves out as gatekeepers don’t oblige the rest of us to let them have that role.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I don’t know. I appreciate this perspective but I think it kinda puts the onus on the people who are the victims of biphobia and exclusion to just, I don’t know, refuse to be affected by it? in a way that seems kind of unfair, and treats people who try to exclude us as bad apples when it’s a really very widespread issue. (I mean, this has come up in pretty much every discussion of the bi experience that I’ve ever heard or been part of, I don’t think it’s a matter of a few people being jerks.)

                I mean, we’re talking about community – I think that when you’re already marginalised and searching for community and then people – a lot of people – in that community make it clear that they don’t think you belong there either, it’s a little unfair to be all “you shouldn’t give people power over your sense of belonging!”. Of course being rejected by the community is going to affect many people’s sense of belonging, because we’re literally being told by that community that we don’t belong. I do agree that it’s obviously not everyone who does it, but it’s certainly enough to have made a significant impression on a lot of people.

                1. pancakes*

                  These are good points, and I don’t disagree that it’s a widespread problem, or think there’s something wrong with wanting a sense of belonging. What I was trying to get at (and having trouble being precise about) is the idea of relying on a community for a sense of personal validation. I think it’s always a risk to rely on something external for that—a group, a job, a romantic relationship, etc.—and probably best avoided.

                2. EventPlannerGal*

                  @pancakes – yeah, I do see where you’re coming from there! I think it’s quite a natural human thing to feel, but you’re right that it shouldn’t be the sole source of validation.

          3. AnotherLadyGrey*

            “…if anything I think many bisexuals are very well aware of the concept of passing privilege because people keep telling us about it whether it’s relevant or not.”

            EXACTLY. +100

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, my (asexual) experience is that “passing privilege” is often brought up as a way to exclude people or dismiss the discrimination and erasure they experience.

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          I agree with Lobsterpot. The LW is a queer person in a somewhat oppressive environment navigating coming out. (And them being NB, I’m not even sure how much “passing privilege” applies here.)

          Passing privilege does exist, and one thing about intersectionality is the lesson that we should periodically or fundamentally watch the ways in which all of us participate in privilege. However, it is not necessarily a good idea for any of us to occupy the position of judge and telling others off for it without a really good reason to. Good reasons would be if the LW was actually reporting of a way they’re participating in privilege (not applicable) or, better, among people who mutually consent to examine these questions in a thoughtful, supportive but justice-focussed environment (also not applicable). There’s a virtue of knowing when not to criticize someone.

      7. AnotherLadyGrey*

        I am not clear on why you are assuming that the OP even *has* passing privilege, much less why you are assuming they aren’t aware of it or that they need to read up on it. Not being out at work does not equate to either of those things. Respectfully, I think you should consider reflecting on why you are jumping to that conclusion.

        I must admit that I can’t help but wonder if it is at all related to the OP identifying as bisexual. I am bi and the idea that we can “pass” and therefore don’t experience homophobia is something I’ve unfortunately heard a lotttttttt. As another poster says, “passing privilege” is situational at best, and while I may have some privileges due to my bisexuality, I also experience oppression because of it. However this is certainly a sore spot for me so I realize I may be reading way too much into your comment.

        That said, I think it is a little unkind to assume the OP doesn’t already have their own analysis around passing privilege. You mentioned that you meant it “non-judgementally” but to be honest, it does sound a little judgy! I’m sure that is not your intention, so perhaps that is something worth reflecting on.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          You worded this better than I could.

          I would add, too, that in my case, as a bisexual woman dating a man, a lot of this “passing” judgement and rejection has come from within the LGBTQ community, not from without, and I have also felt unwelcome and like I don’t belong among some groups, so I also have an additional layer of reluctance to partake in them.

          I am, of course, very aware of the privileges that being “straight passing” grants me in some situations, too!

          1. AnotherLadyGrey*

            Yes, this, a million percent! I couldn’t figure out how to say it, but this really resonates with me. As does the interesting challenge of grappling with both the privileges and oppression I experience, and trying to work through the complex feelings I have about being in some queer spaces.

            1. Quoth the Raven*

              I hear you, absolutely. And while I will be the first to admit we DO have privilege, it gets old very fast when the very oppression we face (which is shared with the LGBTQ community as a whole, but also unique in its own ways) is dismissed. Personally, most of the people I hold near to me are understanding, welcoming, and respectful, but there are groups who can be pretty unwelcoming or plain out hostile, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel entirely comfortable flying the Pride flag.

          2. Miss V*

            I commented to someone above but yes, totally!

            I’m also a bi woman dating a man and honestly, the groups I feel most comfortable in are with other bi/pan people and asexual people.

            I’m aware I get some privilege for ‘passing’ as straight. I’m also aware there are people, both queer and straight, who are too happy to dismiss the experiences and discrimination I’ve faced because I’m not straight.

          3. Doesn’t Register As Bi to Others*

            Thank you so so so much for this comment (and to the others in the thread). When I first realized I was bi I thought about trying to join some of the queer groups I had access to, but every time I dip my toe in those waters I get the “You don’t really get oppressed, and you suck cuz you’re bi” response from someone or another. Is it easier for me to be a bi woman married to a man? In some ways, yes. But I’m so tired of being told that this means that all of the insults hurled at the LGBTQ+ community therefore don’t affect me, or that I don’t count as bi since I’m married to a person of the opposite sex. Having people complaining that I need to pick either being gay or straight, for example (which is especially frustrating coming from someone who is gay and has fought to have their sexuality acknowledged as not their choice; why they think theirs is inherent in who they are but I have a choice is beyond me), or getting told over and over again in ways tiny and large that I’m not welcome in queer spaces, only to get grief for “passing privilege” when I go someplace else where I’m actually wanted… All of this gets very old. Bi people – we exist! We’re real! And we don’t live out our sexuality to anyone’s satisfaction apparently, but that’s not our fault. Let’s try to have a whole conversation someday about being bi that doesn’t revolve around us not being queer enough or not doing queer right.


          4. Ace in the Hole*

            I am an asexual woman who recently married another woman. Ironically, the way people treat me overall has improved now that I’m no longer straight-passing. Before, I felt unwelcome in many LGBTQ spaces and faced subtle pressure in straight spaces to find a partner/settle down/meet a guy. Now, the importance of my relationship with my partner is acknowledged by the straight community (even if it’s drastically misunderstood), I’m accepted with open arms by the LGBTQ community… and my actual identity is completely invisible everywhere.

            Being shoved back in the closet against your will through the power of erasure isn’t exactly fun though. Frankly, I’d trade it for some overt discrimination in a heartbeat. At least I can DO something about that.

        2. Metadata minion*

          Cosigned. The OP is nonbinary and as another nonbinary person who “passes” as cis, what that actually looks like on this inside is frustration that no matter what I do, if I’m not literally wearing a “hi, I’m nonbinary” nametag I’m at most clocked as “woman who has raided her boyfriend’s closet”. That’s dysphoria and invisibility and getting “why are you here?” looks in queer spaces. Telling me that I should be *grateful* for almost never being recognized for who I am is not ok.

          1. A-things*

            Yes. As a male-passing nonbinary person I’ve learned to be on the lookout for gender enforcement from queer people. Yet my straight but cargo-pant & plaid-wearing partner, being a woman, doesn’t get a second look in queer zones. Cis-passing is a privilege for me in many places, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it is an anti-privilege in the spaces I most care about.

        3. CG*

          Yes! Also: not all bi people pass as straight! Some of us code as gay! And even for the bi people who do code as straight, the “privilege” of passing also often comes with a closet or “not really queer/not queer enough” judgment from others.

          1. Anon4This*

            Yup. Bi woman married to a man here, I can tell you that even I do not “pass” as straight. Other queer people in particular can tell I’m queer. As I sometimes say, I got this haircut for a reason.

          2. squidss*

            Bi person who is often seen as gay here, and even then I want to be recognized as bi specifically!

        4. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Am bisexual (technically pansexual but it’s a less well known term) and the amount of times I’ve been told I do NOT fit into the LGBTQ crowd because I’m married to a man is too darn high.

          Bi erasure is a real thing. If I had a quid for everyone who said that bisexuals are ‘just confused’ or ‘don’t exist’ I’d…still have to work but I could afford a nice holiday.

        5. alienor*

          I’m bisexual and…it’s not exactly that I’m not out at work, but because I’m not in a relationship and haven’t been for years (by choice), it never comes up. I honestly have no idea what anyone thinks my sexuality is or if they think about it at all, though since I have a young adult child who I talk about sometimes, I’m guessing they assume I’m straight, and maybe divorced, since I don’t wear a ring or mention a spouse. Anyway, I’ve found that without a visible partner, you don’t fit in anywhere and no one knows how to define you. Not that I don’t enjoy being indefinable sometimes, but it also means I never feel truly welcome anyplace, either in the LGBTQ community or out of it, which doesn’t feel much like privilege to me. I don’t want to date someone solely as my ticket to acceptance, and I don’t think it’d be fair to them either.

        6. Arts Akimbo*

          Thank you! As yet another member of the Cranky Bisexual Army, I am sick of being told that being married to a man invalidates my identity. That my being with women was “just a phase.” Nope, I am still bisexual. Pan, to be exact. My spouse’s gender is not why I am with him, and I am frankly fed up with EVERY National Coming-Out Day when I make a social media post and my family acts shocked that I’m “still bi.”

          I’m sorry for drifting off-topic here, it’s hit a sore spot for me and possibly every bi or pan person.

      8. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

        Saying something is meant 100% nonjudgementally doesn’t change how it comes across, alas.

      9. AutolycusinExile*

        Mmm, no. It shouldn’t escape notice that this is being said to a bisexual, nonbinary person. Regardless of whether or not that was a conscious choice, please reconsider both your approach and your topic. Passing privilege is constantly thrown at bi people and nonbinary people as a way to delegitimize how queer they are. It’s exhausting and it’s ostracizing and it’s unnecessary. There is nothing in this letter to suggest that OP isn’t aware of the ways they benefit from staying closeted, but privilege isn’t a zero-sum game. This is like telling a person with only one leg that they should be grateful not to be missing both, that somehow the ableism they experience is a something they should be grateful for. Hey, at least it’s not *that* kind of marginalization, which you’ve decided is unequivocally and universally worse! Come on. This isn’t a competition for who suffers the most.

        What exactly was this comment hoping to accomplish? If you had mentioned something like the possibility of speaking up as a ‘straight ally’ to lend ‘straight support’ to the policy changes, I would at least understand why you brought this up. I’d disagree that OP has any obligation to risk doing so, but I’d have at least understood your perspective. I honestly hope I’m overreacting, but given that you didn’t offer anything actionable (and combined with the condescending phrasing you used), this post really feels more like yet another biphobic jab about how OP had better remember that they’ll never be ‘gay enough’ to feel marginalized by homophobia.

        There are privileges inherent in passing and there are other privileges inherent in not passing. It’s time that we move on from the idea that queer oppression can only be experienced in one particular way. Just because you suffer from homophobia differently doesn’t mean that you’re inherently suffering less.

        ‘Getting’ to be closeted means ‘getting’ to be constantly erased, misgendered, and given dirty looks at support groups and pride parades that you have every right to attend. Sure, you’re less likely to be harassed by strangers. But you’re more likely to find out too late that your roommate violently hates people like you. At the end of the day, passing privilege means being blamed for not spending your life correcting the default assumption every. single. person makes about you, as if it’s somehow your fault the world assumed you were straight and/or cis.

        It would be more productive to dismantle the default assumption of heteronormativity that lies at the root of the homophobia directed at both passing and non-passing people, but maybe it’s easier to lecture other marginalized people instead. Honestly, I might recommend taking some time yourself to make sure you personally are clear on what you’re supporting by using the same biphobic rhetoric that is has gained a foothold in the gay community during a time of rising essentialism, radical feminism, and queerphobia. It’s a good thing to be aware of!

        1. AutolycusinExile*

          I guess this touched a nerve, sorry! I got defensive, but I shouldn’t get snarky.

          A couple links to consider for anyone interested in reading more about this topic:

          Some of these articles talk about passing wrt sexuality, others gender. There are different issues at play, but at the end of the day things are just too complicated for such a blithe, contextless ‘check your privilege’ – especially when we have reason to assume OP passes in the first place.

          I think at the root of my perspective is this: Privilege is complicated. Besides what I’ve already said, I’d like to suggest that there are two kinds of privilege – the kind that everyone should have (existence does no direct harm) and the kind that no one should have (existence relies on harming others). For example, everyone deserves the privilege of being able to trust that doctors will treat you kindly. That some people do already have access to that privilege (along varying axes of race, weight, ability, wealth, etc) doesn’t mean that we should take that medical care away from them – it means we should expand it to be a universally accessible human right. A social structure that privileges white people over non-white people, meanwhile, is one that inherently causes harm to anyone who isn’t white, and we should therefore work to dismantle it and ultimately get rid of white privilege.

          Any privilege that can be present in ‘passing privilege’ is something that does no harm to others, that does not rely on inequitable power dynamics, and that ought to be available to everyone in a just world. Instructing people to be hyperaware of a non-harmful privilege is a good way to foster guilt and trauma, but it’s not a very good way to actually make the world better. Dissecting your harmful privileges is a vital part of social justice, but that’s not actually what you’re asking OP to do.

          1. Doesn't Register as Bi to Others*

            Thank you so much for those articles! You are officially my favorite person on the internet today! I especially like the one from bi dot org, which points out that if someone who is gay or lesbian passes as straight, that’s considered being in the closet, and is seen as a negative thing, but if someone who is bi passes as straight, that’s seen as passing privilege, and means that we just don’t experience homophobia. News flash: as far as I can tell, there’s not a way to present yourself (at least not that I’ve found) that means you’re codified as bi rather than straight or gay/lesbian. Most people will assume that you are one or the other, so there’s always going to be some sort of “passing” in the minds of others no matter how out you are or how open you want to be. And just like other queer people may at times choose to pass as not queer for whatever reason (which tends to revolve around being in the closet being safer), someone who is bi who chooses to do that is also staying in the closet. Is it sometimes easier? Yes; having an opposite-sex spouse does make it easier for me to pass as straight. But that doesn’t mean I’m not also dealing with biphobia.

          2. Boof*

            Thank you. I often had understood “privilege” as something that everyone wants, but only some people have (feeling included, being treated with respect, having enough resources to do certain things, etc) so it always seemed strange to me to treat it as a snarl word or shameful. It’s something aware of “someone else’s experience may be different from your own”, but as you say, a lot of what gets called privilege (including, as you say ‘passing’) isn’t harmful to someone else.
            Just commenting because I haven’t seen someone else articulate the two kinds of meanings of privilege this well before.

        2. John Smith*

          But what about when you’re out and still get the same treatment because you don’t fit in with the wider group? I’m not sure whether previous comments are aimed at the person who first mentioned passing privilege or not (I’m not a terribly intelligent person), but in my example I was using my own experience. I’m out, but I don’t volunteer that information, so when I’m asked, as I have been asked, if I have a wife/ girlfriend, I answer no. If I’m asked if I have a husband/boyfriend, I’ll still answer no (because I’m single). I might then get the question as to what my sexuality is and I’ll quite happily answer that I’m gay. Again, besides in the LGBTQ+ community, I have yet to meet a person who has treated me differently than when they had the assumption that I was straight or to any other person of any other sexuality. Maybe I’m lucky, I don’t know. But I’ll say again that a person’s sexuality is no-one else’s business besides their own and if someone doesn’t *want* to be ‘out’ as non-heterosexual (as opposed to wanting to be out but not doing so for, e.g, fear) then that is their right. But you are spot on about the need for there being a default assumption that someone is X (whether that relates to sexuality, gender, race, religion) or fits stereotypes of that X (I know, for example, Muslims who consider themselves devout but enjoy a small beer on the basis that they are still in control of their thoughts. That schooled me into not making assumptions about groups of people)

          1. c-*

            Fwiw, my comment was aimed at the person who mentioned passing privilege at the top of the thread, and I read AutolicusinExile’s comment as addressed to them as well.

            I personally can’t stand the “you are privileged because I think you look cishet” bullshit from fellow queers. It is not my fault people dump their assumptions on me, and it is certainly not a privilege to be constantly erased and misgendered. They’re just different branches of the same oppression, and people really need to stop policing fellow queers’ appearance and identity and start focusing on dismantling said oppresion. I’m sorry that happened to you as well, John.

            1. John Smith*

              Ah, I’m following the thread now. Must be my Covid induced brain fog! Apologies if I came across as aggressive in that post, I think we’re both saying the same thing but you have a far better way with words than I do! And I’m absolutely with you.

              1. c-*

                Don’t worry, I didn’t think you sounded agressive at all :) I hope the brain fog passes soon and you make a full recovery!

        3. JelloStapler*

          Thank you- this was very helpful/enlightening (as a cisgender, straight person)

        4. Environmental Compliance*

          Thank you.

          As a mostly closeted bi woman who is married to a man and nearly everyone assumes is straight.

        5. Arts Akimbo*

          “privilege isn’t a zero-sum game.”

          Beautifully put. Your whole comment is gold!

      10. another Hero*

        speaking as someone who is *not* getting read as cishet at work or elsewhere…………….no

      11. RagingADHD*

        Eh, I think your protestations that this is meant nonjudgmentally are fairly strongly contradicted by…you know…the entire content of the comment itself.

        There’s really no nonjudgmental way to say “you don’t know how good you have it, and you should rethink yout life choices.”

    2. NerdyLibraryClerk*


      I also want to know how/why the department head is so certain that there are LGBTQ employees *not* attending the support groups. I hope he doesn’t start directly pressuring the people he *thinks* are LGBTQ (regardless of whether he’s write or wrong) to attend.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It says he wants allies to attend as well, even though they’ve been told it isn’t their space.

        This is definitely a him problem and not LW’s responsibility to solve.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. He needs to be clear whether the groups are open to allies are not. In my company all the support networks are open to allies as well as people identifying as part of the group and that has really helped increase membership, although they run some events exclusively for members. For example I’m white but I go to some of the BAME staff network events to learn how to understand the pressures faced by my BAME staff so I can be a better manager. I go to the LGBT+ history month events organised by that network because they always have some really interesting talks (e.g. a great lecture on the history of Polari a couple of years ago).

          In my experience, these networks only work when the company makes the structural changes necessary to create a diverse organisation as a baseline and has clearly applied policies around things like bullying, harassment and discrimination. Otherwise they’re meaningless.

          It also needs to really support the groups. For example in my company each staff network has a champion on the board who supports the group and takes forward their recommendations.

          1. JM60*

            One advantage to opening up groups to allies is that people can attend without outing themselves and without being certain of their sexual orientation.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              My general feelings about attending as an ally are that they (I) should expect to be listening rather than contributing. And that only works if there’s a sufficient volume of members of the target group to take on the burden of driving the session, or an expert hired to lead the sessions (wouldn’t that be great).

              My concern with this particular situation (while I agree with your comment more generally) is that you can easily end up with a room full of only allies or people masking as allies, and thereby fail to achieve the aims of the group. I’ve attended such an event and it turned into the worst kind of well-meaning but tone-deaf tokenism. Other attendees weren’t very happy with me for objecting that what they were intending to create sounded like a [Minority A] zoo, nor with the attendee who outed herself as [Minority B] by pointing out how exclusionary a very popular regular event was for her family. Those are “allies” rather than Allies.

              1. UKDancer*

                I think you’re absolutely right. Allies should definitely be in listening mode, and that’s why I go to their events. I definitely recognise your description of tone deaf tokenism. I have one male colleague who is passionate about supporting women but manages to set my teeth on edge whenever things like diversity and issues affecting women disproportionately comes up.

                I don’t think there’s a perfect solution but on balance I think it’s better for the allies to come some of the time so at least they understand things. I will never understand what my Black member of staff faces in his daily life but at least if I come to the network events and shut up and listen, I understand how I can be a better boss for him.

                1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  I really like the sound of your work having a mixture of “allies welcome” and “members only” events.

            2. HigherEdHere*

              This is how it is done at my organization (also a private Catholic University).

        2. NerdyLibraryClerk*

          Oh, yeah. It’s definitely a him problem. Or possibly an organization + him problem. My question rhetorical, not something I’d want the letter writer to actually ask the guy. More of a “what the heck kind of bee is in this guy’s bonnet, anyway” not to mention “just how far is he going to take it?”

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Having allies attend is the perfect way for anyone who doesn’t want to out themselves to be able to attend, as well as helping allies learn about how they can help.

      2. EPLawyer*

        The fact they are keeping track of attendance shows its not as “safe” as the Department Head wants people to believe it is. A truly safe place wouldn’t know who was attending or even if anyone was.

      3. aebhel*

        This is a perfect example of why those spaces (especially in the context of work/school where people can’t just walk away if it becomes a problem) are often open to allies as well: it gives queer/questioning people the option to attend ‘as an ally’ without outing themselves. The fact that the boss has specifically disallowed this really makes it seem like he’s just trying to out all of his LGBT employees for the sake of making the department look good.

    3. MassMatt*

      You beat me to it. Coming out is a positive, but not an obligation. Even people that ARE out are not always interested in making time for it at work; not everyone likes meetings or is a “movementarian” kind of person. Honestly it sounds as though the manager thinks oppressed people are responsible for educating others, which is really wrongheaded.

      A better manager would take this as an opportunity to address WHY more people are not comfortable, or otherwise not getting involved instead of looking for someone to blame.

      1. WS*

        +1, I’m out at work, and have been for a long time, but I’m not interested in joining diversity groups at work. And part of that is because the first time I did, my manager (also a lesbian) thought it meant she could share her sex life with me in tremendous detail, in public, at work.

        1. JSPA*

          People who are looking for a, “get out of professionalism free” card will pull them from any & every pile. It’s not specific to LGBTQIAA+ groups. Mentorship, substance abuse, the St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, it’s all grist to their mill.

          1. WS*

            Oh yes, she was unprofessional in other ways too, just this particular one burnt me personally!

      2. EPLawyer*

        Yes, not everyone wants to get involved at work. Some people just want to be Steve that guy you go to when you can’t figure out buggy code, not Steve the transgender guy.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes! Even if you do like meetings and want to work on these issues, you may not feel like this specific effort at your office is your highest priority.

        Especially since the racial justice protests last summer, there are a vast array of diversity, inclusion, and social justice efforts vying for my attention. There are groups in my neighborhood, through my kids’ school PTA, through my church, at my office, via industry groups, at conferences. There are substantive issues of systemic racism that I want to advocate around with my local elected officials. There are book clubs. There are events and lectures to attend. There are protests and marches to go to. There are local and national advocacy groups and nonprofits to get involved with. There are fundraising opportunities to contribute to. There’s the actual content of my work, and how we could do it better (I work for a government agency that serves a lot of marginalized people).

        I happen to believe that given various kind of privilege I experience, I do have a moral obligation to work for social justice in some way. I have zero obligation to spend my limited time and effort on a particular D&I initiative at my office, especially one that feels unsafe and ineffective. I have zero obligation for my involvement and advocacy to be around one specific aspect of my identity – or even for my involvement to be around an aspect of my identity in which I am marginalized rather than one where I’m an ally. Everyone gets to pick for themselves what they feel comfortable being involved in, and also what feels meaningful and worth their time.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, I’m a vegetarian but I’ve never belonged to any veggie society. I’m a cyclist and I have a sticker on my bike and on the garage door, but have never belonged to any group advocating for bike lanes. I live in a country I was not born in but have never attended any ex-pat functions.

    4. MEH Squared (formerly MEH)*

      This was my immediate thought as well. If he cared about inclusivity, he would have focused on how they could make it more diverse/inclusive/safe to come out/etc. The fact that he was more concerned with the initiative failing than actual inclusivity/diversity suggests to me that it was more about his ego.

      1. pancakes*

        Or that he’s been tasked with running this program or taken it upon himself to try to run it, and is more focused on being able to show x number of people are participating than on crafting a good program. It doesn’t necessarily matter what his reasons are – he is centering himself rather than the needs of LGBTQ employees, and he’s trying to emotionally manipulate people into participating / make them feel guilty rather than offering them something of interest or value.

        1. MEH Squared (formerly MEH)*

          I hadn’t thought about that possibility (shockingly, since I usually would) and I think it’s highly probable that you’re right.

    5. Beth*

      Absolutely. It’s weird that your department head is so invested in this! It’s one thing to offer support or networking groups for those who want them; that’s a nice gesture of support. But getting personally upset when people aren’t enthusiastic about it definitely steers that into “you care more about LOOKING supportive than BEING supportive” territory. And to say that marginalized people don’t care about making progress against workplace discrimination just because they’re not flocking to join an extra support meeting? Oof.

      Workers’ identities aren’t diversity tokens for our employers to collect towards earning a “good boss” trophy. Most of us are just being who we are, hoping to not experience discrimination in the process. OP, your boss needs to learn that it’s not about him, and that playing gotta-catch-em-all with his team members is more dehumanizing than it is supportive.

      1. kt*

        I think it’s an easy trap to fall into — the idea that “I must contribute to The Fight” becomes “I-I-I-I need to be The Person who Did Something”, which leads right into many problematic behaviors. It’s easy for many people, but it’s an especially attractive trap for a person in leadership who is not a member of the minoritized group in question. Setting up a good culture, supporting employees as employees and as people — these are often not the glamorous KPIs that are rewarded with leadership roles.

        These are not excuses, just observations. Most diversity initiatives fail for this reason: they focus on events that make the leader look like they did something, rather than the work that leads to real change. The most insidious part is that these leaders need not be malicious — I’ve worked with leaders who are really well-meaning (guys who want to change the world for their daughters, etc) but it’s never even occurred to them to do the work to learn a paradigm in which they lead in a different way, by creating space to follow the lead of others.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Somebody could tell him to listen to his staff to find out why people aren’t attending. He’d have to ask for anonymous input of course, and then not spend ages trying to guess who wrote “as a non-binary queer who’s not out, I would only go if allies were allowed, so I could pretend to be an ally”, and just open the group up to allies and see what happens.

    6. AutolycusinExile*

      Yup. His approach is crappy and short-sighted at best, operating under the woefully misguided assumption that change would somehow miraculously occur if marginalized people would only… make themselves even more vulnerable? I guess?
      I sure wish coming out worked that way, but alas. Structural problems require structural solutions.

      The fact that your department head thinks that this is in any way an acceptable approach tells me he knows nothing about queer advocacy. When he is ready to actually make a positive difference he’s welcome to start opening up those meetings to allies or focusing on the actual policy changes necessary to actually make it safe to come out. Until then, he’s not someone whose opinions you should put any stock in. You’ll know if and when you feel safe coming out, and until that time you owe nothing to anybody but yourself.

      [Now, if anyone is considering coming out because of your own personal priorities and opinions about advocacy, it can be worth considering! There’s a whole body of discourse talking about whether being out and increasing visibility is a good way to do advocacy as a successful person (see: Harvey Milk’s philosophy) versus whether that approach is ineffective or even detrimental (see: Harvey Milk’s assassination quite early in his political career). Reasonable people can come down on both sides, and it’s a fascinating and complicated topic that I still don’t know where I stand on.
      But goddamn if that’s not a personal philosophical debate that my boss has NO business butting in on!]

    7. Ally Dad*


      Increasing diversity is not about counting how many people come to a support group at work. Increasing diversity is about making people feel welcomed. Is there a role in charge of increasing diversity? If not, why not? The college should put its money where its mouth is.

      What changes have already been made in the hiring pipeline? Is the college changing how it recruits to encourage more diverse applicants? This isn’t about some type of affirmative action, which has received a bad name. This is about adding more diverse applicants in the very initial stage so that when you choose the most qualified, your choice is coming from all walks of life.

      Why aren’t allies included? It’s much safer for white, cishet males like myself to start including pronouns and being involved than it does for someone who has to come out. I was hesitant to join my company’s efforts since I’m not technically in the community. I was welcomed with open arms. My connection? Our son is openly gay. One of our other children came out to my wife and gave her permission to tell me, but they aren’t ready to come out to others yet.

      There’s a legitimate, valid reason why you have not felt safe to come out at work. Listen to your gut. It’s no more incumbent on LGBT people to make the world a more accepting place than it is for blacks to erase systemic racism. That job should be done by the people with the most inherent power and privilege.

    8. Observer*

      Your department head’s reaction – taking it personally – suggests to me that he’s not interested in diversity and creating a safe space for marginalized employees so much as he is in feeling – and being seen as – important.

      Which wouldn’t make it feel like a safe space to me.

      Add me to the chorus.

    9. novelnomad*

      Yes! This also rings true from the religious perspective. I went to a small Christian college very like the one described, and I’ve worked for a religious nonprofit. The leadership in both places made our expression of religion a very public thing, and it was not safe. For example, at the nonprofit, we would have weekly prayer meetings. As someone going through some questions about my faith at the time (and still, who am I kidding?), I felt very pressured to be performatively religious.

      Any time something personal like religion, sexuality, gender is linked to our commitment to an external organization, it is automatically not safe.

    10. Jack Be Nimble*

      I totally agree, if he actually cared about fostering a welcoming environment for queer employees, he could focus on concrete steps like:

      – Campaigning for equitable parental leave policies and ensuring that they’re equitable for all parents regardless of gender
      – Eliminating or reducing the use of gendered language in official documents when possible
      – Encouraging cis allies to add their pronouns to their email signatures to make sure trans people don’t feel singled out if they share their pronouns (a light hand is needed here, you don’t want pronouns to be mandatory and put people in the uncomfortable position of HAVING to out themselves at work)
      – Making sure dress code policies aren’t overtly gendered/don’t single out gender non-conforming people (i.e., rules that mandate that women dress femininely and men dress masculinely)
      – Practicing using they/them pronouns so you already feel comfortable using them if anybody starts using them at work
      – Making sure there are gender-neutral/single occupancy restrooms available (if possible)
      – Shutting down casual homophobia and transphobia

      These are things I came up with off the top of my head, I’m sure other people could thing of more and better ways to make sure that your work environment is accepting of the while LGBTQIA+ community. All of these things are better and more concrete than “hassling people for not going to your meetings.”

    11. Lego Leia*

      Could LW #1 suggest opening it up to allies? The simple fact that attending the group = outing yourself at work if offputting even if you are out. That makes in inherently “unsafe” to me. If allies are allowed to attend, it at least gives the person some anonymity should the worker want it. It’s why some sexual assault survivor support groups are branded as a “bookclubs”. You can join and get support without announcing it to the world until you are ready to do so.

    12. Eeeeka*

      Asking folks to self-identify to join a diversity & inclusion meeting is outing them. Of course there are fewer people than he wants if that’s the only option. It’s one of many reasons that meetings like this are usually open to allies. Where do you hide a red fish? In a pond full of red fish.

    13. formeruncommonrunner*

      I can see his virtue signal from here. He has an agenda and doesn’t give a rat’s behind about DIE.

  3. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    LW #4, I wouldn’t read anything into a rejecting coming outside of business hours. At least where I work, hiring managers are generally expected to do their hiring on top of their regular jobs, which means they may be putting on a full day of meetings and other tasks and then reviewing applications at night. Plus lots of folks are working “nonstandard” hours right now.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Agreed – especially if it’s a global company and your teams are in multiple time zones. My recruiters and I used to work with teams in the AsiaPac region, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Because of our business growth at the time, our days were booked solid with meetings. Quite often, the only time I had to review applicants was just before bedtime. Or after an emergency 4 am meeting with a team in Europe because, hey, I’m already awake. Or on a Sunday morning because I couldn’t sleep.

      The 9 to 5 workday is a nice goal, but it’s just not how a lot of people work operate anymore.

    2. FormerInternalRecruiter*

      Not only that, the person reviewing the resumes may not be in the same time zone as you. I worked for a large global company as a recruiter, and when times were busy, we’d ask our colleagues in India to do a first review of resumes and reject anyone who didn’t meet the minimum requirements.

      Also, one place I worked at had an ATS with the option to set a date and time for the rejection email to be sent. So for example, if someone had applied an hour before, I’d set the email to be sent the next day as a kindness, so they wouldn’t get the rejection email right after applying.

      1. HelenofWhat*

        Wanted to say this. At a big company I used to occasionally support recruiters for other regions (APAC, the UK) and heck, even in my own region sometimes we worked late or early. I did also schedule rejection emails for applications that just came in to be sent the next day but I’m not sure everyone would bother.

    3. Des*

      Absolutely, this!

      ” both times I submitted my application well outside of normal business hours and received a rejection email from their ATS about an hour later”

      This doesn’t mean it was an ATS: an hour’s delay likely means there was something manual to the process.

  4. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re: LW #2 — this is probably coloured by my having worked somewhere where an infamously bad boss not in my reporting chain did this to their subordinates, but I feel like unless you have unusually good rapport with your boss and/or you’ve talked to them about your career goals/growth, this seems incredibly weird at best and sketchy at worst.

    Since the boss is new, it seems unlikely you’ve already formed the kind of working relationship where this isn’t odd, so I’m with you in wondering if there’s something else going on, especially since job you were sent wasn’t actually a good match.

    1. John Smith*

      In my place, job adverts for elsewhere are a regular theme, but this is usually done by the few decent managers we have who know how much we all want to escape. Sometimes I will get a follow up from said manager, but that’s usually to give me some specific detail (e.g, “the pay is less but they promote frequently and the boss is really nice/not the emotionally stunted, blaming, dysfunctional, opinionated, patronising, disorganised toxic Jekyll & Hyde you have as a manager now”). I appreciate these emails, but can see with a new boss why it may come across as unsettling. Alison’s advice is on top form (as usual).

      1. Chas*

        Where I work there will often be mass emails sent out to people at my level advertising similar roles in other Universities, but that’s because most people in my position are funded on a short-to-mid-term contract basis, so it’s not unexpected that people will be looking for new jobs as their contracts begin to run out.

        But it would be very odd for someone to email someone directly to say ‘here’s a position elsewhere’, unless they knew for sure that the person wanted to leave and what work they were looking for.

      2. PT*

        Yeah this wouldn’t have been all that weird where I worked, either. Typically people who were looking to hire would email everyone they knew and say, “We are looking to hire a Teapot Painter, please let your staff know!” and then they’d send it out to everyone they knew. Because people move from company to company- and attend conferences/trainings with people from other companies- it’d often be jobs from the competition that got forwarded around.

        My field was bottom-heavy, with way more jobs at entry level than mid career or late career, so sharing openings for advancement around was pretty common, since there were lots of people who wanted to move up and few opportunities to do so.

      3. Caramel & Cheddar*

        The key thing here is that your bosses know you’re looking to leave.

    2. Saberise*

      If it were me and my boss listed two internal jobs I didn’t get and sent me a posting for an external job that he was telling me I was never going to move up there without coming right out and saying it.

      1. OhNo*

        That was my read of that phrasing, as well. Or it could be that they are saying “You wanted this job but didn’t get it, so you are a threat to me and I want you gone”, depending on how vindictive they are as a person.

        Since this boss is new, LW might not be able to get a read on which version it is, but regardless it definitely seems like a strong hint that it might be time to move on.

  5. Anongineer*

    OP #3 – I feel your pain. I am also a woman in a male dominated industry (engineering) and it sometimes feels like every conversation is a minefield. In meetings, conferences, professional organization events, even meetings with the public to discuss work it’s hard to strike the right tone between friendly and professional. And other people can, will, and have misinterpreted conversations that I thought were totally benign.

    I like your response in the moment, and I’ve often used the “It’s weird to interpret a conversation with a client/coworker/colleague as flirting. We were talking about xyz.” Hopefully these sexist attitudes and interpretations die out.

    1. Castaspella*

      Seconded! I’ve spent a long time working in the security industry and I’ve lost count of the number of colleagues I’ve supposedly been involved with, by sheer virtue of me being seen to be friendly to them.

      1. caps22*

        Same. This is one of the many reasons why women, especially junior (usually younger) women don’t get the same mentoring opportunities as men. The men who are in positions of seniority may have the right idea about not wanting to appear to be taking advantage of their power, but it also means they won’t reach out to or be available for to women. Also, the women get accused of using their attractiveness to advance if they are seen to be talking to senior men. It’s frustrating. I’ve always dressed very conservatively and on the formal side for my role, but it’s always been a problem. My boss now is younger than me (and brilliant), and honestly it feels like the first time I’ve had a male boss not act ever so slightly awkwardly around me. It’s great, and I’m learning a lot about the business more broadly than my exact role.

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          As a young woman I did get the same mentoring opportunities as men and sometimes better. In my case it took a man to notice my talents and skills and give me a wider platform, but ultimately a woman higher up than him to mentor me without the subtle (and then not so subtle) expectation or hope of sex. I hope women won’t have to keep going through this. I was actually taught by a professor in college that women in my field (media) could be more successful by using their sexuality as a tool :-(

          1. Forrest*

            >> I was actually taught by a professor in college that women in my field (media) could be more successful by using their sexuality as a tool

            Incredible when people say stuff like this and don’t seem to realise what they’re saying about the senior men in the field.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Oh, they know exactly what they’re saying. But they are either accepting of it, or resigned to their inability to change it.

              1. kt*

                Well, it’s my opinion that they’re saying it not just acceptingly but encouragingly, with senior men seeing at as a perk of the field.

            2. Knope Knope Knope*

              It was an adjunct professor who was a senior man in the field sooooo…

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          A subordinate of mine was talking about retirement, so I reached out to several people I found on LinkedIn who I thought might be good fits. Invariably, the women all thought I was some creep fishing for dates. The unintended consequence was that the women didn’t get the same opportunities. From what I later read on this site, there’s no shortage of creepy middle-aged men who actually do fish for dates on LinkedIn with non-existent job opportunities.

      2. Anongineer*

        I’ve legitimately lost count of the meetings I’ve been in where I actually got hit on. And then you leave thinking “Was that real? Did I somehow encourage it without realizing? What must coworkers or clients think? Why would they think to do that in a business meeting?”.
        I’ve gotten better about that as I’ve gotten older, but then again I was just in a meeting two weeks ago where their expert starting asking me questions about my drink preference and was joking about going out after we were done. In a meeting where I was critiquing his work. Gotta love it.

          1. pancakes*

            Maybe, maybe not, but if so that’s no better than flirting in earnest. It’s basically saying, “I think you’re unprofessional enough to show me favoritism for behaving this way.”

      3. Just delurking to say...*

        Sometimes you don’t even have to be seen to be friendly. There’s a rumour going round about me and a colleague with whom I have close to zero interaction … apparently solely on the basis of us being of similar age, opposite genders, and the only singletons present. (Annoying, and annoyingly heteronormative too.)

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Exactly. Not sure how I’ve had time to work over all these years ::eyeroll::

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Also a woman in a male dominated industry, and words cannot express how much I hate this. If you get recognition for your work, you must’ve slept with a manager. If you are collaborating, you’re flirting. I thought I was getting old enough now that I’d be past this, but a year ago a coworker shocked me when he decided I was too short with him when answering a question, and asked if I was “having a bad week” (I did not ask him if he meant what I think he did. In hindsight, I should’ve. Return awkward to the sender.) It never ends. Meanwhile, for decades, our male colleagues were getting away with full-blown hitting on, and propositioning, their female coworkers and subordinates, who were in turn being told that this was all in their head and “he was just trying to be nice”. I am so so so tired of this.

      Hopefully these sexist attitudes and interpretations die out.

      Yes, the sooner the better.

    3. IndustriousLabRat*

      ” …it’s hard to strike the right tone between friendly and professional. ”

      Hooooo boy, ain’t this the truth. Also a woman in a male dominated industry (aerospace manufacturing). I have a coworker in a department I have to work with a LOT who interprets any attention from women- even saying good morning too warmly, or asking after the next order of copier paper- as an invitation to act overtly flirty/wink wink nudge nudge-y. Over the years I’ve become increasingly coldly professional towards him, and one day he called me “unapproachable” when I brushed off his attempt at flirting… Nope. Only when you approach like that, dude. It’s exhausting!

      1. disconnect*





        A haiku pour vous

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        “…it’s hard to strike the right tone between friendly and professional. ”

        That’s because there IS NO RIGHT TONE. We’re told to find this vanishingly fine line, but in fact the line does not exist–there’s no tone that can’t be too flirty or too cold (and even both at once if the critic is really working at it). Just in case anybody gets stuck thinking it’s their fault for not finding that imaginary correct tone–it’s not your fault. I swear it’s not.

        1. Anongineer*

          I wish this could be told to every woman starting out. There will always be people (mostly men) who will misinterpret what you say and how you say it no matter what. You can drive yourself crazy questioning yourself and trying to adjust how you speak.

          1. LW3*

            I almost wish there was an elective in college “so you’re going into a male dominated field” and an opposite version for men going into female dominated fields.

            Offered every 2 years and taught by guest lecturers from various professions so we’d know what we were in for.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              My eldest niece is entering the workforce (and boy do I feel old having a 21 year old niece) and asked her Auntie Keymaster for tips on dealing with work culture.

              Along with giving her a lot of professional advice I also added that she’d encounter, more than once in her career, men who’ll either call her a ‘flirt’ for being friendly or a ‘female dog’ if she doesn’t soothe their egos. My advice was to seriously let it wash over you, don’t change who you are, and know it’s nothing you’ve done wrong and these guys are just tossers.

            2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I honestly think men going into a male dominated field need to take that class too and learn what is and is not professionally appropriate when it comes to their female colleagues.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Compulsory attendance for ALL genders for BOTH courses of course!

        2. Dasein9*

          YES! This. There is no right tone and it’s not for you to find. It is a trap designed to place the burden of appropriateness on someone other than the people who are being inappropriate.

      3. Rocket Woman*

        Also in aerospace here… the amount of men in this industry who think they are God’s Gift to Women drives me MAD. I work at one of the best companies in the business for Diversity and Inclusion, and have far less (but still some) horror stories than others in this thread. It is exhausting. Keep up the cold distance!

    4. Ellen Ripley*

      My mom and dad married right after graduating from college and then moved to go to different graduate programs at the same university. One day, one of my dad’s classmates told him, “I have some bad news. I saw your wife sitting with several guys in the library.” My dad replied, “yes, I believe that is her study group.” (She was a math major and I think one of the few women in the program at the time.) It was ludicrous in the late 60s and it’s even more ludicrous now. Be better, people!

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        What did he even think was happening? She’s in the library with a group. For crying out loud.

    5. Saberise*

      What makes OP’s situation even worse is it wasn’t even someone that attended the meeting. Which means it’s being gossiped about by either the guy involved or others that were at the meeting. So she really can’t even address it. Who knows how many people have heard the rumor.

      1. LW3*

        Yeah, that really really didn’t help lol I was super mortified that it got to him. I was like… how???

        1. Let's Just Say*

          Ugh, I’m sorry LW3! That guy sucks and so does everyone who gossiped about an innocuous workplace interaction. Also, SO gross and sexist that he called you “that girl”! I assume you are, in fact, an adult woman, or you wouldn’t be working there.

        2. meyer lemon*

          In what universe is it interesting news that two people at a meeting talked to each other for a while? This sucks.

      2. JSPA*

        It may mean they were ragging the intern interminably…which is also sexual harassment of him, until that became it’s own longstanding, non-funny, potentially legally-actionable “joke.” (Or that the intern’s been mooning over her, but that seems less likely, given, y’know, he was being normal about the conversation, and talking about his GF.)

        Too bad there’s no way to make sure he sees this, and knows it wasn’t OK for them to do that to him, either.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      My husband is a mechanical engineer. I am environmental engineering. We are both friendly people and relatively easy to talk to (much to our dismay, some days, but that’s another story).

      It is amazing to both of us how many supposed dalliances we’ve had with the most random of people.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Very much so. I work in a male dominated industry (railway engineering) in a male dominated department (IT) and I’ve had a few conversations with people who’ve directly told me to ‘think about what your husband would say if he saw this’ when all I’ve been doing is chatting to a bloke about computer games or something.

      “That’s an odd conclusion to take from a friendly conversation” is a standard.

      There’s also the (thankfully much rarer) disgusting comments of ‘if you dress like that and smile at a man don’t be surprised if you get groped’ which…yeah, I’ve not found a professional response to that (‘up yours’ is generally not professional even in the UK)

      1. c-*

        Would “if you talk like that and grope a woman, don’t be surprised when she knees you in the balls” cut it, or would it be a bit too collegial, perhaps?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          If I used proper scientific classification I might get away with it :p

      2. Dasein9*

        Maybe a cheerful, “That’s what sexual harassment lawsuits are for!” would work?

      3. JSPA*

        “Thanks for the tip, and here’s one for you: if you grope someone for wearing a dress that fits and a smile, don’t be surprised if you get fired.”

  6. WFH_Mama*

    #4- As someone who is in hiring for a large company, I wouldn’t say with any certainty at all that the ATS rejected you. At my current organization as well as all my previous others, the ATS is not programmed to automatically reject people. More than likely, my bet would be that the person reviewing resumes got a notification of a profile to review and rejected you when they felt you were not a fit.

    Very rarely is the ATS actually programmed to reject someone without any human review. More often, they are programmed to “rank” resumes which helps for batch review on high volume jobs. But considering you were rejected shortly after applying, my guess is that the person reviewing resumes got a notification of a profile to review and rejected you when they felt you were not a fit.

    1. korangeen*

      It was pretty late at night both times… but then again, considering I was applying late at night, and we’re commenting late at night, I suppose it’s possible their person reviewing resumes works late at night too. It would be nice if they could at least pretend to consider me for longer, so I have time to partially forget about all the time and effort I just spent on the application before being immediately smacked with the rejection, but oh well.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I’m sorry it stung, but the people on the hiring end have no idea about the time and effort you expended, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to, or that they should take anything like that into consideration with their response time. Good luck with attempts at other places!

      2. JSPA*

        If someone knows within 10 seconds that you’re less of a fit than 10 other candidates they’ve already seen, there’s zero reason they should spend 11 seconds, even if your skills include “walks on water” and you spent a month not only writing the document, but inventing a program that adds illuminated letters.

        That’s the basics of hiring! It’s not a mutual – appreciation – among – equals networking event.

        The applicant making an effort to think through and explain how they’d be qualified for the job is the basic premise of every decent application, not something that creates an extra obligation in the recipient.

        Having to work extra-hard to draw the connections is caused by, “not being as obvious a fit as anyone who has the default background and qualifications.” That extra effort can level the playing field–or not, as the case may be. It only very rarely elevates you above the people who are obviously qualified, without having to go through those extra gyrations.

        “Your loss and my injury, that you’re not more flexible in your criteria” isn’t your call to make. Furthermore, it’s a misunderstanding of how hiring works. Hiring managers are not required to choose potential superstars from the “quirky background” bin over “clearly qualified, with more experience at this exact job than what we asked for.”

        Luckily, the effort isn’t wasted, in the sense that you have a better awareness of how to present / represent your transferable skills.

        1. twocents*

          Your first paragraph has me rolling. My grandfather used to do hiring and he told me a story once of how someone that he knew was not going to get the job but their resume was so Bonkers Over the Top that he just wanted to meet them because it was so much fun to open and look through.

          1. JSPA*

            I briefly passed though a place where that sort of thing did seem to get people hired. (Uh, me too, I guess?) Can confirm that hiring from the “Dang, I’d like to have a beer with you” list is only occasionally a win, as far as creating a semi-functional workplace.

            People (bosses too!) need time to have friends and hobbies, so this doesn’t become a temptation.

        2. Message in a Bottle*

          I guess if a person is making a change or from a non-traditional background, how would they get their materials past an automated system?

          And, for recruiters who are looking for skilled people who particularly may have gained those skills through a quirky background, how to they find the people they are looking for?

          I know there is a trend to looking for diverse candidates with transferable skills. I’m talking about those with a diversity of educational or experiential backgrounds, but whom are still skilled. (They may be diverse in other ways, but I am specifically thinking today about non-traditional work path folks.) What about hiring managers who *want* those candidates?

          I mean no offense by this comment, just a genuine inquiry to those out there.

          1. korangeen*

            Good questions. Considering in most hiring processes you can’t contact anyone and ask about their hiring system without coming across annoying, I suppose it just has to be a shot in the dark.

      3. FormerInternalRecruiter*

        Its also possible that the person reviewing your resume is not in the same time zone as you, so it wasn’t late at night for them. I’m on the east coast, I regularly was the recruiter for positions located on the west coast. One place I worked at also had a support group in India and we often asked them to do a first review of resumes and reject anyone that didn’t meet the minimum requirements. I’d then take a look at what was left and narrow the field down to who I wanted to interview.

      4. Pickled Limes*

        Keep in mind that a lot of people are still working from home and a lot of schools and child care centers are still closed or operating at very limited capacity. A lot of the working parents I know are trying to fit their full work day in around their kids’ school schedules, so their work is getting done at what would have been considered non-standard hours in the pre-pandemic world.

        I’m trying to change industries right now, so I absolutely understand the frustration that comes when you’ve spent so much time and energy putting together the best possible version of your resume and cover letter only to get knocked out of the running on day one. It feels terrible. But I’ve also been responsible for hiring in my current industry, and I know that when we’ve received 200+ applications for a single position, sometimes the easiest way to narrow that down is to remove applicants who don’t have industry experience.

        Try not to take it personally, and keep applying to jobs that make sense.

      5. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘It would be nice if they could at least pretend to consider me for longer, so I have time to partially forget about all the time and effort I just spent on the application before being immediately smacked with the rejection, but oh well.’

        OP, there is no benefit to the employer to ‘pretend’, and there certainly is no benefit to you. You’re putting a lot more significance and focus on your application than the employer will, and I understand that. I both hire, and have been hired. But the more and longer you invest in the possibility of getting hired, the harder it will be to get a rejection.

        Please understand that the application process will require certain time-consuming activity on your part, and that is the nature of job hunting. You don’t pour your heart and soul into the application process, you simply apply to a role of interest. Channeling so much energy and hope into an application ratchets things up more than necessary. Good luck in your search.

        1. Let's Just Say*

          I agree that there is no tangible benefit, but I do understand the OP’s feelings. Being a job seeker is hard, and it takes an emotional toll. It sucks to be rejected so quickly, and not even know if a human looked at your resume. Those are all valid and true things — but for the OP, you have to focus on what will *help* you, and trying to circumvent the process won’t do that, even if the process is shitty and unfair.

          1. korangeen*

            Thanks, it definitely does take an emotional toll. I wrote this letter about a month ago, when I was finally starting to get super discouraged and depressed after a year and a half of unsuccessfully job searching and trying everything I can think of to do things right. I have a pretty niche background, and I was starting to wonder if maybe the only job in the world I’m actually qualified to do was the one I was doing previously.

            I don’t want to circumvent the process, I just want to *understand* the process. And I don’t know what would help me, because I don’t know what happened. Did anyone get to see my resume, or did the ATS automatically reject it? Was it because I didn’t have the right degree, because of a formatting thing, a glitch in the system, or some other aspect of my resume/cover letter? Is it worth applying for future positions there, or will all of my applications be immediately rejected, possibly due to impenetrable automation or to not having a specific degree? But it sounds like people would be annoyed if I were to try to ask. And it’s frustrating that essentially we’re just.. not allowed to know. Hiring processes are a giant black hole of mystery, and how dare we want to have any sort of clarity.

            Having the letter published is bringing up some of those dark feelings from a month ago again, but thankfully things seem to be maybe looking up. I’ve actually recently gotten three job interviews in less than two weeks, and who knows, maybe one of them will result in an offer.

            1. Des*

              OP you may never know why or who rejected you for that job, but I guarantee you it was not personal.

              For all you know, they had filled that job an hour prior and hadn’t taken the ad down yet and were just rejecting all new applicants out right. I’m not saying that’s the case, I’m saying we can’t anticipate what’s going on there and shouldn’t try. Just move on. Good luck with your new interviews!

    2. SaintPaulGal*

      I really do think sometimes it’s the system. My spouse applied for a job that was ridiculously tailor-made for his skillset, as in the job involved originating a department within a large corporation to perform Highly Specialized Task X. My spouse is one of perhaps 5-10 people in the country who have actually had direct experience originating a department for that function within a corporation of similar size. He applied at 11 PM on Thanksgiving Day, and got his rejection email by 2 AM the following day. There was no conflict of interest, no red flags, nothing. Then a month later, the position was still open and they did some minor updates to the wording of the posting. My spouse applied again, also late at night, and was rejected again in the wee hours of the morning. The company was paying to make it a sponsored/boosted listing, so it’s not like they were somehow obligated to post the job but not hire to fill it. The only way that makes any sense whatsoever is if human eyes never saw the application.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, I was once rejected from a job because they didn’t think I was a native speaker of my native language. There was nowhere to put that info, so they looked at my name (which is not that language) and told me I wasn’t qualified.

        1. Myrin*

          How did you find out that that was their reasoning? Did you end up talking to someone after all or was it obvious in their rejection?

          1. Julia*

            The only qualification they asked for in the ad was, be a native speaker of German (which I am). They emailed me saying I didn’t meet their basic criteria, and I later met someone who worked there and told them that story, and they didn’t seem too surprised by their HR’s competence level.

            1. Myrin*

              My goodness. One would think that if that was the only criteria they asked, they would have a space where you could specifically add your nationality/language proficiencies. Some people.

              (Also, off-topic, but did you use to comment under a different name on here for some time (the last year or so)? There was another commenter with a connection to Japan(ese) and some stuff that sounded familiar to me, and I found myself wondering several times if that’s just Julia with a funny hat, but now I’m thinking it was just coincidence?)

              1. Julia*

                Why hire the smart way when you can do it the fun way?

                (Nope, I’m usually just Julia (although I will need to change that, I think, because there’s another one), but I know that there are several commenters who live in Japan or used to work there.)

      2. Rez123*

        I’ve been rejected within minutes a few times. I press sent and then my email pings “thank’s but no thanks”. Could be that a human was very quick but I think it was the system.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Last year at the height of the pandemic several businesses were advertising very heavily for workers. (Front line retail workers which no one wanted to do at that time). I applied through the corporate website and was rejected even though I met all the qualifications. An acquaintance who had retired less than a year before doing the same job was also rejected. They continue to advertise. I wonder if someone needs to take a second look at their ATS.

      3. Ali G*

        I was once rejected by an ATS for a job that required 3-5 years experience. I had 5+ in the subject area and 14 years in the same general field overall. I was unemployed at the time, and the ATS made you account for every MONTH of your professional life going back as far as you want. I went back to my first job in 2003. I had 5 months of recent unemployment. I was rejected for, and I quote, “not meeting the minimum requirement for years of experience.” Basically I was rejected because I hadn’t worked for at least the 3 years straight, not based on my total years of experience. I doubt that was the intention of the person that programmed it.

      4. Cat Tree*

        You still can’t know that no human looked at the application though. You and your spouse don’t have the same information that the hiring manager does. It’s possible, even quite likely, that they were looking for a certain type of candidate but failed to clearly articulate that in the job posting. Applying for jobs isn’t a box-checking exercise and it isn’t weird to not get an interview even when you think you’re very qualified.

        It’s also not that weird for someone to look at applications overnight on a holiday. I used to spend several nights at my mom’s house over Thanksgiving, and honestly it’s just not enjoyable. I was bored in general and often couldn’t sleep because it’s not my own bed. Does anyone actually enjoy traveling for the holidays? So if I had work email on my phone, it’s not a stretch that I would look at it in the middle of the night.

      5. ecnaseener*

        I kind of feel like the only way to explain that is that a human DID see the application. If he was a perfect fit on paper — aka a perfect fit based on objective criteria that a computer can easily check — then it seems more likely he was rejected for a more human reason, like someone at the company had heard bad things about him, something in his cover letter was off-putting, etc.

        Or I guess if the application asked for desired salary he could’ve been auto-rejected if he entered something way too high for them.

        1. Reba*

          The objective criteria can definitely cause issues. (Ask anybody who has tried federal job applications!)

          There are things like the posting is programmed to require a college BA degree in Very Specific Degree Field and rejects people with a BS degree in Same Field with a Slightly Different Name. Or a master’s degree when the bachelors is requested.

          Or the notorious 5 years of experience in the 3 year old software!

      6. Lora*

        Yeah, in my field sometimes the software or an HR person who does general recruiting as opposed to industry-specific recruiting will try to match titles *exactly* and that just does not work. In some companies, a Lead means “a very bright technician with a couple of years of community college and a few years of experience” and in others a Lead is basically a director level with a Master’s at least and 15+ years of experience. I’ve had some truly weird headhunters approaching me for technician level jobs even though it’s obvious from my resume that I have been working at a much higher level for decades. Most recently, a friend entered my resume in their referral program for a Senior Director position, and the HR lady called me to tell me that she was calling as a favor to my friend to let me know that I wasn’t remotely qualified for the Senior Director position but would I consider a different role. I said can you send me a job description, and what she sent over was, sure enough, a very junior “smart technician” type job. She hadn’t bothered to read past the job titles on my resume.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I have 25 years of administrative support and data analysis experience.
          I’ve been unemployed since December 2019 and last winter took a temp job entering data.
          Since then at least five recruiters have sent me job openings for data entry people. They didn’t read my resume at all, they just did a search and position-bombed all the results.
          One of them required specific experience in processing checks and knowledge of the check processing system, which I don’t have. The recruiters note said I would be a good match for it. Ha.

          1. Julia*

            It has been my general experience that recruiters do not read resumes. I’ve been contacted for jobs I’m not qualified for, in locations I specified I wouldn’t work in (the site I uploaded my resume allowed you to specify locations) and they always ask me to tell them which languages I speak, which in my profession is like the first thing they should look at before contacting someone.

      7. DJ Abbott*

        I applied for a job where my experience was a 90% match for their requirements and got an immediate rejection that was clearly from the system because I didn’t finish a degree.
        I completely lost interest in working for that organization and applying to them has not been a priority since then.
        Their loss!

      8. pancakes*

        I don’t think much can be read into whether a listing is sponsored or not. A company that frequently has openings and/or has a big budget for recruiting might do that for all listings without regard for importance or urgency.

      9. PT*

        I once got rejected from a job by the software. I submitted my application around 9:30 at night, after work, and received an immediate response within a minute or two that I was not a good fit for the position and would not be receiving an interview.

      10. Been burned*

        I was coming here to say that the same thing happened to my spouse: rejected almost immediately as “not meeting basic qualifications” for something with a tiny, rare overlap of requirements, in which spouse had over a decade of experience and quantifiable success in both.

        Imagine if the job posting were: “We are creating a new NFL team, to be composed entirely of players who are also lawyers,” and Whizzer White were rejected immediately as not meeting requirements. That was pretty much the situation.

        Spouse wrote HR and said politely, “I think there’s something wrong with the system’s algorithm,” and explained why. The next day there was an apology email and assurance that the resume was being passed along to the hiring manager. Within a week, someone had called to schedule an interview.

        I have never trusted those automated resume scanners after that.

        1. korangeen*

          I’m glad it worked out for your spouse initiating that communication with HR! It’s good to hear someone had success with reaching out and saying “I think there’s something wrong with your system.”

          I don’t know why a few HR folks seem so against candidates contacting them about their hiring system. With a different organization I applied to a few times in the past, their application system doesn’t let me upload a new resume/cover letter for new applications, something’s obviously broken. I tried politely contacting their HR a couple different times about it, but they always seem annoyed, and as far as I know it still hasn’t been fixed.

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      Most often a real person does scan the applicants with the exception of some very basic knock-out questions given to the ATS (e.g., the application itself has some yes/no questions like do you have a valid drivers license, are you available to travel for work, etc.). Additionally, sometimes there are things that are not in the job posting that could cause you to be kicked out. For example, the hiring manager does NOT want someone who worked at a specific company or they really want someone who worked for a handful of specific companies or in a specific industry. Recruiters also tend to work odd hours as they often need to talk to candidates in multiple time zones after normal work hours, so it would not be unusual for them to reviewing applications at 11pm.

      I know it an sting to be rejected so quickly, but it likely means they have plenty of other candidates that are closer to their ideal candidate. OP, let it go and don’t read too much into the timing of the rejection. Good luck with your job search.

  7. Not a flirt*

    Ugh, number three. I feel for you, I do. I’ve been in the exact same situation, the person I was “flirting” with was a male client that I briefly talked to while I was left out of the “big boss” meeting. I dealt with teasing for weeks and tried to brush it off, but after the hundredth time, the comments only stopped after I snapped and firmly said I was going to HR with a formal complaint if they didn’t quit this very disruptive harassment. Prior to that, I tried going to my female boss and she didn’t take it seriously and told me to lighten up. It’s frustrating and yes, extremely sexist.

    1. Julia*

      I’m really sorry. I’ve also had female bosses who, instead of protecting us from creeps made comments like “I’m jealous you get all this male attention” – it hurts, doesn’t it?

      Also, that guy who made the first comment to OP called her a girl. She’s a freaking manager! How gross!

      1. Chas*

        Urg, I hate that sort of ‘but it’s a good thing!’ comment. I had people mistaking me for a student up to 5 years after finishing my PhD, and my female colleague would always say things like ‘at least it means you look young!’. Not what I wanted to hear while I was wondering if it was just because I dressed less formally than my colleagues or if it was that I somehow came across as being less competent than them.

        1. londonedit*

          You see it with catcalling as well. Every time there’s a piece written about street harassment/catcalling/women not feeling safe, you get people (women and men) replying to say ‘It’s meant to be a compliment! Count yourself lucky that you still get wolf-whistles!’ Or the converse, ‘You must think a lot of yourself if you think people are constantly whistling at you, I’ve never experienced that, I don’t believe it happens as much as people seem to think it does’. It’s extremely frustrating.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            That “I’ve never experienced it, so people must be exaggerating” thing grinds my gears. Well, I’ve never had cancer, so I guess all those people are making it up too, huh? {bangs head on desk}

            1. Elenna*

              This! Like, I’ve honestly never noticed people wolf-whistling me (not sure if it’s my area, the way I dress, or just me being clueless and not noticing stuff), but when I see lots of people saying it happens to them a lot, I just… assume they’re telling the truth. And that they probably have different experiences than me. You know, because obviously everyone’s life is different. Why is that apparently hard for people to grasp???

        2. NervousHoolelya*

          YES, all of this! This was a regular feature of my life well into my 30s, until I gave up and stopped dying my hair. At that point, I’d had a Ph.D. for 5+ years, been a program director for 5+ years, and been teaching college for almost 15 years. New colleagues regularly assumed I was right out of college, and my students’ parents regularly asked if I was a fellow first-year student. I can remember the then-new Dean of our Business School asking how long my husband and I had been married (10+ years at that point), and then gasping that she thought I was only 25. It felt like all the expertise I had earned meant nothing, and that people doubted my competence.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I was working part time while I was in grad school. At the end of my last semester, a regular customer overheard me talking to a coworker about graduation, and she congratulated me and asked if I knew where I was going to go to college. I was confused and said I had already been to three colleges and was nearly finished with my master’s degree, and she was totally shocked. All that time she had assumed I was a high school student, and I didn’t bother to point out that she was usually in the library on weekday mornings, when high school students are typically at high school.

          My coworkers all laughed about it and I got all the standard “You’ll be grateful to be mistaken for a younger person 20 years from now” comments, but I just felt so disheartened, like I’d never be seen as a real professional.

          1. Julia*

            It sucks. I also apparently look much younger than I am, or people have such a skewed idea of people’s ages because of TV that no one can tell anyone’s age correctly anymore. (Like, middle-aged teenagers?)

      2. Jackalope*

        The “girl” thing drives me bananas. OP handled the situation as well as someone could in the moment, but it’s too bad she didn’t blurt out something like “oh, you’re the boy who makes inappropriate assumptions about women in the workplace!”

        1. Like, Totally Anonymous, Man*

          Unfortunately, while I agree on principle with returning it back to sender this way, the word “boy” has some specific racial connotations (in the US at least) and it would help to be aware of this before employing it.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, that’s the kind of thing they’d come up with in a film, not real life

    2. Lucious*

      On #3 – I’m of the mind attaching a sexual context to a conversation simply because the participants are different genders is harassment. Not of the catcalling kind, but a presumption of office impropriety damages reputations just the same.

      From the male side of the fence, it’s frustrating when (emotionally challenged) male colleagues assume “I’m working game” when having boring data conversations with female coworkers. A former director of mine – noticing my frequent cross trainings with female coworkers due to a project- asked me crassly which one I was “going for”. As if my coworkers were candy in a vending machine to be picked at will!…’s been years since that job and I’m still upset about that.

  8. Felis alwayshungryis*

    “ I don’t want to deal with misgendering or potential harassment (less from my colleagues, more from the broader campus community)… these groups have had low attendance.”

    Surprised Pikachu. So…I’d just about guarantee there’ll be other people in the same boat as you. Sounds like that’s something for the org to work on, and definitely not up to you to solve.

  9. Nikki*

    LW4: I definitely wouldn’t consider any future applications to that company a lost cause because they rejected you twice. You never know when your resume might pique their interest for a future role. My husband was recently searching for a job and one company had a lot of openings. He applied to 20+ roles over the space of a few months and got rejected for all of them but kept applying every time they had a new opening. They finally called him for an interview and he found the reason they’d been rejecting him was because of some assumptions they were making about his level of interest in that kind of role and he was able to talk it through with them. Of course, the day after this interview he accepted a job somewhere else because that’s how the universe works sometimes, but he was thrilled to get some closure on why they’d been rejecting him.

    1. hiring manager 2*

      Sorry but there’s a world of difference between applying to 2 vs 20 jobs. As a hiring manager I would definitely block somebody applying to 20 jobs because that it sounds like they just want a job, any job, without any real interest in the role. With just 2, well tailored applications, I would certainly consider the 3d application if it was a good match.

      1. Nikki*

        Believe it or not, all of the positions he applied for were practically the same job. This was a large corporation that was rapidly expanding a department that suddenly had a lot more work due to the pandemic. The jobs were very similar to what he’d been doing in a previous job so it was confusing that they didn’t even want to interview him.

    1. Kristina*

      Right? I don’t have any advice for these lovely letter writers, but am delighted by the idea of someone majoring in oatmeal.

  10. Retail Not Retail*

    I bulldoze through 1&3 by making sure various people know I’m a lesbian so our rotating group of work release guys don’t get anything twisted nor does anyone else. Sometimes that’s them, but it’s also the coworkers I trust – another out lesbian was on our team for a year.

    Our job lends itself to A LOT of chatter amongst ourselves as we work.

    (I was badly burned in my personal life by a guy I thought was a friend assuming I was flirting with him and misunderstanding everything.)

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      I weighed the stress of men misinterpreting things vs outing myself and then saw a manager had a human rights campaign equals sign bumper sticker* on his vehicle so I felt safe despite being in this more conservative area and this more conservative part of the organization.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s great if that worked for you in that situation, but I don’t think this is advisable. A bumper sticker from a big organization like that, even one widely seen as progressive, doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about the person driving the car it’s on. It may not have even been their choice, if they bought a used car or needed to borrow someone else’s. Even if it was, it’s not a reliable indicator they’re not homophobic. And more broadly speaking, there is no shortage of clueless or worse dudes who regard trying to flirt with a lesbian as a challenge they’re up for. There’s no one trick to keep oneself from being hit on by idiots.

  11. peasblossom*

    LW1: Queer academic here who’s actually at a SLAC and chair of my college’s diversity and equity committee so this letter hit very close to home. Alison is spot on (as is Magenta Sky above), and your department head is way out of line here. Speaking in the specific context of diversity work on college campuses, OP, it sounds like your college’s efforts fit into an all too common problem in higher ed: creating diversity initiatives that fail to address the institutional structures in place that marginalize people and perpetuate inequity. If the diversity efforts were really working, you wouldn’t feel unsafe OR pressured. As so many articles in The Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed (and Sarah Ahmed!) have diagnosed, colleges implement these non-structurally focused initiatives that put an undue burden of labor and care on marginalized people while also failing to plan for and implement real, system-wide change. This failure results in a lack of widespread change, which, in turn, means that colleges then feel justified in not supporting larger, more large-scale diversity initiatives. You are in no way obligated to participate in a system that operates in this way, and the fact that these groups are under-attended suggests to me that this initiative very much fits into this pattern. (Relatedly, I’d also bet that your department head isn’t, at the very least, LGBT+, which raises the question: why does he know these groups are under-attended at all?)

    The only other thing I’ll add is that you don’t have any obligation to do anything else at all. However, if you feel up to it (if it feels safe, not a burden, etc.), you might reach out to an administrator you trust, who is not directly leading this initiative but with some authority related to it, and flag some of the critical issues related to this particular initiative and perhaps offer a few suggestions for things you’d like to see to make the campus safer. I want to stress again you shouldn’t feel you have to do anything, but if you wanted options for “next steps” this would be what I’d consider. Best of luck and feelings of solidarity!

    1. Rock Prof*

      We recently had an email sent out to faculty and staff from our provost touting the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Lightly reading between the lines, it was basically saying that they were so glad there were so many faculty-led initiatives because that’s all they were going to support. It just felt so weak as a statement. I mean, faculty-led programs can certainly be useful but aren’t particularly the best way to break down the structural issues in academia.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. In spite of their “progressive” reputation, I’ve found colleges and universities to be some of the most hidebound and change-phobic organizations on earth.

      On my campus, “diversity & inclusion” translates into “Let’s form a book group and talk about our feelings.” It’s easier than actually analyzing hiring and retention practices.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        YES. I went to one of those meetings and wanted to gouge my eyes out with a dull spoon. Everyone comes out feeling like they’ve done their bit for diversity and inclusion, but none of it actually changes the fact that the vast majority of our employees are white, and every single member of leadership is white, and if there’s any real effort under way to change this, I sure haven’t heard about it.

        1. peasblossom*

          yes! perfectly said. at my institution we are talking about structural change…except at an administrative level, which leaves everything else feeling a bit book clubby.

    3. Elliott*

      I think this is spot on! I think it’s important to be intentional in this type of work, and tailor efforts to what people actually need or want. Having a support group isn’t a terrible idea, but not everyone is going to be interested in attending (including some people who are out at work but don’t feel they need support or aren’t interested in LGBTQ-focused socializing or networking at work). And if efforts aren’t being directed at actual systemic changes that will benefit LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students, event programming and support groups will feel like largely empty gestures.

      As someone who works with a campus group like this, one of the things I’ve tried to encourage is sustaining outreach and engagement that doesn’t require people to attend unneccessary meetings. Lack of attendance doesn’t mean that our LGBTQ faculty and staff don’t care, and a lot of people do come out of the woodwork when the right opportunities arise for them to be engaged.

      (To the OP: for what it’s worth, as someone who is out as non-binary at work, I absolutely get not wanting to be misgendered or deal with other weirdness. Being misgendered by people you’re out and who have had a chance to learn to is a whole different beast than being misgendered by people who may not know. I think that having visible faculty and staff is a good thing, but I don’t think that individuals have an obligation to fill that role. I’m out to the extent that I’m open about what pronouns I use, but I don’t really like talking about myself, either, and I don’t want to be treated like a token queer person.)

    4. anon here*


      I just want to quote this again & again!

      “diversity initiatives that fail to address the institutional structures in place that marginalize people and perpetuate inequity”

      “colleges implement these non-structurally focused initiatives that put an undue burden of labor and care on marginalized people while also failing to plan for and implement real, system-wide change”

      That’s why I left!!!!!! Boobs don’t make me your “solve woman problems” person! I do math! Also I want a raise! oh right you think these secondary sex characteristics will enable me to solve your DEI problems for free! Adios!

      1. peasblossom*

        and this is why academia is bleeding women, women of color, and queer non-cis men!

  12. Gray Cardigan*

    Our department (and organization as a whole) has been promoting equity and inclusion heavily over the past year. I wish I could opt out but our supervisors like to remind us to fill out surveys and participate in discussion groups. Even though our participation is supposed to be anonymous, our group’s participation rate is not!

    We are having a department wide meeting next month with a guided exercise that we’ll have to participate in and I’m dreading it. I wish it was okay to opt of these things but I feel this unspoken pressure as one of the few Hispanics in our group to actively participate.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      IME this kind of pressure is about metrics. They’re trying to satisfy a goal to have so many people participating and then maybe they’ll get put on a list of most diverse workplaces or win some kind of award or something. :p

  13. E*

    #1 makes me picture your department head as a straight kid in his mid-teens who’s into alternative music and hairstyles + wishes his circles of acquaintances included gay friends to make his social life even MORE alternative.

    1. KaciHall*

      One of my coworkers is like that – but she told me she listens to really heavy metal stuff, like Papa Roach. And she brags about all the funny things her gay classmates did when they were in cosmetology school, and her gay cousin, but was horrified when it came up in conversation that I’m bi. She just turned 30. Maybe at some point she’ll stop acting like she’s in high school? (Side note – I’m married to a guy, we live in a very conservative area, and I’ve never really felt like I came out growing up around here, so people who are close to me know but I don’t talk about it because honestly I’m an exhausted mom of a toddler who doesn’t have the energy to think about sexuality and representation most of the time. )

      1. E*

        Horrified? I’m sorry to hear that! Given her conversation style she can hardly claim that it’s TMI.

  14. Phassire*

    I wonder if lw3 didn’t feel comfortable pushing back harder in the moment or afterward because this is a client relationship. I can 100% imagine that her colleagues implied that whatever Client Man says is untouchable

    1. LW3*

      This was definitely a huge part of it. The teasing from my colleagues afterwards was definitely more in the vein of “haha LW3 is such a flirt” as a sarcastic statement because they knew it was simply not something I would have done.

      It was super awkward in the moment though because I didn’t feel like I had standing to shut that down in a firm way

  15. Batgirl*

    OP3, my stock response to stuff like that is “Do you mean flirting or do you mean having a conversation while female?” If your industry is very male dominated you can say “Do you mean flirting or do you mean working in (industry) while female?” Hate this shit.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Or “Excuse me? I’m not a girl. I’m the …Manager.” Being referred to as a girl sticks in my craw.

      1. Pomegranate*

        That also really bugged me. As a woman in STEM I thought of myself for a long time as a ‘girl’, but at some point had to really assert being a ‘woman’ inside my head and out.

        1. Anon for this*

          Any tips on how to do that?

          I keep getting stuck on the fact that in my mind (based on experiences I had growing up) “men” and “women” are the mostly arrogant homeowners, who constantly talked down to people they perceived as lesser, caused drama in grocery stores when salespeople gave them an answer they didn’t like, and are generally both more successful and more rude than I am at this point in time. So it’s really hard to look at my ten year old car, my rented apartment, and also the fact that I am not condescending, and say “yes, I am a woman not a girl or a young lady”

          1. anon for this*

            Are you a female adult human? That’s the basic definition of “woman.”

            However, it sounds as though you have some negative connotations with “woman” due to cultural, maybe class-based issues, so you might need to practice re-framing the word in your head. Maybe consider female adults that you admire — perhaps in your profession, perhaps writers or artists you enjoy, perhaps political figures you have respect for — and say to yourself, “what an incredible woman X is.” Use the word “woman” for them, rather than the obnoxious sort of people your comment describes. Try to think of people your own age as “women,” regardless of what material wealth or attitudes they have. If your sense of “women” becomes broader, maybe it will be easier to think of yourself by that term.

          2. Pomegranate*

            It’s a hard mental switch, for sure. I started with catching myself thinking/saying girl in relation to myself and then slowly started replacing the word. Saying ‘woman’ out loud felt kind of weird at the beginning. It also helped referring to my similar aged or younger friends as women in conversation, as in “I know this woman who works in a lab, and this funny story happened to her”.

            I also don’t own a house, live with roommates, have a ten year old car and am a competent woman. And so are you.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              It really is a difficult mental switch. I went to a women’s college and it was really weird at first that everyone there referred to every student as a woman and not a girl. (I was only 17, too, so legally I actually still was a girl.) But it was great in cementing it in my mind that I and everyone else there was a woman, and by the time I’d been there a few weeks I was referring to everyone that way without a second thought.

              And decades later when someone asks me if I went to a girls’ school I say, Nope, I went to a women’s college. I am well-trained (or indoctrinated; take your pick).

              1. Gumby*

                It did feel weird my first year of college when everyone was oh so conscientiously referring to us as men and women. I hadn’t made the mental switch yet. And it sometimes seemed a little over the top because I, at that point, did not care if someone referred to me as a girl. But in hindsight I am so grateful that people around me were so pointed in their word choice and so consistent because it was probably the fastest way to acclimate to thinking of myself as an adult. After a few months it didn’t seem weird or pointed at all. It just was.

              2. Aitch Arr*

                Also switching to “First Years” rather than Freshmen.

                (I went to the oldest women’s college in the US.)

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            One way is via a stepping point. Make yourself confident (by repeating in private or whatever works) that you are an adult and deserve to be treated as such. (You’re doing adulting things after all – paying bills is very adult!).

            Once you get the ‘I’m an adult, not a child’ but down it’s an easier mental switch to ‘I’m a woman, not a girl’

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I can’t keep a straight face in front of anyone who calls me a girl. I’ve not qualified for that term in over 3 decades.

        I’m an adult. I’m the manager. I’m also not a ‘lady’

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I actually retorted “ladylike is whatever the hell I want it to be” when someone told me to “act more ladylike” recently. Because no.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I wear dresses and swear like Malcolm Tucker. That’s ladylike right?

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Nope, and really, I hope you don’t give a toss! My mother always reprimanded me for not being ladylike, and it made me just not want to be a lady (young or not). I like coming down the stairs like a herd of elephants if I can get to the door quicker!

  16. OrigCassandra*

    OP2, I’m wondering how happy your new boss seems to be in his new role. Any chance he’s engaging in a bit of passive aggression against the workplace?

    This is definitely not the only possible explanation! But if it’s plausible, I don’t think you need to respond to it; it’s between your manager and his reporting chain.

    1. HildeOlegaard*

      I note that it wasn’t only the fact that the boss was sending job adverts to the WHOLE TEAM, but that they were to jobs at the COMPETITION.

      That’s seems beyond mere “development encouragement” to me. That’s outright company disloyalty. Driving the talent to the competitor beyond the pale and beyond what is necessary for dropping hints that the team should dust off the resume or if it is purely FYI. It makes the entire team feel devalued when you send a mass email along the lines of “I have no problem with any of you or all of you going, let me help”. I am sure his own bosses would look at this much less charitably. When you drive the workforce to the competitor, you may also drive information and knowledge to the competitor.

      Given that he’s a new boss, I suspect he wants what many if not most new bosses want long term: to replace who you inherit with who you pick yourself. But he’s doing a terrible job if he’s being this brash and short sighted.

      I also suspect that if this doesn’t work, LW2 needs to look out for being “managed out” next.

  17. EvilQueenRegina*

    #3, what about when it’s your manager who makes the comments? This was a few years ago now, but there was this one time when I was chatting in this kitchen with this guy who I went to school with and who now works for the same employer. After he’d gone my then-manager “Umbridge” said to me “Ooh, who’s that you’re flirting with then?”

    We are and always have been just friends, that wasn’t a flirty conversation. At the time, I just tried to laugh it off and said something like “Oh, we’re just friends” – Umbridge had been in a mood and snapping at everyone all day, which was the norm for her, and that was the most civil she’d been all day. (Hence the name). But I didn’t think it was that funny – I was relieved he hadn’t heard it, I didn’t want him to think he couldn’t chat to me without other people getting the wrong idea or to think that I had been trying to flirt.

    I’ve mentioned here before how the same manager mishandled a situation – in this case there was a bit more basis to the claims that “Persephone” was flirting with “Cecil” and lots of people had been noticing for months, and Umbridge chose to announce loudly in the middle of the office that “All your colleagues have been laughing at you, Persephone, because you were using the scanner at the far end of the office so you could flirt with Cecil!” Not smart, Umbridge.

    1. Ya you betcha*

      Off topic but this is so Minnesotan – “Ooh, who’s that you’re flirting with then?” – why do we add the “then” at the end?

        1. Cj*

          If you live where the Germans settled, you don’t hear it often. If you live where the Norwegians settled, you do.

    2. Student*

      Sorry to say, but… when it’s your manager, and you can’t fix it with a conversation or two, you leave. Or, if you have the resources, you sue and leave. Your manager sees you through a very sexist lens, and it is going to substantially limit your career. Women managers can be as guilty of this kind of sexism as men.

  18. For the love of decency*

    If your boss is already making comments to your team as a whole about attendance to a group (most aren’t even invited to you) can bet that after you come forward you will be “asked” if you are attending every group meeting from then on. I feel like the boss would again take this too personally if you decide to skip a meeting and have the expectation that you will now attend all meetings going forward. Consider that obligation and ramifications before you come out.

  19. Lacey*

    LW1: I’ve run into other types of situations where someone’s making a group for a specific subset of people; not marginalized people, just like college students or pottery makers. No one is interested in it, but instead of thinking, “I’ve made a group that doesn’t appeal to my target audience” the organizer blames the group of people. “College students are so flaky now a days” or “Pottery makers aren’t serious artists”

    It sounds like that’s what’s happening here. That’s your boss’ own problem and your attendance would be unlikely to fix it.

    LW3: UGH. I’m unfriendly, so this does not happen to me, but every unfriendly person needs friendly friends and it happens to them all. the. time. They’re just being nice! They might actually be disgusted by the person, but they are compelled to be friendly to them. It’s super dumb and I hope you feel free to tell people so.

    1. Anon for this*

      If my case study class in college taught me anything, it was that people will turn up in droves if you provide free cheese pizza, and vanish back into the ether if you don’t.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Confession – I use this strategy to this day for training events. I need as close to 100% of employees to turn up to the morning training? Donuts or bagels and coffee it is.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          We used to have major cross department planning meetings, and we got the attendance up to nearly 100% by getting the canteen to supply freshly made bacon baps and ketchup.

  20. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1 First, I’m an older Black woman and have been in the workforce for many years. You have no obligation to identify yourself and join efforts to make your workplace look more inclusive. Because I’m visible and often the only minority in my workplace I’ve been approached to be the representative token. I’ve been introduced to people with the sole purpose of showing that we have a diverse workplace. My opinion has been solicited on all things racially charged as the resident expert. I’ve refused to have my photo used on promotional materials. I’ve been told that I look conservative, religious, and grandmotherly. Which are wonderful qualities but that’s not me. It’s people making assumptions. That being said your department head is way too invested in dragging people out into the sunlight for his personal trophy case. You are a person not a stop along the Diversity Tour. The worst way to persuade people to your cause is to insist that they must sacrifice their comfort level and privacy in the name of being inclusive. It doesn’t work like that. It works with everyone having the confidence to mention what they are without it being remarked upon. There are workplaces where it’s not safe to mention your orientation. But just because you may be in a safe one there is no obligation for you to “lead by example.”

    1. meyer lemon*

      This is a perfect description of the ways diversity initiatives in the office can seriously fail the people they’re ostensibly supposed to support. I’m fed up with people in positions of power who lean on marginalized people to do the heavily lifting of masking the ways in which the workplace is failing them. It’s even worse when they try to leverage guilt against marginalized employees by making them feel like it’s their responsibility to make the workplace a safer and more inclusive place for others.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        The marginalized communities are as vast and deep as the ocean. To expect one person to speak for them all is ridiculous.

  21. Mental Lentil*

    Oh, the flippin’ asshat who said this:

    “Oh! You’re the girl who was flirting with the intern!”

    “You must have mistaken me for somebody else. I’m a woman. There were no girls there.”

    1. Jack Straw*

      Or even better: “a manager” no reason their gender even needs to come into play.

  22. JelloStapler*

    #1: YOu are under no obligation to make such a significant personal decision to satisfy your boss.
    He sounds tone-deaf, and it sounds like some education is warranted before any more steps are made towards fostering these groups. There just needs to be more groundwork, trust, and understanding here past “no attendance” directly correlating to “wanting the groups to fail” seen pretty starkly in your director’s comments guilting staff and campus community.

  23. Skippy*

    LW5: In my experience, most employers understand that many people — both new grads and experienced workers — have gaps in their resumes right now because of all of the pandemic-related disruptions. I don’t doubt that there are exceptions, but if they’re judging people for gaps after the year we’ve had they’re probably not people you want to work with anyway.

  24. Save the Hellbender*

    OP5, I don’t think your gap is meaningfully different from people who graduated with me in May 2020 – If you graduate in December 2019 without a job lined up (like a lot of people do!) then you can really start meaningfully searching in January and then boom, pandemic. I have a lot of friends who were in your boat and they found jobs!

    1. CR*

      In general I don’t think having a “gap” when you are a new grad is a big deal at all. You need time to find a job after graduating. It’s not a red flag and I think OP is worrying unnecessarily.

  25. Sylvan*

    LW1. This is admittedly a weird way to look at it, but coming out and participating in this kind of group are both work that your straight, cis colleagues aren’t doing. You’re not obligated to do it. If you change your mind and want to come out or join the group later, go for it then! It’ll still be there!

    FWIW, I have the same orientation and gender as you. I came out to some coworkers in an LGBT group recently. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it, because half the group immediately started treating me like a straight woman, lol.

  26. Anon for this*

    Some automated systems are weird. I was applying for an IT job at an insurance company that wanted a computer science bachelor’s degree… and there was no spot to upload a resume, just to enter all the information from drop down menus, and while literally every other type of degree you might imagine was listed, including multiple varieties of agriculture degree with type of plant specified, computer science was not even an option. I gave up and decided they didn’t actually want anyone hired for that position.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      Sadly, it’s possible they were that incompetent. Either way it’s not a place to apply!

  27. Whitewood*

    #1 – Personally, I totally understand why no one would want to go to what’s billed as a support group! That discussion can get on the intimate side for coworkers, and like its been mentioned, discussions are likely to lead back to institutional problems at the campus that can’t be fixed when it’s all coworkers. Plus the fact that plenty of people have their own support systems outside of work, and few of them can give others support with everything right now.
    A social group with like, board games I might go to, but not a support group. No spoons for that.

  28. SpiderLadyCEO*

    I’m really frustrated that work diversity efforts right now require exposing or outing yourself! I had one on Monday that stressed me out so much that I was literally shaking – they wanted to talk about “privilege” and “vulnerability” and working being a “safe place” and while I’m happy to make others feel included, I don’t want to be out as queer at work! I just do not, it’s not something I’m interested in doing, and the idea that people were forcing me to participate and be vulnerable in a place where I don’t want to be vulnerable at all was absolutely horrifying and sickening to me.

    And the fact they wrapped it up with all the racism and ableism as well made me look like the parts I chose to sit out of were because I was racist, when actually I’m queer and private. Not to mention the fact that I do have mental/ability issues that I’m in the process of dealing with and that I again, don’t need to bring up at work! It’s just miserable, and I wish organizations would find ways of trying to be open and accepting without putting employees on the spot.

    1. kt*

      :( Internet hugs if you like. This sounds terrible. I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this.

  29. LW3*

    Thank you everyone for your comments! It’s nice to know that I’m not not alone on this one!

    I think the most awkward part of this was definitely that it was a client who made the comment. So there’s definitely an element of deference there that I wasn’t sure how to handle. Any one of my coworkers would have been shut down very definitively.

    The whole situation just made me feel really gross and undermined my confidence for a while. Like I felt like I couldn’t participate in client meetings because I was known as a flirt with that client. I was also very worried about what got back to my management about the situation.

    My immediate manager (a man) was very supportive and pretty incensed at the implication on my behalf.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      LW, I think you handled it marvelously. It’s fun to think of all the mordant yet subtle putdowns you might have made (oh, how I wish I had the AAM commentariat in my head for moments like these) but you did GREAT–you pushed back, you made it clear the comment wasn’t welcome, and if that client has any sense (not a given, but let’s hope) he walked away embarrassed. I’m so sorry you felt undermined and unsure of yourself because your client is a sexist jerk, and I’m glad your boss has your back!

    2. korangeen*

      Yeah I don’t know how you could have handled it much better. And I would have felt pretty much the same way; it would have also taken me a while to shake off the gross feelings.

  30. Lyra Silvertongue*

    #1, you don’t need to do anything at all here, so don’t take this as me telling you what to do – just a possible suggestion for if you want to change the culture there somewhat. Would you be open to encouraging another group that is explicitly for LGBTQ+ people and allies? Even if you take yourself out of the equation, these kinds of groups are great because they allow people to engage with others in the LGBTQ+ community without forcing them to be out yet – that has always been the point of things like Gay-Straight Alliances. Maybe they could even be run in conjunction with students or something.

    Of course, you don’t need to do this, and it’s totally understandable if you don’t want to. It just feels like your department head could use some schooling on how actual resources for LGBTQ+ people can exist without forcing them to out themselves at work.

    1. LW1*

      I know there’s a larger group for LGBT employees that is open to staff from across campus (not just my particular department), but I don’t know of any LGBT groups on campus that are inclusive of allies as well. I also don’t know if I’d be the best person to advocate for the creation of one — I’m a sophomore employee at best, and I work off-hours, so I’m not as connected to the rest of my department/the campus community at large. But I do agree that it sounds like a better solution than the current support group!

  31. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW#1, depending on the relationship with your boss, I might suggest pointing out what you’re experiencing here as an obvious problem, without mentioning that it’s one you are personally experiencing: “You know, Fergus, I think that creating safe and supportive spaces for marginalized employees is great, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks who fit into some of those groups are avoiding them because they don’t want their sexuality or gender identity to be known at work. I know YOU are accepting and welcoming [giving him the benefit of the doubt here], but they might be concerned that not everyone else in the workplace would react the same way if they knew.”
    It occurs to me that this workplace could probably use more training and education on discrimination, bias, etc. directed at the entire staff, rather than initiatives that shine a spotlight on people who might not feel safe.

  32. Kristinyc*

    For #1 – Our work recently started having affinity groups (entirely staff formed, but supported by HR). One of the requirements is that all of them have to be open to EVERYONE, whether they identify with the nature of the group or not. I’m a co-leader for the one for parents of young children, and we’ve made it clear that it’s for parents, pregnant people, those trying to conceive, or just those who want to be supportive of parents. People early in pregnancy/ttc may not want to share that info about themselves at work yet, but would still benefit from the group, which is why we welcome allies as well.

    We also have a Pride group, and welcome allies for the same reason – people don’t have to identify as LGBT+ to be in the group unless they want to share that information about themselves, but it still creates a space for them to have that community.

    With your office – by not allowing allies, it makes it seem like they’re just using it to out people.

    1. JustaTech*

      Part of me hopes that the reason that my work didn’t make an LBGTQ+ affinity group is because it would end up outing people who might not be out at work (I know of exactly one coworker who is out at work; I assume there are more who I either don’t know or aren’t out), because there just aren’t that many people in the company.

      Sadly, given that someone in HR compared being LGBTQ+ to living in the suburbs, it’s more likely that they just didn’t want to make a group for LGBTQ+ staff. Ugh.

    2. HR pro*

      Yes, yes, yes. Allies are important, and clearly there are reasons to allow them (so as to not out people who don’t want to say that they’re pregnant or LGBTQ+). My former employer did a careful review of the law and felt that because our groups were held on company premises and supported by the company, the groups could not exclude anyone on the basis of their sex, race, sexual orientation, etc., because it was felt that doing so could be unlawful discrimination.

      Also, by the way, we eventually did some training and education for allies (all kinds of allies) because sometimes allies would attend the meetings and try to take over, dominate conversations, express doubt at things marginalized people said they had experienced, etc. It was helpful.

  33. RagingADHD*

    OP3, this dude called you a “girl” to your face. At a business lunch.

    Pretty sure that tells you everything you need to know about his mindset and his intentions. He was belittling you.

    Now why he would want to do that, and whether it was personal or just his habitual way of treating all women, I can’t say. But either way, he’s a sexist ass, and there’s no reason to think anyone with their head on straight perceived you as being flirtatious at all.

    1. Pam Poovey*

      Glad someone else picked up on that too. Dude sounds condescending and misogynistic all over.

  34. Elle by the sea*

    Is LW4 British/European by any chance? I am and the biggest compliment I would give to myself about the extent to which I’m qualified for a job is “decently qualified”. :)

    1. Sylvan*

      Haha, that sounds like “pretty qualified” in my US English dialect. “Pretty” and “decently” can be used as intensifiers.

    2. korangeen*

      Ha, no, I’m American. But it would have to be a nearly impossible set of circumstances for me to call myself “extremely qualified.”

  35. LW1*

    Hi all! I’ve noticed a bit of confusion re: the nature of the support groups and my department head’s comments, so I figured I’d elaborate for clarity’s sake. (I was trying to keep my letter concise, but now I can see I sacrificed some necessary detail.)

    This overall push for equity- and diversity-focused policies has (at least in the particular area of the college that I work in) resulted in smaller committees of people focusing on assessing and improving particular areas: accessibility, hiring and retention, and so on. The support groups for employees that I discuss in my letter were something suggested and implemented by the committee for employee support. They’re meant specifically for employees self-identifying as part of one of the groups the support groups are meant to serve; allies are not allowed to attend.

    So the support groups aren’t the only thing that has been implemented as a result of these initiatives! The other committees have done a lot of useful work so far — for instance, the changes made to our hiring practices allowed us to hire some great people who, until recently, might have been gatekept by restrictive educational/work experience requirements. That being said, the fact that the support groups are really the only major accomplishment of the committee focused on employee support is… interesting.

    Other employees run the other two support groups (for LGBT employees and disabled employees), but my department head runs the support group for employees of color. Prior to that group’s first meeting, he sent a reminder to my area of the university about the attendance policy (AKA: don’t attend if you don’t self-identify as a POC; there are other groups/events that allies can attend instead, so let POC have this space). So when he made that particular comment during the meeting, it was incredibly baffling not only to me, but others, because… well, we did what he asked! (The majority of my particular department is white, so us showing up to a support group specifically meant for employees of color — particularly after being told not to! — would have been in bad taste at best and outright hostile at worst.)

    Needless to say, I was at a loss to explain why my department head translated “white people actually staying in their lane” as “none of you, regardless of race/ethnicity, care about these initiatives” in this situation. Also, I don’t know if my department head was only speaking towards the attendance at the employees of color support group, or expanding to other support groups as well (I’m pretty sure it’s the former, but I don’t know for certain). Either way, his comments gave me serious pause, which is why I wrote in to AAM!

    Thank you all so much for your advice and support — it means more than I can express.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Did anyone ask the obvious question, “But you told us not to?”

      Because if nobody was comfortable saying that, it speaks volumes about the dept head’s relationship to the staff, and the culture that stems from it. And probably has a lot to do with why nobody is attending the meetings in the first place.

      Leaders who set contradictory expectations and then scold people for not meeting them are bad leaders.

    2. Elliott*

      Yeah, the thing about support groups is that not everyone will be the target demographic for them and not everyone who fits the demographics will want/need a support group at work. People shouldn’t feel obligated to attend just to make the initiatives work. Blaming people who weren’t invited to begin with is particularly stupid, but I also think that making a support group an obligation is counterproductive.

      If there’s not enough attendance to sustain the groups, then they really need to consider if something can be changed to make the groups more accessible/appealing or if there’s enough interest in them to begin with.

  36. Lentils*

    LW #1, just wanted to share my support for you not having to be out at work, as a cis lesbian who went to a Christian college and didn’t come out to my social circle until long after I’d graduated. I’m glad for your out colleagues that your school’s environment sounds at least slightly more inclusive than my school (which made us sign a “lifestyle pledge” that included condemning “the homosexual lifestyle”), but you couldn’t have done anything to make me be out in any of the multiple Christian environments I’ve been in throughout my life. Just the idea of attending an on-campus LGBT “support group” is spiking my anxiety, and your department head’s reaction intensifies that. You’re not doing anything wrong by keeping yourself safe.

  37. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    You can be out to the extent that works for you, and don’t feel bad!

    I’ve been working for government for nearly a year, first started, technically worked for Trump. So, it wasn’t the time to come out as non-binary because it would put notice on myself and cause work to have to make some changes for me. Also, colleagues in my broader field who have transitioned have seen fewer job prospects.

    However, no one in my shoes has ever suffered a tangible consequence for being out as gay/bi. And anyway, it’s a relatively small, chatty professional community who often attended school together. Pointless for me to not be out as a lesbian, then, because many already know.

    So I’m “half” out, and compromise by asking friends and my partner to use my preferred name and pronouns, and using it in my side gig economy work, but working in my field under my legal name.

  38. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    LW 1 – At a local Jesuit university (one that markets the hell out of its alleged social justice mission in glossy advertising), the campus newspaper ran a cover story of the student LGBTQ club’s annual student drag show, with a fully dressed student kicking their leg in a dance move. Totally innocent photo; Victoria’s Secret ads look like porn by comparison. One of the Jesuit priests went around campus and stole all of the newspapers from the bins and threw them in the garbage; then the President of the college (also a Jesuit priest) doubled-down by making public comments supporting that Jesuit and admitting his own disgust with the show. This made the news and caused a big uproar.

    They scheduled a campus forum for students, faculty and staff to question the President. One faculty member stood up and said they were Catholic, they were gay, and they’d been teaching at that college for X years, supporting their students and the university’s mission, and it was this kind of attitude and behavior that made them question not just whether they belonged at that college, but whether they belonged in the faith. They asked the President to comment. The auditorium was heavy with the vulnerability of what this person said. It was heartbreaking.

    The President, standing on a stage . . . looked at the clock . . . looked for his assistant . . . and said, “Well, it looks like we’re out of time. Thank you everyone for your comments.” And then he just f***ing left the stage. The cruelty and cowardice of it was despicable.

    So yeah, 100% agree with being suspicious of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs that are more about promoting the organization’s image than supporting people. Don’t prioritize your employer’s need to look good over your own needs for safety and peace of mind.

    1. llamaswithouthats*

      This is my issue with “DEI” programs. They really aren’t about improving diversity and inclusion – they are for PR. I kind of wish the term didn’t exist and there was a way to get employers to actually care about treating their employees well, but who am I kidding.

    2. JustaTech*

      What a spineless coward that president is! And, frankly, stupid. Did he really think that at a college that has a LGBTQ club, has an annual drag show, and has a student paper that put the photo in the paper, that all of the students and faculty would agree with him?

      How unobservant do you have to be to not notice that your student body has moved with the times?

      Sadly the only effective way to deal with an administration like this is by hitting them in the wallet, which requires the strong support of both the parents of the current students (paying tuition) and, more importantly, the alumni. The hard part there is that the alumni are, generationally, more likely to agree with the president.

      That sucks, and I’m sorry.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. The problem with people like this isn’t so much that they don’t notice the world changing around them but that they’ve been elevated to a position of power, in spite of or because of their retrograde stance.

  39. Essess*

    I would turn it right back on the person and say “what do you define as flirting? Are you saying that a woman has no right to speak to a man in the workplace? Are you saying that I’m not allowed to do my job if it means I have to speak to someone who isn’t a woman? What action did I make that would be called “flirting” in a professional environment?
    Do not infantilize me, or demean my professionalism reputation by making these inappropriate comments to me when I’m doing my job. It’s not a joke to have this type of comment in an office.”

  40. EA in CA*

    LW #3
    I work in a male dominated field where I was the 5th female employee to be ever hired within this company (15 year old company, ~40 staff). I’m in an Administrative role and as part of our welcome, I meet with every new staff member to give them a run down of my department and an overview of our tools, which I am one of the super users and administrator. I was having one of these meetings with a new manager to the team and we connected over our shared history of working for of the same companies but at different times. Apparently, my boss saw this interaction, thought it was too friendly and decided to label me as being a flirt. >:( He decided to ask New Manager if he knew me previously and to casually “warn” him that I am a known flirt and to watch our interactions so people do not get the wrong idea. New Manager relayed this to me as he thought our boss was being ridiculous and wanted me to know what was being said about me behind my back.

    The kicker to my story is at our next Zoom team building meeting, our ice breaker question was “what is a personality trait we would consider both a positive and a negative”. My response was “being friendly and open makes me approachable and people feel comfortable coming to me for advice or to just chat. The downside is that I’m regularly labelled as a flirt because most people cannot distinguish between friendly conversation and flirting.” all while I made eye contact with my boss. Thankfully that was enough to squash any rumors or concerns from management about me being flirtatious.

  41. HildeOlegaard*


    It may just be a case of him being obtuse. He may genuinely want to grow your careers but it’s a bit short-sighted to send emails to the whole team implying they are welcome to go. It runs counter to driving engagement and to making employees feel valued. It also runs counter to driving the brand given that the jobs he sends are at the competitor. It may also be meant for a single employee, but disguised or set for plausible deniability as a message to the whole team.

    It’s possible that he wants to plant suggestions, and that the long-game here is to replace those he inherited with those he hand picks, and who are less salary penetrated. Given that he’s new and the team is not, I’d certainly watch carefully. When you have an employee you want to get rid of, but have no justification based on their good performance record and lack of disciplinary history (not sure why people want do this…but they do), the usual pathway is to re-define or classify the employee’s job description in a manner that either makes it redundant or way outside of the employee’s skillset or capability. However, managers are under pressure to have “clean resignations”. Redundancies and terminations carry liability and unemployment insurance implications, so quits are ideal. He seems to be trying to encourage or cultivate quits, and that may be the reason.

    If it doesn’t happen, start looking for signs of being “managed out”, or “reclassified out”. Watch for shorter deadlines on harder tasks, and goal-posts that don’t stay in place. My advice should this happen, is to avoid the impulse to complain or go to HR. Trust me, if there is a manage-out plan, they already know and approve of what’s happening. Don’t give them the rope to hang you with, and start working on your resume. But you aren’t there yet, so I don’t want to sound like the sky is falling. Just watch the situation.

  42. Pam Poovey*


    I am not a fan of being asked for the month of graduation. Sometimes it’s relevant (my masters program was 3 semesters while others in the field are 2, so putting “Sept 2009-Dec 2010” indicates that while “2009-2010” doesn’t), but that’s rare.

    I took an extra summer semester to finish college because I had to retake a class and I’d changed majors a few times so it put me behind schedule. It always made me feel awkward putting August instead of May when places asked.

  43. The New Wanderer*

    LW #4 – I did contact a company that rejected me immediately after I submitted my application. The context was that an internal recruiter reached out to me to encourage me to apply to this specific position. I had actually done that position’s described work for over a decade for their primary competitor and met all the criteria*, so I applied. I assumed the application was automatically rejected, so I reached back to the internal recruiter to ask and they suggested I contact the direct HR contact for that position.

    The response I got was, “If you don’t have X degree (*the unwritten criterion), we can’t consider you unless you happen to have contacts at Y and Z agencies [where they frequently apply for contracts].” My particular field is one where there are multiple terminal degrees that result in equally qualified practitioners (I have the other main one), but this company unlike their competitors only recognizes the one. Well, unless you can give them a leg up in winning contracts. :-/

    In a similar situation – applied at another competitor for a similar job I met all the criteria for, reached out to a personal contact at the company to let them know I applied which that person seemed supportive of, and then didn’t get even a phone screen – I didn’t follow up with anyone. A month or so later I looked up the person they hired in LinkedIn, and based on their profile the company was looking for a different skill set not usually associated with the job description as I read and understood it. So it wasn’t the good fit I had thought.

    The upshot is, I did get useful information from following up on a rejected app, enough to know that company is a terrible fit for me. But I probably wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t already talked to an internal recruiter.

    1. korangeen*

      I’m glad you were able to get an answer! But yeah, there doesn’t seem to really be any good way to get an answer like that if you don’t already have a connection/contact.

  44. Brain the Brian*

    LW1’s question makes me wonder how a closeted trans or nonbinary employee of a company that mandates including pronouns in e-mail signatures would fare. It makes me worry about the safety of such employees. Maybe I worry too much.

  45. Former Employee*

    OP #1: Do not come out at work unless you really want to do so. I am not LGBTQ, though I am a longtime supporter.

    No one should take up a burden they aren’t sure they are able to carry.

  46. c_g2*

    OP #1 I am a white lesbian and genderqueer (I use she/they pronouns for simplicity). Let me tell you something. Those diversity initiatives are supposed to protect YOU and other marginalized people. Being out is not something you owe.
    This letter made me think a bit. How often are cisgender heterosexual individuals called to speak up for LGBTQ+ rights? How often are white people called to speak against racism? Men on sexism? How often are those in privilege called to talk about the way their privilege causes them to navigate the world? Not often enough.
    In the average class/workplace/etc I am never asked how my whiteness impacts the people of color around me, or asked to devote unpaid time and energy to expanding racial diversity the way my non-white colleagues, peers, and friends are. What I am asked is to be people’s resource on queerness. To tell work how they can fix the diversity issue, but only in a nice friendly way that makes the company feel good. To be the only one, or the one of two.

  47. Wade*

    Hope I’m not late to the party, but check your formatting on your resume and cover letter. Some ATS software aren’t equipped to handle anything outside of a basic doc with standard margins & fonts and be careful with graphics. It sounds like you did your homework crafting the language, so I would see about format. Good luck!

  48. FD*

    #1- You have no obligation to do so.

    Here’s my personal litmus test.

    First, am I in a situation where if I get a lot of bullsh*t pushback, it won’t hurt me professionally? For example, I’m generally more out now than I was earlier in my career, because I’ve developed skills that are valuable enough to insulate me from at least some serious consequences.

    Second, am I in a place emotionally to be the Designated Queer Person? Not just to deal with the pushback and some people just being jerks to you about it, but also to handle the well meaning but inappropriate/weird questions, and people who expect you to be able to speak For All Queer People simply because you’re the only one they know they know?

    Sometimes, the answer to those might be yes and you might decide that you’d like to blaze that trail and make it a little less crappy for the next person who wants to walk it. But it’s also totally legitimate to say ‘nope, not me, not right now in this situation.’

  49. Paul Pearson*

    LW 1 argh deja vu all over again. I’ve said repeatedly to my bosses that you don’t do diversity and inclusion by creating a forum and demand people Out themselves for it. Create the forum, make it available – and then make sure you push a company culture of inclusion so LGBTQ people feel they CAN join it. Creating a forum without recognising the need to build trust and comfort is just a request to get some prominent faces that can be waved around in the next diversity PR marketing.

    I’m out at work because, honestly, I’ve reached a “I am so sick of this nonsense” level of snapping and my tolerance levels are broken. I’d rather go down in a blaze of glory (or a smoulder of fury at least) than not. But more sensible people reasonably want to protect themselves and need less stress than so often comes with being out at work. If they truly care, they’ll understand this.

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