I stood up to a sexist coworker who wanted me to take all the notes for a team I’m not even on

A reader writes:

Your recent letter about office housekeeping and calendar invites reminded me of an incident that happened at work about a year ago. I am the director of architecture for a company and work closely with a man who is my peer, the director of construction — we both directly report to the CEO of the company. He had several project managers working under him and called me to ask if I would take notes in the meetings that I was attending that were led by his project managers. I kindly explained that I wasn’t comfortable doing that due to my workload and the fact that there were some deep sexist implications about asking the only woman in upper management at the company to be the designated note taker for employees in a different department. I thought we were on the same page and all was good.

A few days later, I was on a zoom with him and his project managers and he stated that moving forward I would be taking all notes for the project managers. I very calmly spoke up and said that I had already told him I would not be doing that, the request was sexist, and if he wasn’t happy with his project managers note taking, then that was between him and his team. It was incredibly awkward but it shut him down. After the call he followed up with this email:

We spoke about this, I said it has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with skill set. My project managers do not have your ability to listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing. You didn’t refuse when we spoke about it when it was just you and me on the call — you just said you weren’t comfortable with it. I do things I’m not comfortable with every day. It’s disappointing because the construction division needs as much support as it can get right now.

Director of Construction

I responded with the following:

We did speak about this and I told you at that time that I wasn’t going to do it and was concerned with the sexist implications of the request. I did not want the responsibility because the person running the meetings is typically responsible for the notes and I worried if I started doing it then it would become an expectation that I would always take the notes for every meeting. That is where we left the conversation and I assumed that we were on the same page and you would not be asking me to do it again. I am very confused and disappointed that this has become your expectation.

I am happy to take notes for meetings that I am running and responsible for but it is ridiculous to expect me to take all the meeting notes for Construction. [The CEO] doesn’t even expect me to take notes for meetings that he is running … he always takes his own notes. I am incredibly busy with my own job and am not the administrative assistant for your department. Even though I am good at taking notes in the meetings, it still takes time after the meetings to clean up the notes and I do not want to add that to my workload. As I said before, I’m sure [your project managers] will get better at taking notes with more practice or you can assign it to a more junior person in your department!

Director of Architecture

I never escalated to the CEO and the director of construction never responded to my email or tried to get me to take notes again, but for months afterwards he held a grudge and tried (and failed — I am excellent at CYA) to get me in trouble with the CEO or make me look bad at my job. He has since given that up since it just ultimately made him look like an idiot and now he treats me incredibly respectfully and is a bit scared of me, I think. I’ve always wondered if there was a better way to handle this situation besides straightforward bluntness. What do you think?

I think you handled it beautifully.

Your coworker’s suggestion was absurd.

In theory you could have tried a softer approach — just saying you weren’t available and not calling him out on the sexism — and maybe he wouldn’t have held a grudge afterwards. But he’s clearly not agonizing over whether he needs a different approach with you; why should you have to spend all this emotional energy dancing around your own approach with him? You said what needed to be said, you were right, and he’s figured out that trying to retaliate will only bounce back on him.

Might there still be repercussions to it someday that you’re not seeing now? Sure. Might you get a less-good outcome if you use the same approach with someone else? Sure. But navigating sexism at work is always a high-wire act where you have judge how much you can say, and how clearly you can say it, and whether you might be penalized for something a man would face no consequences for, and whether that penalty will be worth it, and how much you need to shield someone’s ego for your message to be even be heard, and … ugh, it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted just describing it.

You said your piece, you were right, you didn’t back down, and you won. Good.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Xena*

      And if you cannot afford one there are courses available that teach effective note taking. Doing your own notes helps you remember things better anyways.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am a big believer in taking notes as an aide memoire. Furthermore, hand-write them, rather than typing. This forces you to boil them down to the stuff that really matters. For non-math type courses, I would attend lecture faithfully, taking notes this way, then review the notes before the final. I could guarantee myself at least a B doing essentially nothing else, unless there was a term paper involved.

        I have been working on teaching this to my kids, but they look at me like I was telling them to bring web clay tablets and a stylus to class. There are many areas where I gracefully acknowledge my old fogey predilections as nothing more than that. But I am right about this one.

        1. wondermint*

          Totally fair, especially in the education use case!

          In the context of work, and OP’s problem, having a computer aide could alleviate some of the frustrations of the team. Doing it the old school way definitely has its benefits, whereas optimizing has a different set of benefits. Just my 2c :)

        2. Beany*

          I agree that hand-writing your own notes is good for distillation. However, there’s a danger in taking the responsibility for notes for a team: what *you* think were the important points might not be what the others thought were important — you could completely blow past something that’s relevant for other attendees. For this reason, I think everyone should be taking their own notes anyway. (This may have been implicit in your comment.)

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree there’s value in taking your own notes. We’ve also had issues with the note AI not being great at capturing jargon, and even minor missteps in picking a regular word can make things really confusing. So I’ve always advocated for note-taking AI as a backup to compare notes to for missed chunks or clarification, as opposed to a solution in and of itself.

        4. Critical Rolls*

          I volunteered as a designated class note taker for a couple of classes in college, and it absolutely blew me away how much of a difference it made taking notes that would be valuable for others and then *processing* the notes, running them back through my brain in a structural way. (Of course that’s a very different scenario than the letter, but you can tell your kids an internet rando thinks you’re right. I’m sure that will tip the balance.)

        5. cjbfan*

          I agree with you 100%. My mom gave me the advice that if I wanted to get an A on spelling tests in grade school, to write every spelling word ten times each. I got straight 100s on so many spelling tests that my teacher gave me an award for it. In college, I also took notes in class, took notes from the textbook (if there was one) and then went over them again with a highlighter before a test. The repetition of reading and writing really made things stick.

        6. VI Guy*

          Each to their own. I struggled for years with math equations and text until finally my teachers provided typed notes to everyone. I could finally think about what was being said rather than trying to write notes as quickly as possible, and I write faster than average. I started understanding my classwork rather than only being able to regurgitate it. I am much happier not taking most of my notes, but rather adding extra little comments along the way. This is obviously different from a meeting where there is no blackboard, although I take very few meeting notes and only write out the most relevant bits to my work. On a laptop, because I reference the notes later and much easier to search electronically.

          1. Cera*

            In middle school I had a bunch of testing done because of my sudden failure in math class and my inability to spell basic words correctly. The testing showed that I had learned to speed read to quickly to learn “the normal things” kids learn through reading. This caused me to have to concentrate to much on taking notes and not enough on learning the material. Hand out notes solved the learning problem but left a gap in retention. As a professional I write my own notes (old school on notebooks) but the context of those notes are illegible to anyone but me. Those weird notes also jog my memory years later…so I save them all…. and often recall verbatim decisions that were made by weird notes that only make sense to me.

          2. Lizzie*

            I actually do better with notetaking electronically as well. I can type faster than I can write, and I fell like I miss less when typing it out.

          3. Avril Ludgateaux*

            Each to their own.

            Isn’t it “to each, their own”? “Each to their own” doesn’t even parse as logical to me, but I see this mistake all the time so I feel compelled to ask where it comes from.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              It was originally “to each, their own,” and “each to their own” probably evolved similar to how “I couldn’t care less” became “I could care less.” People hear and respond to the general shape/sound of the phrase and don’t worry about including every syllable in exactly the same order.

              1. C Baker*

                I left two comments that are awaiting moderation, probably because they have URLs in them. I don’t think that you’re correct. Do you have a citation that the form you’re more familiar with is, in fact, the older one?

                1. Hlao-roo*

                  Thanks for the correction! No sources to back up my assertion – I just assumed the one I was more familiar with was older.

            2. C Baker*

              It’s not a mistake. Any usage that’s widespread among a community of native speakers is correct in that speech variety. Barring momentary disfluencies, people do not make mistakes in their own language.

              Each to their own” doesn’t even parse as logical to me

              Ah, well, that’s your problem. It’s an idiom. Idioms are not required to be logical – that’d be like having your cake and eating it too! Don’t fall head over heels trying to explain why you’re attempting to appy logic to language, there’s no point.

            3. C Baker*

              BTW, I did some quick googling and replied to the person who replied to you first. Those comments are in moderation, probably because of the URLs, but the evidence suggests that “each to their own” is the older form.

              Now, “older” does not mean “more correct”. Perish the thought! At this point it’s mostly a UK/USA distinction.

            4. Becca*

              If I think about it I can parse it as something like “each person can go to their own method/preference/whatever” but it always throws me a bit as well.

        7. Renna*

          Yes, you are. Physical action and interaction while learning cements stuff. For really hard classes, I’d take notes, look over my notes, and then copy them. It took a lot of time but I’d end up with As in subjects I really was not predisposed to do well in.

          The exception is math. I have some kind of math disability and copying the formulas a thousand times over would do me no good unless someone bothered to explain why the formula is what it is. No one ever gave me reasons for stuff and it’s not satisfying to hear “it just works.” WHY does it work, damn it?! I really needed math to be broken down into reasons and no one ever did.

          1. TechWorker*

            I’m sorry you had poor (or overstretched) maths teaching. I am ok at rote learning, but my favourite thing about maths at school was you didn’t have to! You had to remember how it worked/the method & where to start but lots of things you could work out from there.

            (NB this actually went backwards studying maths at university, for longer proofs I did have to rote learn them, but there tended to be a lot of words in there by that point too).

            1. Lalitah92*

              DITTO for me too. I abhorred when they presented formulas to use and plug in. I needed to understand the villain origin story of each formula for it to make sense to me, well, because maths for me was ‘mental abuse to humans’ :P

        8. Jules the 3rd*

          I would re-write and condense my notes to just the highest level big ideas, plus formulas for the classes that had them (econ, finance, etc). It’s a great learning tool. I’m not trying it for my kid bcs he’s got handwriting issues that won’t be solved by more writing, he needs to type. But I am encouraging him to re-type the main ideas, not just copy / paste.

        9. TinySoprano*

          There is plenty of psychological evidence that suggests writing things by hand is associated with better memory retention. So you are indeed correct!

          In contexts when the ability to edit and email notes takes precedence over retention, I do use a computer though. Writing efficient notes is different in each medium, I think, but LW’s colleague’s PMs could definitely cultivate the ability for either. They just need to do it.

        10. Emmy Noether*

          I’m this way too. Writing things by hand helps them enter my brain. I don’t even always look at the notes later, the act of writing is the main point. Especially math: it will not enter my brain until I have written it down myself, drawn the geometry myself, done the integral myself, whatever it is, on paper. Looking at other people’s math doesn’t work for me.

          Even at work now, I always have a notepad in front of me and jot down important words while I’m working. It keeps me focused. I throw away the notes after, because those don’t make any sense later. For any kind of meeting, I take copious notes and keep them.

        11. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          Taking your own notes is great, but hand-writing them shouldn’t be held up as the One True Way. This is basically telling those of us with dysgraphia and other limitations that affect our writing ability that we’re doing it wrong by typing, digitally recording, and other methods we have to use because hand-writing doesn’t work for us.

          For me, my dysgraphia is so bad that I can’t even sign my name without severe pain. I once had to hand-write a five-page essay for a final exam in university because the university didn’t accommodate dysgraphia, so wouldn’t allow me to type it or give extra time to write slowly and rest my hand. It took over half a month for my writing hand to be useful again.

        12. Avril Ludgateaux*

          I agree with you about hand-writing and memory aides. However, for somebody like me who types faster than she handwrites and whose handwriting is damn illegible (even to herself!)… If the purpose of note-taking for a meeting is for minutes or otherwise accurate reference to be distributed to the team, the best practice is a combination of:

          – transcription by whatever fastest method, with
          – a full recording and comparative review
          – assigned to a dedicated note taker who is not otherwise participating in the meeting

          Note taking is a pretty big task that requires uninterrupted concentration and should be assigned to an AA, EA, or other facilitative role sitting in on the meeting for the expressed purpose of taking notes. (Sidebar: there is a reason court stenographers are paid $$$$ for their skillset, and nobody is expecting lawyers or legal aides or jurors to be taking notes.)

          As somebody who, myself, has been the reluctant designated note-taker (because regrettably I take pretty darn accurate and efficient notes), it is impossible to contribute to a meeting when you are the person who is supposed to record it faithfully. So to turn around to my point: regardless of what note-taking method you subscribe to, asking the OP to do it, insisting that she does it for whatever reason (even if it’s not intended to be sexist, though I do suspect it is), is nonetheless sidelining her to a clerical responsibility instead of a contributory one.

        13. That One Person*

          I definitely like the hand writing approach personally though if things are more fast paced then typing may ultimately be better especially for potential engagement. However I definitely do better recollection if I take the time to do my own notes even for things like games if I want to get a fight down better or focus certain goals down. Graph paper for notes has become a huge favorite in case I need to draw out a quick diagram for myself.

          I do like the idea of the clay tablets but could be a bit messy and weighty =/

        14. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, it’s been scientifically proven that writing something helps you to remember stuff better than typing it on a laptop or whatever.
          When I see kids taking photos of the blackboard, I can’t help thinking, yeah, there’ll be a corner that’s not legible, and you won’t remember why the teacher wrote that bit. You should have been copying it all down as the teacher wrote it up there, and adding in your own notes to be sure of understanding it all.

        15. Luddite*

          This is actually one of the main reasons we chose a non-technology charter school for our kids. They not only have been learning literature (Little House, E.B. White’s work, Pinocchio, etc. ) and the basics of history (which are no longer taught in the regular public elementary schools in our area), but they also learn how to take notes, really read through questions, etc. They have a strong foundation on which to take notes – on paper, by hand using a pencil or pen – and understand that for MOST people writing notes physically down allows us to retain much more information than typing.

    2. Akili*

      ….Tell me more about these programs (if you would, please? My Google-fu is good, but recommendations are always helpful!)

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Rev is good but we just subscribed to Otter. Ai on my team and it’s got apps that condense notes and transcribe meetings and sync with your calendar, that’s even with Zoom or Teams. As editors we adore it so far!

  1. Lana Kane*

    This is amazing. I know many people will advise the soft approach but 1) it would not have shut down future requests, because maybe you wouldnt be busy, 2) it didn’t even stop him the first time you told him it was sexist, so imagine if you had been soft about it, 3) what you said was true and factual, and 4) maybe he will think twice about doing this with another colleague.

    Look at what you had to do to finally shut him down – put up with multiple attempts to make you look bad, and CYA along the way (which you might have done anyway, but it could also have been extra work for you).

    1. Nesprin*

      I’d argue that kindly explaining in a 1:1 setting was the soft approach, and that if the soft approach doesn’t work, then getting harder is the right way to go.

      (am a big fan of OP- I think she played this exactly right)

      1. Lana Kane*

        Agreed! But I know people who would say that even in a 1:1 setting it was too harsh to bring up the sexism. “What if it offends him?”

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yes, because him offending her was OK. It’s exhausting, but I think it was a service she did to call it out for him.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          I mean, there’s a huge gap between “what the heck kind of sexist jerk are you?” and “just so you know, requests like this can come off as sexist for these reasons–I’m sure you want to avoid that appearance.” The former would certainly be harsh. The latter, or many other variants thereof? Abso-freakin’-lutely appropriate and warranted.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Years ago I was on a project team. I was the only woman and at the time was a junior team member (but not the most junior team member) and was asked to take notes for a tagup, which I agreed to. However I did mention in passing to another junior team member (a man) that I thought it odd that of all the junior team members I was specifically asked to take notes as it did have a sexist connotation.

            Well he was friendly outside of work with the man who asked me to take notes and mentioned the sexist angle to him. The guy was beside himself that it came off that way, and after that rotated note taking duties through all the junior team members. I fully believe he didn’t intend to be sexist, but also the fact that his brain defaulted to asking the woman to take notes could absolutely be just an ingrained societal response. He handled it right by being appalled and immediately correcting it, the guy in the OP definitely did not.

          2. Kyubey*

            Sometimes the problem is when saying the latter sentence, some men hear the former… not that this is an excuse for having to tiptoe around men to avoid offending them. But I struggle even using soft language like this because so many people immediately feel like they are being insulted

        3. Dinwar*

          The guy’s in construction. If he thinks that’s offensive, he should spend an hour on the site and hear what the laborers say about the higher-ups. If he finds being called sexist for doing sexist things intolerably offensive, what the laborers are saying about him would probably give him a heart attack!

          The first advice my dad (civil engineer, PM for decades, in construction since he was 14) gave me was “If the subs aren’t complaining you’re not working them hard enough.”

      2. SouthernLadybug*

        Agree – the 1 on 1 was the soft/direct. Calling her out publicly after being told no, and then following-up again demonstrated the need to be very, very clear and blunt.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          100%. initially handling privately in a 1:1, giving a reason at all (as opposed to just a blunt “no, are you crazy?”), calmly responding when he tried to publicly coerce her into it, and then her measured email response ARE the soft version, in my opinion! He deserved a much harsher response, he should count himself lucky you didn’t report this to the CEO while recommending remedial training for him and his team.

        2. Petty Betty*

          He announced she’d be doing notes publicly as a manipulation tactic. He thought he had her over a barrel and was forcing her into the role he *assigned* to her after she gave her soft “no” privately. Instead, he forced her hand and he felt embarrassed in front of his subordinates for his own overreach.

          He chose to ignore her soft “no” the first time by hearing only what he wanted to (she was “uncomfortable”, but hey, he does uncomfortable things all the time!) and pushing back on that stated boundary. He ignored what he didn’t want to hear (the sexism). OP was more direct so he couldn’t attempt to brush it off and gave the subordinates things to think about (their boss is a sexist who doesn’t respect boundaries).

          I can bet that after a while, he’ll try something else. He’s just kicking his wounds and giving himself pep talks to heal his injured pride.

          1. JustAClarifier*

            I 1000% agree. This was him trying to force her into it by putting her in a public situation. I think the hard stance and call-out was beyond warranted and also sets the framework for the other people working with him that they need to keep an eye out for this kind of behavior.

      3. Clobberin' Time*

        Exactly so. The OP explained this to him in private. That was his chance to shut up and handle it himself without being embarrassed in front of everyone. Instead, he got pissy and tried to play his little power games where everyone could see him getting called out. Good job, dumbass.

        OP, you handled this brilliantly.

      4. Some Dude*

        Yeah, she did the gentle approach and it didn’t work, so she had to calmly tell him hell to the no.

        I was at an org where a woman employee publicly called out having to do secretarial work for male peers, and it was a awkward but a necessary wake up call, and more effective than had she been gentle. But I’m sure each situation is different in terms of the blowback on the woman calling it out.

      5. learnedthehardway*

        Having it in writing is arguably better from a CYA perspective and to make sure that nobody can misinterpret the situation. For me, that outweighs any benefits of taking a softer / in-person approach.

      6. LaLa762*

        And I wouldn’t even describe the 2nd time around as the hard approach! I think we’re only tempted to think that because she’s a woman. A man re-iterating what he’d previously said would not in any way be considered confrontational.
        This is part of the silent tyranny of sexism/chauvinism.
        Frankly, it’s exhausting.

    2. PattM*

      I also disagree with a softer approach….women have been socially conditioned for years to “soften” their messages. I think the manner that OP handled this situation was perfect and is a textbook example of how to politely stop the gendering of office tasks. This was a great learning experience for all the men that were in on the meeting.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        It was in incredibly crass to dictate in a meeting like that that the LW was going to be taking on this task after she clearly stated it wasn’t appropriate for her role and the request made her uncomfortable . I’m almost positive he did that intentionally hoping she would just acquiesce and not fight back.

        GO LW!!! Beautifully handled.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yeah, my take on this guy is that he heard “no, that’s not appropriate” and decided to do the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” in the future hoping that he could guilt her into it. Also delegating work to a peer in that capacity is… pretty brazen. It’s one thing for your manager to say “I need you to take this on” or “We need someone to do XYZ and I thought you would do well at it.” But with a peer, you need a bit more diplomacy.

          1. Observer*

            and decided to do the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” in the future hoping that he could guilt her into it.

            More like decided to do the “embarrass her into doing what I want” thing.

            Also delegating work to a peer in that capacity is… pretty brazen


            But with a peer, you need a bit more diplomacy.

            Eh. I would say that with a peer, you just don’t get to do that. Period.

            1. Christmas Carol*

              But he can’t see any woman as a peer, because she’s a woman. Since he considers all woman to be properly subordinate to all men, she can’t possibly be an equal.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Yeah lecturing her about doing jobs even if they make her uncomfortable was jaw dropping. She wasn’t uncomfortable with *doing work*, she was uncomfortable with being coopted by an overly self important mansplainer.

        2. Observer*

          I’m almost positive he did that intentionally hoping she would just acquiesce and not fight back.

          I don’t think there is any reasonable way to see it otherwise. If there was any doubt, his follow up makes it abundantly clear.

          1. He needs support, so she needs to do it
          2. He knows she’s uncomfortable with it, but she needs to do it anyway
          3. She wasn’t blunt enough when she said no.

          I mean really?

          1. Miss Muffet*

            “i do stuff all the time i’m not comfortable with” – that really got to me. She was pretty blunt saying no this way, but phrasing it politely. Anyone who was actually open to hearing what she was saying would have understood this as a clear no. And like someone above said, he’s her peer, so this kind of pressure is extra wrong.

            1. Library Lady*

              “I do stuff I’m not comfortable with all the time.”

              “Brilliant! Then you’ll be taking notes, since it’s your meeting and your team!”

              OP, you handled this whole situation beautifully.

            1. Ayla*

              “You’re just so much *better* at note taking (or caring for the children/cleaning the house/handling relationships/insert female-coded and un-fun responsibility here)” is the oldest “I’m not sexist but” trick in the book.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                There is a cure for women being better at everything. It’s called “learning”. Sexist men should try it! :D

              2. Karen, but not that kind of Karen*

                Our recent harassment training included this! The scenario was that the guys were asking the woman how to change the water filter because she is adept at it and they didn’t know how; the response was her telling them to Google the instructions.

          2. Salt*

            And his reply is laced with the whole ‘you weren’t blunt enough for me to understand but you didn’t have to be so blunt and mean with me.’
            Like it’s a perfect wall of deflecting all the blame back on her, she didn’t say it clear enough, nice enough, blunt enough, didn’t use the exact phrasing he would have liked and she should have read his mind but also like how was he supposed to know because he can’t read minds and her ‘no’ wasn’t clear enough.
            Upside to her being blunt on the zoom call- his project managers saw her take no guff and hopefully the decent ones also saw the sexism play out and will be aware of it in their future interactions when their brains initially says ‘oh Jane my coworker can do the note taking’.

        3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I agree. He tried calling her bluff.
          “OP said she would take notes.”
          She saw his bid and raised:
          “CEO doesn’t ask me to take notes.”
          He was not going to risk OP looping in their boss.

      2. EPLawyer*

        HEAR HEAR.

        OP’s approach was not rude or over the top. It was a matter of fact statement of the situation. It is sexist to ask the woman to take the notes for a meeting she is not on the team for. She told him no once. He figured asking her publicly will get the no to a yes in order to be seen as the “peacemaker” because that is ALSO a woman’s role. So double good on OP for not giving in to be seen as a “team player.” I notice none of the guys were stepping up to help out, guess they aren’t team players.

        1. Fem_in_STEM*

          The project managers (I assume that’s “the guys” since it seemed like OP was the only woman in the meeting) aren’t team players but also are apparently awful at their jobs if they can’t do a simple enough task like taking meeting notes. Maybe the Director of Construction needs to find a better PM team?

          Also, bravo to OP for standing up for sexism in a male-dominated workplace, it’s quite refreshing to read!

          1. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

            I agree, what kind of project manager can’t take decent notes. They meet with client and subcontractors and need to document those conversations! Those PMs need some extra training stat if that’s where their skill sets are at.

            1. Melanie Cavill*

              I work with a (male) PM who is infamous in my department for refusing to do his own administration. I think the ‘manager’ part can go to their head.

            2. Mr. Shark*

              Right, it’s the PMs whole job to really run meetings, take notes and have the status of the project!

          2. DiplomaJill*

            it’s incredibly hard to run a meeting, participate in it, AND take full meeting notes. it’s just not a realistic expectation. ideally someone else is delegated note taking — not as a petty power play like this jerk, but in a normal, collaborative effort OR because that’s their role, as an admin or project coordinator.


            1. TechWorker*

              I think it does depend on the type of notes needed. If it’s a short summary and actions to take, then I’m fine both running the meeting and doing that.
              If it’s a full account of what everyone said, points made, why they were disregarded or taken onboard, etc – then I agree that takes more time and means you can’t fully participate in the meeting (you can’t interject to add your point if all your focus is on scribbling down what Bill just said). It’s unclear which this case is, in the latter you really want either a dedicated admin or to rotate around note takers.

            2. Anja*

              I have a biweekly team meeting that has my favourite system for delegating minute/note taking I’ve seen. Maybe ten people or so? As it’s internal they use it as an opportunity for people to chair a meeting to get used to managing the agenda, keeping people on track, etc. So it’s just a list of the people in the meeting and we cycle through.

              A person chairs one week and then the next week they do the meeting minutes. So everyone in the meeting – regardless of gender, regardless of role/level – regularly takes their turn at both chairing and then taking minutes.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          So true on his exploiting the peacemaker aspect. He used every sexist tool in the kit. 1) Just behave like you’re her boss. She will have a natural admiration for this leadership! 2) Completely ignore every soft no, or indeed, a hard no, 3) Make a public scene which will force her into her natural role of reconciliatory soothing, 4) Ignore any more soft or hard nos, 5) Mansplain the crap out of what her role should involve in the hope of shaming her into compliance. Doesn’t she feel lucky to have a job at all? 6) Try to enlist other, more senior men into considering her as untrustworthy and unapproved of. What a shame he doesn’t put this much effort into his actual job!!! The OP was truly unwavering in this storm and a bloody heroine. The really sobering thing is that if her CEO had been inclined to listen to this buffoon, or even been half as sexist, this disgustingly persistent bid would have been successful.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I agree with PattM, as well. Bringing up the sexism immediately, while denied by the Dir. of Construction, put the message at the forefront and he will hopefully think twice in the future about doing something like this. If the initial message was softened and he actually listened, he likely would have done something similar in the future to another female colleague.

        OP, I look up to strong female leaders like yourself. Thank you!

      4. jojo*

        True. When I was in the Navy, I arrived at my assigned duty station. When I reported to my shop they said ” somebody to make the coffee.” I replied ” I’m not drinking that shot and I’m not making it.” They never again tried to dump that female stuff on me. I was actually able to learn and do my job.

    3. nom de plume*

      Honestly, F the soft approach towards someone so brazen as to summon a Director in an unrelated department as his assistant — that kind of blatant entitled BS needs to be shut down hard.

      I’m not sure I even would have put dwelt quite as much on the explanation as OP did in her final email to justify her refusal, when “this isn’t my responsibility and I’m surprised and confused you’re even asking” would suffice.

      Still, taking notes in case I need this someday. So glad it’s resolved for you, OP!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        For real. Anyone who has a conversation that goes “Can you do X?” “Oh actually I’m not comfortable with that” and walks away (or *claims* to walk away) with the thought that that was somehow an agreement is someone with whom a “soft” approach will never work.

      2. Gan Ainm*

        Yep! To me the explaining sounds a lot like justifying, and this guy does not merit an explanation. I would have been tempted (but not actually able) to add “oh I didn’t realize directors were taking notes for each other’s teams now, I’ll put you down to take notes for my architect Jane in her Tuesday meeting”

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I mean, in a way she did use the soft approach when she said she wasn’t comfortable doing it but he is obviously either deliberately obtuse or completely stupid for still thinking that she had agreed to do it after she said the rest of what she said. Oh, or totally manipulative and used to getting his own way.

      OP, you are my hero.

        1. Despachito*


          And I can sense in it the revolting sexist “if she says no, she thinks maybe and can definitely be convinced to say yes.” Ugh.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Well, he assumed she would be too embarrassed to call him out publicly. He thought he was calling her bluff, but she wasn’t bluffing. That hurt his poor little privileged ego!

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Seriously, everyone with a working brain and a decent grasp of English knows that saying “I’m not comfortable with that” is a refusal. They sure as hell know it is not any kind of agreement. No, he knew she refused, but thought she would cave rather than publicly call him out. I’m not surprised his little ego got hurt when he called her bluff, only to find out she was not bluffing at all!

    5. Artemesia*

      A softer approach just keeps the sexism going. She is a Director — and still is expected to be the admin for another department and this yutz not only asked this unreasonable ask but then denies the sexism of asking the only woman director to be his assistant. Some times you have to be less assertive, but it sounds like this OP knew her situation and knew how to proceed.

      She is my hero.

    6. Meep*

      One of the tipping points for my former toxic manager to point at me being “difficult” was that I told her repeatedly in private that I did not have the capabilities or training to provide client training on a complex topic the next day. She didn’t listen and announced loudly in the stand-up meeting “Meep will be doing training!” I was so annoyed and aggravated that I blurted out “I will certainly not!” before explaining the reasoning in front of her boss who ended up agreeing with me. It wasn’t even training the client wanted in the first place. She just wanted a sale. I got called catty, but I still don’t regret it, because I spent literally 2 hours trying to gently reason with her that expecting someone to be able to master, create material, and prepare for a training session on how to build a rocket when they had never done that before was asinine.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Ah, the “my employee doesn’t have the training or experience but if I force them they will shine” approach. The closest I’ve come to a breakdown was when I was working for a woman who kept trying to do that to me and all the other employees had left.
        Oddly enough, I was not able to do IT work just because she wanted me to!

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Came here to say this!! You rock, OP, and way to go to keep chipping away at all this sexist nonsense.
      And let him be a bit afraid of you. It’s good for people like that to be intimidated.

  2. Pants*

    If his team don’t take acceptable notes, isn’t that ultimately on him? Train your PMs. Don’t expect someone else (and of course, a woman) to come in because your people aren’t performing to your expectations. Maybe manage the team like you’re supposed to.

    OP – you did fantastically. I only wish you’d have BCCd the CEO or talked with them about it so you could tell us how the CEO now understands that the Director of Construction is a sexist idiot.

    1. Mockingjay*

      That’s where I went. “If your team doesn’t doesn’t have these skills, that’s a reflection of your management. The solution is not for me to take notes. The solution is for YOU to ensure your team learns to do so.”

      Bravo, OP!

    2. OrigCassandra*

      This. I’m honestly a bit bewildered that a team full of project managers has no one on it capable of taking decent meeting notes.

      Well, no, I’m not bewildered. I think there are plenty of folks on that team who can do it; Director of Construction merely passed them over in favor of pursuing his sexist power trip.

      1. Guacamole Bob*


        In my experience it can be hard to take notes for a meeting you’re running, depending on the context. Capturing good notes at the same time you’re trying to read the room, hit important points, corral a difficult participant, etc. can be tricky. But then the answer is to rotate the responsibility or ask a junior team member to do it, not assign it to the one senior woman for every meeting! And if it’s a team full of project managers the obvious solution is to have them take notes for each others’ projects in turn.

          1. The OTHER other*

            I know! This guy figured the best solution for his project managers’ inability to “listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing” problem was to get a freaking director, who reports to the CEO, to take meeting notes?

            Wow. I could not have handled the situation as coolly as the OP, I would probably have dropped some F bombs.

        1. Tau*

          One of my meetings rotates moderation and note-taking through the list of expected participants, so that everyone gets a turn doing both and nobody is both moderating and taking notes simultaneously. It strikes me as a good way to handle it. (Or it would if we managed to keep the list in sync with the people actually participating, but that’s a different problem.)

      2. The Rural Juror*

        If they’re project managers in construction…then, yeah, I can see it. Is that excusable? Absolutely not! But in my experience in the AEC industry, that’s sadly par for the course.

        1. Architect*

          Yeah, this is *mostly* a sexist thing, but it also a little bit of how architects are completely devalued and run over by the Owner/Contractor pieces of the AEC industry, and in a design-build firm where the construction side is the piece making the money, I can see it also being related to that.

      3. Observer*

        Well, no, I’m not bewildered. I think there are plenty of folks on that team who can do it; Director of Construction merely passed them over in favor of pursuing his sexist power trip.

        Yes. Exactly this.

        That’s why I think the OP was smart to explain as much as she did. This will keep him from using her email against her. Either he won’t try, or he will and anyone will see what an idiot he is.

        1. The OTHER other*

          Sexist power trip, and also he thinks his project managers’ time is valuable, and the OP’s (director of architecture!) is not.

      4. Artemesia*

        And maybe he is a bit oblivious to the fact that he is being reflexively sexist BUT then when it is pointed out, he doubles down — so yeah, just plain vanilla sexist.

      5. ecnaseener*

        Right?? It’s note-taking, not brain surgery, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it’s very reasonable to expect someone to learn. Especially since it’s so integral to their ability to manage their projects.

    3. The Original K.*

      I had the same thought! If he doesn’t trust his team to take notes, he needs to train them to do so.

      1. Despachito*

        Moreover, isn’t he offending his team by supposing they are unable to do such a simple task as note-taking?

    4. ariel*

      Yes! I’m surprised OP didn’t at least mention it in passing to her boss, if only to leave a trail. That’s really generous but I would be tempted to make sure they knew what I knew in order to make Construction’s bad attitude in the following months more obvious. So glad this worked, so crappy you had to deal with it (and the months of sabotage!)

      1. Sloanicota*

        This would have been my only note. I am glad you’re great at CYA and the rival director couldn’t successfully make you look bad, but the boss could’ve used a heads-up here to understand the context and give you more protection if the other director had escalated or become more successful with their smear campaign. Also, perhaps he went right on to the next woman and strong-armed her into doing it. If that woman raises it to her boss, he won’t understand the pattern. However, I’m not senior level myself so maybe there’s a sense that a real director doesn’t need to escalate to the boss and can handle sharp elbows themselves, or something.

      2. mlem*

        This was my reaction until I saw the comments just above saying that “rchitects are completely devalued and run over by the Owner/Contractor pieces of the AEC industry”, so my reaction is now amended to add “IF you trust the owner/CEO not to decide you should do it after all”.

        1. Boof*

          Yes, this – LW is best judge of whether ceo would care [which they should, but we live in an imperfect world] or if bringing it up would be unhelpful. I do agree in an ideal world tho the ceo would want to know if one of their direct reports was doubling down on bigoted behavior and it would have made sense to flag it

          1. Despachito*

            It just made my stomach churn when I imagined that she could have an unreasonable CEO who could have told her to take the notes… hope this is deeply in the realm of impossible.

      3. SexistCoworkerOP*

        I actually really internally debated if I should have brought it up to my boss but ultimately decided not to. The reason I didn’t was that the CEO and the Director of Construction were old friends from back in the day when they both worked as steel welders and they had a long history together. I was 90% sure the CEO would back me up but not 100% sure and I didn’t want to deal with the fall out if the 10% came to pass.

        I actually put in my 2 weeks weeks notice and will be starting a new job as Director of Architecture for a much bigger developer so I am considering letting the CEO know now as an FYI but I am not positive I am going to bother. I would say that the Director of Construction is a huge issue for the CEO’s company. He has created a pretty toxic environment for the subs/ PMs under him and is not doing a good job preforming and getting projects built but I don’t know if the CEO will make the decision to fire his old buddy and I’m not sure if some workplace sexism would sway that decision in any way.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      “If his team don’t take acceptable notes, isn’t that ultimately on him?”

      Why, yes, yes it is!

      He was broadcasting that he’s a bad manager by saying his PM’s can’t do it.
      In the first place, was a strange (and likely sexist) flex on his part … trying to strong arm a peer (a fellow manager) into doing admin* work for his direct reports. His follow up was a bizarre up is down black is white manipulation of what happened, where he acted like if he just kept insisting it was gonna happen that LW was somehow going to magically acquiesce.
      None of that makes him look competent or like a good manager.

      * Also he apparently doesn’t recognize the value and power of note-taking. His request would hand over the “document of record” for all these projects to the head of a completely different department, even for things he was ultimately responsible for. Instead of keeping control of that in his own department, direct reports hands. He apparently views it as women’s work that’s not worth his time to do, or the effort to train his team to do well. I have seen people derailed or even taken down by the artful work of skilled and strategic note takers. When it’s done well, it can wind up driving the agendas for future meetings and the direction, outcomes of projects and often the meeting participants don’t even realize what happened.

      1. Pants*

        I’m a life-long admin. You’re dead on. Don’t screw with us. We can bring you down with little to no footprint, smiling the whole time.

        1. Despachito*

          I always knew there was a reason why the author of my favourite book about interpersonal relations stressed the importance to be nice to admins and bring them chocolate from time to time, whatever the position in your company may be!

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I’ve always made a point of being friendly with the admins and IT. It has served me very, very well.

      2. Phryne*

        The right type of admin staff too… not all of them have the same purpose.
        I am support staff, and it has been assumed when I joined a team, that I would do the note taking and archiving because I am support and in a lower pay scale. It was a team of all women, so not sexism, but I have no more skill or ability to do good note taking as any of the other people there, as that is not and has never been part of my job or skill set. (Extra sassy detail is the PM of that team herself started as a project assistant and actually has experience and skill in taking notes and making action lists.)

        I am joining this team to grace you with my in-depth knowledge of the logistics and procedures, for your benefit. I shut that down real fast.

    6. Pants*

      I keep seeing “…team don’t…” and cringing, even though I used team as a plural. It’s now driving me insane.

    7. AthenaC*

      Exactly! It would have been a completely different conversation if he had said, “OP, you do such a good job at taking notes. Would you be willing to chat with these PMs about your system so they can learn from you and improve their skills?”

      But of course that’s not what he wanted – he wanted OP to “magic” everything.

  3. Forrest Gumption*

    Ugh, my eyes are bleeding from all the sexist assumptions in this man’s response, particularly this line: “My project managers do not have your ability to listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing.” It’s the same misguided, gendered logic that many husbands use when trying to get out of doing housework…”But you’re so much better at it than me!” Which may be true, but that doesn’t mean the woman should always do it. You can learn, or delegate to someone else, or train someone who can learn it!

    1. LCH*

      wow, that sounds like a them (and therefore him) problem. that he needs to fix.

      mind fully blown at someone asking a director to take meeting notes for not their meeting.

      1. Sunshine*

        Right?! Like uh… either train your employees or hire people who ARE good at this essential skill set?!

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I remember reading a similar anecdote here. A junior male employee told a female boss that he “wasn’t good at taking notes” so she sent him to a note taking seminar.

      He never said another word on the matter.

    3. Peridot*

      And conveniently, those are all the so-called “soft skills” that so many men don’t feel like they have to learn, or don’t ever consciously think about. Women are magically “just better” at them.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I think of that anytime I do something well at work, untangle a mess of whatever and someone comments “oh, it just needed a woman’s touch” Argh!

        1. Forensic13*

          I would be so tempted to just slap my hands physically all over the paper/work in question. “There ya’ go! A woman’s touch!”

        2. Phoenix Wright*

          This reminds me of a short story by Isaac Asimov called “Feminine Intuition” that is a science fiction take on this. It shows how men can take women for granted and devalue their skills, by chalking their success up to their gender’s innate abilities. The story does have a few problematic phrases and ideas (that I hope reflect only said characters’ views and not Asimov’s), but the overall topic is handled pretty well in my opinion, with a very satisfying ending that I won’t spoil.

            1. Blue*

              Sigh. I am both surprised and not. Tvtropes does reveal this great line, though:
              She snorted at one point. “Feminine intuition? Is that what you wanted the robot for? You men. Faced with a woman reaching a correct conclusion and unable to accept the fact that she is your equal or superior in intelligence, you invent something called feminine intuition.”

            2. Phoenix Wright*

              Thank you for telling me this. This is incredibly disappointing, as he is probably my favorite writer.

      2. The OTHER other*

        …and oddly, these “skills women are so good at” are things like taking notes and ordering lunch, never the prestige projects, or things that earn promotions and bonuses. You’d never hear a guy say “I’m no good at sales, can you do it” or “I’m no good at presentations, can you present this to the board?”

    4. kristinyc*

      Also, like….those skills are part of most project managers’ job description. It’s part of managing a project. If his PMs can’t do that, he needs…. different PMs (or to train these ones.)

    5. SLR*

      100%. This is weaponized incompetence and it’s incredibly sexist. “My project managers do not have your ability to listen” is also super coded sexist language. Project managers who don’t listen are bad project managers! So either this guy manages a team of idiots or he’s sexist – neither of these reflects badly on the LW and neither of them is her problem to fix. Beautifully handled, LW!

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Anecdote re studying ape group dynamics: One aspect is being able to identify which ape you are looking at. Because the early names in this field were women, it somehow became one of those things that “women are just naturally good at” rather than “a skill that is practiced and developed by anyone who wants to succeed in this field.”

      A male graduate student found himself on the receiving end of a lot of “Oh! So you have that natural feminine trait of just instinctively being able to tell the baboons apart. Huh. Well, must help in your work.”

    7. mlem*

      I love the juxtaposition of “I do things I’m uncomfortable with all the time!” with “but it’s too haaaaard for us to do this!”

      1. Forrest Gumption*

        THIS!!!! ^^^^^^^ By making contradictory statements like this, the guy is revealing himself to be a selfish and manipulative d-bag who deserves all the scorn he is getting on this site.

    8. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m not convinced that this is even a real problem for the project managers on his team. It’s hard to believe that they got into their positions without that skill. It’s the director’s communication about it with his filter: they’re men. And therefore the director assumes they can’t do it nearly as well as his director peer, the only woman in the meeting.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Or he doesn’t want to waste *his* team’s time and effort on something trivial* that he could just have the little lady do. (oh, my people aren’t very good at it … maybe you can do it for us because you’re sooo much better)

        *not actually trivial, but often undervalued and non-promotable

  4. MEH Squared*

    OP, I think you handled this beautifully. You were clear and concise, and you left no room for quibbling. It sounds like you said your piece without getting ’emotional’ about it (I put it in quotes because that shouldn’t be a factor, but often is), and you stated it in a way that he could not wiggle around it.

    More importantly, you stood firm and did not cave to him. Good for you!

    1. Bibliothecarial*

      Yes! I don’t think you could have done that any better. It’s up to him to manage his emotions and reaction to your level-headed response.

  5. Sunshine*

    What!! Listening and taking accurate notes during a meeting are like… extremely basic skills that almost anyone can practice and get better at. Skills that are required in school as well as most jobs, so I’m calling BS. How did anyone on his team (including him) get this far in life without listening and taking notes for themselves during meetings? That’s like saying “you’re just so good at sweeping all the crumbs off the table, it’s logical that you should do all the cleaning!”

    1. blood orange*

      Particularly for PROJET MANAGERS! Taking thorough notes in meetings is, like, a key skill. I was a project manager for 9 years…I always took notes in meetings, and rarely asked someone else to do it for me.

      If your PMs aren’t good at taking notes, they’re probably not great PMs.

  6. TypityTypeType*


    With bonus points to LW for not letting him sandbag her in the Zoom meeting. He knew perfectly well that she’d refused, and hoped to pressure her by saying it in front of others.

    1. MEH Squared*

      Agreed. He was trying to pressure her in front of the others and was mad when she called him on his bull.

    2. TeamPottyMouth*

      Her response is especially delicious because he thought he’d publicly shame her into doing it, and instead, none of those project managers will assume that they can find a woman to take notes for them in the future.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, and good on the OP for not caving to his claims of being “disappointed” and “needing support.” This was crass manipulation and I admire her refusal to be taken in by it.

    4. Elbe*

      Agreed, 100%

      I think that there’s a very good chance that this guy DID understand that a soft no is still a no. I think he just brought it up again in the meeting to try to pressure her to do the work.

      I really don’t think he expected her to push back in front of other people, which makes it all the more glorious that she responded so bluntly. Maybe he’ll think twice before trying that on someone else.

      1. Raine Wynd*

        Pfft, probably not. Men like that tend to make global assumptions about women. Her pushing back makes her a singular exception rather than a rule, unfortunately. And given his reaction, he’s probably on the “how dare she do that? who does she think she is?” b.s. kind of power trip.

        Also, given he’s the director of construction? He’s b.s.’ing about how his PMs can’t take notes. Construction might mean manual labor, but I’ve yet to meet a construction project manager who wasn’t ready to make notes about conflicts, possible opportunities for change orders, delays, etc.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I wouldn’t have mentioned the sexism part because it’s not your job to take your male coworkers to school on this issue, but ultimately that detail doesn’t matter. Your actions were amazing, and in the end, you got the desired result. (I would have left it at no and nothing more because no is a complete sentence.)

    That said, I’m wondering if you experience the same trend that I do: after I stand up for myself and win, the man in question doesn’t have much to do with me after that, he’s a little scared of me, and he keeps his distance. Great and everything, but I’m still frustrated because I think men like this don’t know how to act with women aside from being sexist towards them or ignoring them out of fear when called out. I hate it.

    Why can’t you treat me like any other colleague?

    The problem is and isn’t solved.

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      “I wouldn’t have mentioned the sexism part because it’s not your job to take your male coworkers to school on this issue.” It not being OP’s job means she doesn’t have to do it if she doesn’t want to, but keep in mind that it’s also not her job to coddle their feelings and dance around the elephant in the room if “because it’s sexist, nitwit” is hanging off the tip of her tongue. Not calling out sexism can be as much of a chore as calling it out, unfortunately.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Yeah, Alison said in her answer “he’s clearly not agonizing over whether he needs a different approach with you” and I think that was initially true, but he clearly has changed his approach with OP! He’s respectful and a bit afraid – but only now, after she stood her ground and didn’t back down.

      Too many men have only two modes of interacting with female coworkers: treat her like a pushover and offload all of the undesirable/feminine tasks onto her OR cower in fear after she’s proven she’s not a pushover (because if she’s not a pushover she can obviously smite you!).

      1. Emmy Noether*

        A woman like that is clearly a witch! Working her mysterious wiles against the natural order of things… better stay clear or risk getting hexed!

    3. nom de plume*

      I dunno, I think it’s a powerful move to call out what’s happening — and if it takes a naming clearly illegal behavior to make someone come to their senses (whether they realize the tenor of their action or not), then fine.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          ETA – because even if the guy backpedals about how “no no it wasn’t sexist” he, and anyone else who hears the conversation, is going to think twice before they make a request like that again. And other people will then have that framework at the ready to call it out if it happens again “Uh, Bill, you realize asking Denise who doesn’t work for you to schedule the meeting, take the notes when your 4 male direct reports will be at the meeting you called comes across as sexist, just like when Construction Bob asked OP to take notes for his meetings, right?”

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, these same guys will be all “what sexism? I don’t see any sexism!” Flagging the actual sexism can be a useful counter to that.

    4. Clobberin' Time*

      “Why can’t you treat me like any other colleague?”

      Because they’re assholes with fragile egos. I don’t like it either, but it’s not much more complicated than that.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      My suspicion is that a man who wasn’t intentionally being sexist wouldn’t avoid you after being corrected.

      To an intentionally sexist man, if a woman isn’t doing what he wants, he has no use for her.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Over ten years and two jobs ago, I had a male coworker really cross a line with me when he tried to take a big, high-profile project from me without asking me. Two of the words in the project coincided with my director job title, but he was holding meetings without me and telling me nothing.

        After that blow up, he literally never talked to me again for TWO YEARS until his going away party. As in, anytime, I wanted to collaborate, which is what I always wanted, he’d throw up his hands and say, “it’s all yours.”

        I know I should be over it, but I’m not. I never wanted to NOT work with him. I wanted him to back off and treat me like an equal, but he didn’t hear me until I snapped when I saw he’d approved a bunch of materials that I’d never seen.

        Maybe your comment was his deal. That stings though.

        1. nom de plume*

          Snarkus, this isn’t about you though — this, to an outside perspective, is so gob-smackingly petulant and juvenile and passive-aggressive, it reeks of a fragile male ego being called out on his BS and pouting about it.

          A man who can’t see you as an equal isn’t someone you’d want to work with — and this guy clearly did not have it in him to see you, or any woman, as such. It’s kinda sad, really.

    6. Hog Wild*

      I agree. I’d leave out the language about sexism, setting trends, and uncomfortableness. It just opens up an opportunity for dude to argue. I’d just say “I am the Director of Architecture. Not the secretary for Construction. I don’t have the time nor the inclination. In this workplace, we’re all expected to take our own meeting notes. Your team will just have to learn.” The message being, it’s an absurd request to ask of anyone, regardless of gender.

      1. Esmeralda*

        If LW wants to call it out, this is the perfect place and time to do it. Because it’s so freakin obvious. Guys like this (and he may not be the only one at LW’s employer) need to be called on the carpet for this kind of bs, and they need to understand exactly why it’s bs. LW gave him the reasons 1-on-1, where he would not be publicly embarrassed. He made what he thought was a power play. And lost.

        LW doesn’t have to do that. But it’s great when someone with clout and standing does do it. It helps everyone who doesn’t have that kind of power or position, who may be legitimately afraid of the consequences.

        Good on you, LW.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          ^ Yes, yes, yes. Those with the clout/job security/etc need to do this work because the younger/newer folks don’t have the ability. Heck, they might not even recognize it for what it is (see: all the kids right out of college who end up in toxic jobs bc they don’t know any better). But even if they do, they likely won’t feel comfortable saying no or pushing back. If you can do it, it’s a favor to others – other women, in this case, but I’d argue also a favor to those PMs that witnessed this that this is just Not How It’s Done.

      2. Observer*

        This is the kind of guy who will argue when he thinks he can win something, whether you give him a “reason” or not.

        By calling it out, and being very, very explicit, while at the same time showing how much of a team player she is AND calling out that even the CEO takes his own notes, she makes it very, very hard for him to weaponize it.

        It stinks that this is necessary, but it was smart. And ultimately, I think less work than the alternatives.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      I think that naming the sexism is important here because otherwise, the other director can simply pretend that his female colleague is “not being a team player” and try to use that justification to himself, his team, and his superiors.

      Calling out sexism was powerful and shut that nonsense down before it started.

    8. Boof*

      Although I agree it’s up to anyone if they feel like calling out potentially bigotry vs just calling out the behaviors and not pointing out the ‘ism, I think the LW did a great job of it. LW didn’t call their coworker sexist* just pointed out what they were asking had sexist implications. When they tried again LW again pointed out that there was sexist implications and avoided taking on the burden of educating/convincing their coworker as to why (definitely do not get into the leeds with that). LW simply stated it looked problematic, stated other reasons they shouldn’t do it (not their job, too busy, etc), stated other ways of handling it, and walked away.
      It’s just so, so — chef kiss — perfect

      *I think it’s best to call behaviors [sexist, racist, etc] rather than a PERSON because a person can variable, can change… sort of like calling a person good or bad vs their actions good or bad

    9. Sometimes supervisor*

      Half agree – Calling it out the first time was sensible and well done by the sounds of it (as Boof points out below, OP pointed out the behaviour came across as sexist and didn’t go down the route of “Well, if you want to do this, you must be sexist”).

      But I don’t think I would have leaned into it when he carried on. He’s explained it’s because of OP’s skillset – and, yes, I think there’s at least an element of BS in that, that on some level he equates notetaking as a women’s skill but, hey, who knows, perhaps he’s gone quiet because he’s now asking the next best notetaker, Fergus, the director of assembly, to take his notes instead – and he clearly isn’t swayed by the ‘this comes across as sexism’ argument. And ultimately the crux of the issue is if your PMs can’t take notes, the answer is to skill up your PMs, not ask a director who is unrelated to the project to come and do them for you, long after they’ve said, no, not my job and not enough time anyway.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        That weaponized incompetence bs is totally sexist, and he needed to be called out in front of his own team and other men to teach him (and them) a lesson. He assumed she would back down if he cornered her publicly, and she subverted that expectation, which was both awesome and a good lesson for all. And there is no reason for him to be attributing it to her skills when there is no reason a man cannot learn to improve and utilize his skills better instead. I cannot see why you think she should not have leaned into it, or why you think there is only an “element” of BS to that steaming pile of an excuse!

        1. Sometimes supervisor*

          I said I think there’s “at least” an element of BS to this, not “only” an element – by which I mean, I’m not sure to what degree he’s truly attributing this to OP’s skillset and that I’m not sure he definitely wouldn’t ask the same question of a man who was similarly skilled but what I’m *absolutely not buying* is that he hasn’t factored into his thinking that she’s a woman.

          As for why I wouldn’t bother leaning into it, it’s because there are times when you can be right or you can be effective and you need to pick one. It sounds like he made a remark in his first conversation that if OP came at him with “this behaviour comes across as sexist”, he’s going to counter with “but it isn’t – it’s because you’re a good note-taker”. OP’s totally right and he is totally wrong to not at least acknowledge the optics aren’t great but, if it were me, I would drop it there because it’s not going anywhere. As OP’s letter shows, he doesn’t learn his lesson (he just goes on holding a grudge and playing petty games), I’m not clear anybody else on his team does, and OP’s left with a pile of self-doubt.

          Instead, I would go for the issues of “this isn’t a director-level job, I’m too busy to take this work on even if I were to be willing to do it as a favour, I bill out at several multiples of your PMs, this is an easy skill to train for so if you legitimately think your PMs can’t do this then you have bigger problems than just notes” and so on. He can’t really argue with those – in fact, it sounds like he didn’t argue with them so much when OP brought up arguments closer to “this is why your idea makes zero business sense”.

          I’ve always found I’ve had more luck with responding to requests rooted in sexism with a version of “no, that’s not a task I do because that’s not my job”. So “Could you book me some time in Fergus’s calendar” gets met with “No, I don’t have access to Fergus’s calendar because I am not Fergus’s secretary” and “Will you get everybody a coffee” gets met with “No, I can’t do that right now because I am leading this meeting”. People who are tuned in get that there’s a message of “I know you’re asking that because I am a woman and that’s not ok” in there – people who aren’t tuned in don’t get it but, hey, they probably also wouldn’t get it if I flat out said “The fact you’ve assumed I’m my boss’s secretary feels pretty sexist”.

  8. H3llifIknow*

    Kudos to the LW! I was in this exact position. I was a team lead and often the only woman in meetings, and I’d be asked to take notes, “can you get our guests some coffee,” “Hey, Hell, can you arrange snacks for the meeting” etc… Even when it was MY meeting and I needed to be briefing/leading discussion. And we had AAs to do this stuff! When I first started, I couldn’t bring myself to say “No” to anything, but then I realized I was simply reinforcing their sexist assumptions that “the only chick in the room will do it” …. Now, as my hubby says, I’ve learned to “draw that line in the sand” and stick to it. Stick to your guns!!

  9. EmmaPoet*

    You smacked him down from trying to turn you into his personal assistant, you made sure he couldn’t screw you over afterwards and he ended up looking the fool, and you now have him behaving respectfully, all the while behaving politely yourself. I think you handled it perfectly.

  10. NoLongerAgonizing*

    The “he clearly isn’t agonizing over his approach” line really struck with me. When dealing with discrimination at work, it’s so easy to agonize over all of it, and this is a great perspective. Thanks Alison!

    Also, OP you are amazing. I’m so impressed with how well you handled every step of that!

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, that stood out to me too. So often when dealing with bias, discrimination, or harassment in the workplace, we get so caught up in dissecting what the victim did or said. Why aren’t we scrutinizing the actions of the other person just as much?

    2. Newbie Fed*

      I think this is a really valuable way of thinking. The other person isn’t investing as much mental effort or emotional labor, they’re just saying what they wanna say. I tend to remind myself of that when I speak up in meetings or respond to emails. Don’t overthink to the point where you get run over or worn out.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think that’s part of why people like this get so horribly offended when called on their behaviour. They’re used to behaving however they want and having it be accepted without challenge, and the idea that 1) their actions can be offensive to other people and 2) it can be their responsibility to change their behaviour is entirely foreign and very unwanted.

        Meanwhile, there are all the people who have spent their entire lives evaluating how their actions will be interpreted by other people, and carefully tailoring it to minimize the possibility of negative results. It’s like the guys whose primary response to #metoo was “Well I guess I just can’t talk to women any more,” because the idea that they have to consider how their actions affect other people is just so hideously offensive.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          When I hear guys say that my first thought is, “That’s probably a good thing, given this is your reaction to “Stop telling your coworker you like her breasts” or whatever grossly inappropriate garbage you’ve been saying.”

    3. Elbe*

      I really loved that part of the response.

      There’s so much pressure on the wronged party (women, in cases like this) to respond graciously to the people who were inconsiderate of them from the start. In itself, it’s sexist to expect a woman to be “nice” to men – even when she’s being insulted – but to not expect the same consideration of men when they’re comfortable, on an average workday.

  11. Dinwar*

    “My project managers do not have your ability to listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing.”

    Speaking as a project manager, this is fairly routine stuff for a PM. For that matter, it’s fairly routine stuff for folks on the way to becoming a PM in my industry. I would be fairly concerned about a PM who couldn’t do these things!

    The one PM I know who isn’t good at note taking simply lets us all know the meeting is being recorded. The minutes of the meetings go to regulators anyway, so it’s not a huge issue for us, though I can see some objecting to it.

    1. sacados*

      I also kind of feel like … the person actually RUNNING the meeting probably shouldn’t be taking notes too? It’s difficult to take lengthy, detailed notes while also actively participating at the same time.
      In my office, the note-taking is usually something handled by an assistant or other junior person whose main role in the meeting is to take notes, not engage in the discussion.

      Either way tho, OP handled this beautifully.

      1. Dinwar*

        I’ve seen it work both ways. I like to keep the minutes on-screen, as the agenda and the minutes combined, so I like to do both. Either way works as long as everyone’s comfortable with it.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Indeed… I was coming here to say this. A project manager who isn’t able to listen and take notes has got to massively suck at doing their job, unless they’ve got some other method of recording everything.

      Also, usually there’s a reason the lowest ranked person in the room takes notes – they aren’t expected to have a whole lot of valuable insights like their more experienced colleagues, unless something is specific to their niche area of expertise, and so it makes the most sense for them to be focused on note-taking… as opposed to a director, who probably should be thinking about ‘how does this impact our long term vision and goals and workflow and profits?’ as well as other thoughts like ‘is this a good solution?’ rather than ‘wait, who just said that? Tuesday is the 14th next month, I should make sure that they meant that rather than the 12th they said.’

    3. Antilles*

      I work directly in construction and was at a job site literally 24 hours ago. Let me add this context:

      A construction PM’s entire job is to keep their project(s) on track – running meetings, juggling subcontractors, interacting with the client, dealing with regulators, and managing the budget. That’s literally your entire purpose of existing on the job. A PM who cannot keep accurate records of his own meetings is going to fail at managing projects, full stop.

      Are there sometimes meetings which are too large or hectic to take notes? Sure. But even if so, it’s on the PM to recognize meetings that are likely to struggle and train up a cheap-billing junior staffer or admin to do so – not an expensively billable Director-level OP.

      1. Dinwar*

        “…not an expensively billable Director-level OP.”

        Oh, yeah, that’s a VERY good point! A Director is going to destroy your budget. The ones I work with charge 4-5x what junior staff do to a project, meaning that I could get A DAY of work from a junior staff member for the price of a Director taking notes at a two-hour meeting. That day of work could include taking notes at the meeting.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah that’s what I was thinking. If Bob’s PMs can’t listen and take notes on a meeting, he needs to hold them to a higher standard or hire new PMs, not try to foist the work on someone else.
      Bob is an ass all around.

    5. AJ*

      Same. Clinical project manager here and this is a core duty for our company. It is difficult and takes practice but I’m worried about these people calling themselves project managers then.

  12. kiki*

    Maybe construction project managers are extremely different than project managers in other realms, but being able to listen well, understand what was said, and turn that into some sort of documentation seems like a fundamental skill of project management, in my experience?

    Also, in what world is “I’m uncomfortable with that” not a no?

    1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      Recording and sending out meeting notes is the bare minimum for Project Managers. I am baffled!!!!

      OP you are my hero!

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      “I’m uncomfortable with that” is often used in a way that means ‘Please please please don’t insist on me violating protocol/regulation’ in a lot of settings, and I rather imagine construction is one of those, especially if your clients/bosses expect you to come in under costs and under time. Which… actually might be something the LW should look into, as the architect of designs these people are building.

      It should still mean no, of course. But I’ve heard stories of more than one construction foreman who says “I’m uncomfortable with this” and hears in return “You want I should get a new crew?”

    3. Elbe*

      Also, in what world is “I’m uncomfortable with that” not a no?

      In this world, for sure. I seriously doubt that he genuinely thought it wasn’t a no. I think it’s much more likely that he was just trying to pressure her in front of the whole meeting.

      But, even taking him at his word, it’s absolutely ridiculous that this guy thinks that he can just assign her (a Director! a peer!) work that she’s stated she’s not comfortable doing, and is not part of her job. There’s no legitimate reason that he should think that he’s entitled to assign her work at all, let alone work that she doesn’t want. Even his excuse makes him sound sexist.

  13. curlykat*

    I love that you addressed this as it happened on the Zoom meeting so that his project managers will (hopefully) not make the same sexist assumption in the future!

  14. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    “My project managers do not have your ability to listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing.”

    I can smell the poo fumes coming off this BS from miles away. Good on you for standing your ground on this.

    1. Meghan R*

      It always reminds me of the terrible boyfriends that wont do the dishes/laundry/etc because their girlfriend is just “better at it anyways.” Ugh. Train your team better, man!

    2. Sara without an H*

      Type “how to take notes” into your favorite search engine and you’ll get multiple screens of results.

      BS, indeed. Ripe, odiferous BS.

  15. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    In addition to what was already said, a man who believes that “I’m not comfortable with it” means “yes” is not a man I’d want to interact with in any capacity, professional or personal.

    1. Blue Moon*

      Agreed. He hears “I’m not comfortable” as “Keep trying to convince me to change my mind” and it’s a very worrying mindset.

    2. Goldenrod*

      Also, I love when he said “I do things I’m not comfortable with all the time.”

      Apparently this does NOT include respecting a woman’s boundaries when they are clearly and firmly drawn.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        That part pissed me off royally. It was basically saying that she’s not as badass as him.

        We can all see that clearly she is completely out of his league.

        1. Observer*

          Yup. She’s in the Major’s and he’s so far down in the PeeWee league that he doesn’t even realize it.

    3. Be kind, rewind*

      That was the part that really made me see red. He totally flipped it around and tried to make it sound like she was being difficult. Classic manipulation move.

    4. Chilipepper Attitude*

      My first comment on this got lost. I hate the language of “I’m not comfortable.” I see it in customer service, in SA convos, and here. People say, “I’m not comfortable with that behavior” when they really mean, “stop it now!” or “f*off” and more.

      And the offender hears, “I’m not comfortable” and thinks, great, that is what I wanted! Or at best thinks, “I don’t care.”

    5. Elbe*

      Yes, this is a great point. It falls into a broader pattern of sexism.

      “I didn’t understand when you told me no.” is an excuse that a lot of men use for a lot of different things, and it’s mostly BS. They know. They’re just deciding not to take the answer as the “final” answer, because it’s not the answer they feel entitled to.

      There’s a really excellent article called “The Myth of the Male Bumbler” that explains this dynamic so well!

  16. Pocket Mouse*

    Bravo! I think you handled it beautifully. The only change I might make (and this is really a “might”) is to loop in the CEO that he made the request at all, and give a heads up that you plan to stand firm on your refusal for exactly the reasons you gave your peer. Aside from the obvious issues, the Director of Construction not managing/developing his team in this way is something the CEO has standing to manage/coach the Director of Construction on, and the CEO would have been in a better position to recognize the retaliation for what it was as it occurred.

    1. Goldenrod*

      This is a good point – but I also love that she was just handling it herself and was powerful enough to do that all on her own (and trusted her CEO to have her back, which they clearly did).

  17. Too Many Birds*

    Thank you, on behalf of all the women out there who have dealt with this horseshit. And thank God you have a reasonable CEO who can’t be manipulated into punishing you for saying what needed to be said.

    1. Veryanon*

      Exactly. I work in HR, which tends to be female-dominated anyway, and we often have to work extra hard to make execs understand that we aren’t party planners or paper pushers. In a past job, my (female) Sr VP of HR told me that I needed to raise my visibility with the execs (which I didn’t have to do, they all knew and respected me) and suggested that a great way for me to do that was to plan employee events. I left that job shortly thereafter and have made it very clear in every place I’ve worked since then that my job description doesn’t include planning parties. Sometimes you just have to draw that line in the sand.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “and suggested that a great way for me to do that was to plan employee events.”

        OMG, so true! At my last job (unsurprisingly, also in HR), I was expected to be the default party planner. Buying party supplies, food, decorating – I hated it all! I already had a job to do. So happy to have left!! My new job doesn’t assume that I’m some kind of concierge.

      2. Gnome*

        no in HR, but when I was a very junior employee in an office, my boss invited me to help plan a party/event… I told him that I’m always happy to help, but I am terrible at that sort of thing, which is why I went into something technical. Never got asked again.

        it helped that it’s entirely accurate, so I wasn’t thinking all the thoughts about sexism, etc. more “you want there to be food, then don’t ask me because I’ll forget stuff like that”

  18. Veryanon*

    OP is my new hero. I’m so glad she stood her ground, especially when he tried to blindside her in the meeting by announcing the exact opposite of what they’d agreed to.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I’m still flabbergasted she’s still employed and managed to survive him trying to get her fired for this. I can’t even imagine.

  19. itsame*

    If I were a PM on his team I’d be mighty offended my boss was publicly announcing I’m bad at a pretty integral part of my job…

  20. Delphine*

    Where do men get the gall? And to suggest that he didn’t know that “I’m not comfortable doing that” is the same thing as “no”? He’s really telling on himself there.

  21. Jesshereforthecomments*

    I would bet 1 million dollars (that I don’t have) that he would never ask a peer director to do that if his peer was a man. Never ever ever.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Aha! But what if that male peer director… was someone who could listen?!! In a meeting? What if the guy could take notes? What if he could run the meeting in an efficient manner?

      Those apparently being incredibly rare and highly valued skills that no one in his whole department has, himself included.

  22. CatCat*

    My project managers do not have your ability to listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing.

    Right… so fix that problem. They’re YOUR team. Unbelievable.

    OP, you are a hero. Thank you for calling it out and shutting it down.

  23. Goldenrod*

    OMG, you KILLED it. Everything about that was perfect – your original response, your follow-up response, your refusal to back down, the fact that you spelled it out clearly and named the sexism out loud, and that you CYA and refused to be intimidated.

    What I can’t get over is how many times this guy tried it on. Give it up, loser!

    Your response modelled leadership, class, and strength. That guy is not at your level. He’ll definitely think again next time. I’m glad he is scared of you!

    As someone who has often – OFTEN – been expected to be the office maid/servant/mama, this letter was very gratifying!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      But if you expect to have an ongoing relationship with someone, often just baldly stating “no” and not elaborating doesn’t work for either short term or long term goals.

      It’s fine for that stranger at the bus stop, or the conspiracy-ladled cousin you’d be delighted to have never speak to you again. Not for every person in your life.

      1. Ilima*

        His ask is so unreasonable and over the line. If he expects to maintain a relationship with his coworker he can do the work of fixing it. This would be a simple no for me.

          1. Gnome*

            A No without more words may come off as unprofessional. obviously this guy warrants it, but then he could spin-master it into “OP just refused to take notes when I asked” because he has no context. OPs response is perfect because it has that CYA built in

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    How many people laughed out loud at his email? It was fortunate I had already swallowed my tea.

    My project managers do not have your ability to listen (or) take accurate notes.
    Really. That is an incredibly low bar your project managers can’t manage to slither over.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      “If you’d like, I can teach you this skill. Then you can mentor your employees effectively.”

      1. Raine Wynd*

        With a guy like that, I wouldn’t even go there. He’d gaslight the opportunity in some way. I wouldn’t trust him not to be weasel.

  25. Crystal Warner*

    “…listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing” are the exact job requirements of a project manager. So his PMs can’t do the job they were hired for?

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Does kind of explain why the construction division would need all the support it can get, doesn’t it?

    2. Dinwar*

      They’re also bad at managing their own teams if they use this as an excuse. If I knew I was bad at note taking, I’d invite a junior staff member to the meetings. Have them take notes as an exercise in learning what’s important at the PM level. You get to brag about growing junior staff in your annual review, they get to brag about working to take the next step, and if the notes suck you have someone to take the blame.

      I would expect anyone who calls themselves a PM to be able to think up a solution like that. It’s easy, makes you look good, helps out your staff, and covers your rear end.

  26. I should really pick a name*

    The absolute gall to tell everyone in the meeting that you were going to take notes.

    He must have figured you would find it too awkward to correct him.
    I’m so glad he was wrong.

  27. Generic Name*

    No wonder this guy is slightly afraid of you. You called him out on his bullshit in front of others and didn’t back down. He’s obviously used to manipulating and outright bullying to get his way and you stood up to that. Bravo.

    1. Aerin*

      My thought on seeing “he’s slightly afraid of me now” is GOOD. The kind of person who tries to assert unearned power is absolutely terrified whenever they discover that their usual BS has no effect. This is a successful outcome.

  28. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Am I the only one who wants to hear about his shenanigans to try to get her in trouble, how she foiled him, and why he is now scared?

    1. Antilles*

      Off the cuff, I’d guess that he had a project that went badly and tried to shift blame to OP because all evidence is that he’s a crappy PM himself.

      For example: There’s a project that’s a month behind schedule. He tries to tell CEO that it’s because OP didn’t provide her architectural drawings on time. But OP has documented previous conversations where she said they needed his input on X by July 1st to complete the drawings on schedule but he didn’t provide the information until mid-August, thereby causing the delay in OP’s drawings.

      So he comes out of that situation looking like an idiot who wasn’t on top of things. Rinse and repeat a couple times, now he’s learned not to screw around with these sorts of power plays because OP keeps receipts.

    2. SexistCoworkerOP*

      Hi! I am the OP. He did several things. The one that bothered me the most was that he mansplained to me how to talk to the building department for a specific project on an email with the CEO cc’d. He was trying to expedite getting a building permit where there was really no way to expedite it. I told him his suggestions were a really bad idea and would serve to alienate the building department and likely cause greater scrutiny on the part of the inspectors when they were overseeing the construction (all of this was said in person and documented over email). Eventually he told the CEO that he was going to take his desired path forward because I was not performing and went behind my back, scheduled a meeting with the building department and agreed to some things willy nilly. He then instructed me on how to change the drawings. At this point because he had the sign off from the CEO and all of this was over email I went ahead and did as requested. Cue months of additional delays on the project due to inspectors forcing them to rip out work, the building department disagreeing on what was agreed to in the meeting that was held behind my back and the CEO pissed off from all the delays. He tried to blame everything on me and all I did was forward the email chain where I had accurately predicted what would happen and recommended against that course of action. It was very satisfying. In addition to that he would do petty things like schedule early morning meetings and have no one from the construction department show up (they are east coast time and I am central time) which I would document and send out an email about cc’ing the CEO which stopped that quickly. Or try to blame me for delays that were ultimately his fault that I had documented. And once he tried to micromanage how I was tracking my work which I just shut down because the CEO and I had agreed on a system and it was none of his business.

      Oh and once he instructed me to change the floor plans for our new cooperate office that I had designed together with the CEO. He said he had talked to the CEO about it and they both agreed that the design was awful. He even had sketched out how he thought it should be laid out. I was pretty surprised since it was the exact opposite of what I had discussed with the CEO and gotten a building permit for. So I went directly to the CEO and asked why he changed his mind and the CEO had no idea what I was talking about and apparently gave the DOC a huge dressing down for trying to waste my time like that. I don’t know what he thought he was going to accomplish there – that was just dumb in my opinion.

      1. Verthandi*

        Wow! Thanks for the updates (this one and others). That’s a lot of wasted time and money that could have ended up in your company’s bottom line instead.

        Though I’m glad he got a dressing down, that sounds exhausting. It definitely shows the benefits of documenting all this crap.

        1. SexistCoworkerOP*

          Yeah it really was exhausting. For me and the people working for him. Once I shut him down directly a few times he actually would sometimes dictate emails to his project managers that implied that I was not doing my job with the CEO cc’d. His project managers would call me prior to sending these emails and would tell me that they were directed to send them by the Director of Construction. They would apologize and say it wasn’t their idea and would ask if I wanted them to change any of the language to make sure I didn’t get in trouble. I’m guessing they liked me more than they liked him. I always told them to send it as drafted (as long as they wanted to since it wouldn’t amount to anything – nothing they sent ever ended up reflecting poorly on me – I would usually just be able to attach an old email showing I had already handled whatever the topic of the day was). I always felt bad for the PMs though. It was like the 3rd or 4th time that he tried this tactic that he finally gave up attempting to mess with me since it was making his whole department look incompetent.

  29. Joanna*

    LW, you are my hero. Brilliantly done.

    I’m baffled that a director was so willing to tell another director that his program managers can’t do their job.

  30. Someone Else's Boss*

    It is appalling to ask someone who doesn’t report to you to take on a task because your team does poorly at it. Train them. Coach them. Develop them. Also, talk about sexist. Telling women you’re asking them to do something because they’re better at it is sexist in and of itself. He may not literally think “Ah, Emily’s a woman, let’s ask her!” but he is identifying that the woman is capable, the men are not, and then asking the woman to pick up the slack instead of teaching the men. It’s the same reason that people say boys are easier to raise than girls – they don’t bother to do the work, so of course its easier.

    1. Elbe*

      then asking the woman to pick up the slack instead of teaching the men.

      Agreed. In his mind, it’s her fault for not taking on extra work outside of her job description, not his fault for failing to have a properly trained, competent team.

        1. Raine Wynd*

          Because he’s bought into the notion that he’s above that somehow? Which is utter b.s. He’s the director of construction, which means he’s got experience in a field where having documentation is critical to the success or failure of the project.

  31. 404_FoxNotFound*

    Slow clap to you, OP, that was really well handled and an absolute pleasure as someone who has been in similar “you’ll take notes, riiiiight?” situations.
    Well done.

  32. lapis*

    I love the way you handled it!

    In one of my very early office jobs, I was invited to a meeting with my boss, her peers, and the CEO (it was a small office). I was there because I was the copywriter for the organization and they wanted me to understand the vision, but I was the only non-manager there, and my boss and I were the only women.

    When the meeting started, the CEO said to my boss, “You’ll take the notes?” She said yes, and I immediately chimed in, sarcastically, “Cuz you’re a girl!”

    No one responded, and she looked at me with what I decided to interpret as amusement, and the meeting moved on. I do hope all the dudes remembered my comment in the future, though.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Nah, it goes with the sarcasm. The incongruity of calling one’s own boss a girl underlines the point. She’s not actually calling her a girl, she’s saying the others are.

          It’s pretty brazen, but if you have the major capital to spend… I’d be amused.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “I immediately chimed in, sarcastically, “Cuz you’re a girl!””

      Bwaahahahhaha, I LOVE THIS! Well done.

  33. sharrpie*

    “My project managers aren’t thorough and can’t learn basic tasks so you’re just gonna pick up their slack because I said so.”

    “Sure. And you can start bringing me coffee and a donut every morning. Black. I like glazed. Get a blueberry muffin on Fridays. Toasted. Should I write this down for you?”

  34. Observer*

    You are my hero!

    Your email was perfect. To the point, sufficiently respectful and totally professional.

    It does sound like your workplace is not great, but not terrible. Not terrible because having the documentation enabled you to avoid negative repercussions. But not great, because it should not have been an issue.

  35. Dr. Doll*

    Oh my goodness, this is a perfect 10, stellar, outstanding, amazing, the Best Response Ever to Everything. I bow to you and now consider you a mentor, OP! Tell us more about your CYA strategies, too.

    That guy needs to be in three parts because he is All Gall.

    He SHOULD be scared of you.

  36. zolk*

    One time the IT manager I (female) worked with asked me to photocopy ~300 pages of documents for him because “it’s hard and you know the machine so much better than me.”

    I worked in comms and did not report to him or have anything to do with his work.

    I told him “Wow, if you can’t work the photocopier, maybe you shouldn’t be an IT Manager!” and walked away. He did his own photocopying after that and never asked me a dumb question like that again.

  37. Pink Marbles*

    As many others have pointed out, his reasoning is ridiculous. If he has PMs that can’t listen well enough to take decent notes… that’s solidly his problem. It’s bizarre to ask another director to take notes for your team, be told she will not, and then try to bully/guilt her into it anyway.

    Also very weird to say “The construction division needs as much support as it can get right now,” as if your workload and your team could not possibly also have a boatload of work.

    Good for you, OP.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      If PM’s cant take successfully notes then they certainly can’t manage a project. He should be very very concerned if thats the case.

      But we all know its not :)

      1. Pink Marbles*

        Exactly. The youngest, most junior staff members at my org can take effective notes… so I would find it hard to believe that his PMs can’t.

        But like you said, we all know that’s not the case :)

  38. Is OP Hiring?*

    As a woman in construction, I’m filled with joy at OP’s letter. Is she hiring?

    My owm story about assumptions of duties in construction:
    When I was entry level Construction PM, we moved from a small office trailer to a larger not-built-out space on site. When in the small trailer, I sat in the common area, only because there was no place else to sit. When we moved into the larger space, I was sat front-and-center because “well you’re the girl and you answer the phone and handle all deliveries.” Yeah I do that because I’m the FNG not because of my gender. I moved into an office space after I talked to the mover’s boss.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      ::snort:: Similar story…

      Small trailer – I had an office with a door (because my mentor was a rockstart and knew what I was up against) because I needed to be able to shut it for meetings and the like. But apparently I was “the girl so I was HR” which means I spent Mondays saying “nope, don’t know, can’t help you, call ActualHRMgr in the office because I don’t even know how to fill out my own W-4 kthankx”.

      Larger unbuilt out space from trailer – I claimed the back corner for my own cubbyhole. The number of delivery drivers who would stalk the office looking for me….and the kicker? I wasn’t supposed to sign for any of it.

  39. Bubba*

    HAHAHAHA at “skill set.” I have been called an expert at making coffee, doing dishes, taking notes, filing, changing toner, and my favorite, the “FedExpert,” and received incredulous looks when I replied that I found it insulting that I would be flattered to be told I was the best at such menial tasks. Once I replied with “did you just not feel like doing something and look around for someone with tits?” (I was young and not very professional, and horribly insulted by the constant stream of shit work I was getting because I was an “expert.”)

    And this is why I have an MBA but don’t work in finance.

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      This is what I want to say whenever I get hired for a decade of experience with, like, Excel and project support, and then they (surprise!) want me to clean the kitchen.

      Cleaning is a skill. That skill does not live in boob fat, and it is not a skill I possess. If you saw my home, you would not trust anything I had cleaned.

      Spreadsheet hygiene: yes. Fridge hygiene: let’s not talk about it.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Flashback to all those group projects where I was expected to write on the poster/flipboard/whiteboard/whatever because… tits help with that, apparently. I refuse, because if you want it to be legible, I’m not the one you want to do it. My tits are disappointingly unhelpful with my penmanship.

  40. Chilipepper Attitude*

    He heard, “I’m not comfortable so I’m not doing it” and turned it into, “I’m not comfortable but I’ll do it.”

    This is why I don’t like the language of “comfort” – I see it here and I see it in customer service training and I see it in spots where people are addressing sexual harassment.

    Why do we say, “that is making me uncomfortable” when we want someone to stop? I think they like that it makes us uncomfortable or just don’t care. And we often don’t mean we are uncomfortable, we mean something much stronger, “I’m appalled, I’m angry as hell,” etc.

    1. Raine Wynd*

      Because we’re conditioned to soften our language to make other people feel better? “Don’t be so blunt; you’ll upset someone.” Which doesn’t help when you’re truly upset/insulted/emotional about a situation. Managing other people’s feelings should not be my problem to solve.

    2. CM*

      I like “I’m not comfortable” because if someone hears that and persists, it clearly shows they are disregarding your comfort.

      You’re right that it doesn’t stop harassers, but it puts them on notice that what they are doing is harassment. “I’m not comfortable” can come before stronger statements like “You need to stop right now.” It’s an escalation path.

  41. KN*

    This guy deserved every word of what you said! I think it’s fantastic you called him out on it.

    Regarding the initial response — I agree with other commenters that it wasn’t rude or uncalled for to take a “hard approach” off the bat, and his request was so out of line that I can see why you used it. Since you asked, though, I do think it’s possible that your approach opened the door to pushback that might not have happened if you’d kept it to a straight “no.” Like, in this guy’s head, I can imagine it went:

    Guy: Can you do this?
    OP: No, and you’re asking for sexist reasons
    Guy: Well I’m NOT asking for sexist reasons, so you’re wrong, and therefore it’s still up for discussion

    To be clear, the guy was TOTALLY asking for sexist reasons. But assigning motives to other people is tricky because they can always claim that’s not what was happening in their head–which isn’t something you can ever prove to their satisfaction. There’s definitely still value in calling people out on their (obvious) biases, but personally I wouldn’t want to bother with the potential escalation if it could be shut down without it. If he escalated it anyhow, though, then I’d call it out.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      It wouldn’t have mattered. Had she stopped at no, he still would have argued I guarantee it.

      No one who is being a sexist jerk is ever going to be like yep – totally that’s me. They will always deny it. They will always have a reason. They will always try to weaponize it.

      Calling it what it is matters – it lets them know you see them for what they are. It lets others know you see it for what it is.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “I assumed you just said no because you were on your period or something and it would be fine now”

    2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      On the other hand, sometimes in the workplace hearing the sexism part sometimes shuts them up.

      It’s never too late to drop a simple end-of-story “No.”

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      So, the way to not make it about what is in his head, “No, and asking the only woman in the meeting to do this will look sexist, even more so when she is a peer and you have subordinates in the same meeting.”

      So, not saying he’s asking for sexist reasons, just that it looks like sexism, whatever he thinks his reasons are.

      1. CM*

        I prefer the OP’s approach. It’s direct and doesn’t absolve him of responsibility. I think the subsequent events (“but I thought you were going to do it anyway”) would have happened either way.

  42. Sadie*

    I know everyone is saying a version of this, or at least I hope so. But I love you, OP, you are making things better for us by clearly and professionally NOT TAKING THIS BULLSHIT.

  43. Jessica Fletcher*

    I’m glad LW named it as sexism, even though there was a risk. That put it in the construction manager’s head, and may have deterred him from finding another woman to do it.

  44. Michelle Smith*

    I literally teared up at how beautiful OP’s responses were. This is the backbone I aspire to have. Well done.

  45. Adequate Archaeologist*

    The gall of this man to ask a director, a woman who is 100% his equal, to do his note taking is just…mind blowing. Maybe it’s because I’m not a director or a sexist asshole, but I cannot fathom asking a director to attend a meeting totally unrelated to their own work purely to take notes.

    1. Tau*

      I know, right?? The mind boggles! This was just so out of line that I wouldn’t have blamed OP if her reaction had been to blink at the guy in confusion, pinch herself and then go “how weird, why am I not waking up?”

  46. Organized Curiosity*

    LW, Your coworker is an ass. You, on the other hand, are the stuff from which stars are made! Along with all the accolades that commenters are posting above, I’d also like to say — your actions and words in the Zoom meeting not only put your peer in his place, they also set an example for others in the organization. I hate that we *still* need examples of how to effectively shut down sexism in the workplace, but here we are…. Nevertheless, I can imagine being in that meeting and thinking “That’s how to be a good leader. How can I get on HER team?”.

  47. Fluffy Fish*

    I’m am a huge proponent of whatever the opposite of the soft approach is.

    A factual non emotional statement addressing the problem shouldn’t bother someone who isn’t guilty of doing exactly what is being said.

    Calling things what they are is how this stuff stops.

    He was going to argue no matter what she said, because he wanted her to take his notes. Someone who thinks its appropriate to assign work to a peer? A director level peer?

    He knew what he was doing. He knew it was sexist. He just thought he could get away with it. The old “I’m not sexist, I didn’t mean that way.”

    He did and she was right to call it out.

  48. Adalind*

    I love this! Thank you so much for sharing. It gives me some courage to push back on things that seem to always fall on me because I’m the woman when it should be my junior colleague (who is male).

  49. Marvel*

    I am typically a big proponent of softening language when you can, and it’s something I do a lot myself, probably more than I should. But even I would have given a fairly blunt response here. The request itself was gross, the doubling down and putting you on the spot was even grosser, and if women standing up for themselves and their work is something he finds intimidating… here’s the world’s tiniest violin.

    He needs to put on his big boy pants and move on. After all, he “does things he’s uncomfortable with every day,” right? Should be easy for a man apparently possessed of such flawless resilience to let this one roll off his back.

    I kid, of course, because we all know men like this are the most fragile people in the known universe. Also, why doesn’t HE take notes for his project managers if he doesn’t like the way they do it?

  50. Potatoes for all!*

    Thank you OP! Sounds like you rocked this, and as a woman in a “always the only in the room” company, this gives me courage to keep fighting the fight (exhausting as it is)

  51. Lifelong*

    Many years ago I was on a panel of “community leaders” asked to participate in a civic decision on something about siting a facility. I was one of the only, if not the only female there. They asked for someone to volunteer to take notes. I did not volunteer- but everyone looked at me. Eventually, someone else was either tapped or volunteered. I was offended at being expected to volunteer.

  52. Lizard*

    Good on the OP! You rock.

    Also, WTF on that guy for selling his own PMs short… if they seriously lack the skillset to take notes on items relevant for their projects, then they shouldn’t be PMs. Full stop.

  53. Deborah*

    You are my new hero. The suggestion that note-taking be designated to a JUNIOR project manager was just **chef’s kiss**.

  54. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    Would be so tempting to have replied,

    “Thanks so much for putting this in writing. I’m sure I’ll tell this story for years to come, and without this email people wouldn’t believe it was truly that absurd.”

    Or yknow, just:


    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I love how he says he does stuff he is uncomfortable with all the time. Ummm, dude, if you are engaging in this behavior right here, you are way too comfortable doing things that would make a decent and ethical person seriously uncomfortable!

  55. Robin Ellacott*

    Ah yes, the “you’re just better at it!” reasoning, when applied to gendered work.

    Good for you for being firm and teaching him a lesson which could actually really help him.

  56. Trawna*

    As someone currently having their home renovated while female, this post truly resonates for me.

    If I hear “you don’t want that” or “you’ll never notice” one more time.

    1. Dinwar*

      We had a contractor try that at our place. They tried to charge us for remobilizing when they forgot stuff, for ordering extra when it was within their scope, everything. They got sick of me pulling out the contract and saying “Right here it says you’ll do this.” They started pestering my wife. She just pointed to the contract and said “It says right here you’ll do this.” They didn’t realize that my wife worked in the same field as I do, and knew how to read a contract as well!

    2. Secret Squirrel*

      That has just reminded me of having our house rewired a couple of years ago. Luckily filtered out at the quotes stage, I knew exactly where I wanted switches, outlets, etc all through the house, why I wanted them and why I’d discounted other options. I had both a diagram of both floors with numbers and locations marked on along with a written description of the same. Walked one man through to quote, him making suggestions (totally fine), me answering with why I’d thought about that all ready and it wasn’t what I wanted, what was on the plan was what I wanted. The quote came through and it was both twice as expensive as the other people I’d had quote and ignored my plan entirely and put in what he had decided we should have and where, which was a lot less outlets, less than half! So glad he was out there about showing how bad he was to work with.

  57. Anomie*

    I’m a woman. Not sure if I would have initially went with the sexism allegations. I take very good notes during meetings and I’m a professional, not an assistant. Sometimes I’m asked if I will note- take. He may genuinely have been impressed with your intelligence. I think initially there are ways to say a firm no without accusations. Jmo.

    1. Panhandlerann*

      Impressed with her intelligence? His little stunt at the meeting tells me that wasn’t his thinking.

    2. Atalanta0jess*

      But….but….do you find that senior staff are typically tapped to provide a support role to those who are junior to them? Because they’re good at it?

    3. Dinwar*

      The first time, sure. Sometimes you’ve gotta pull a random warm body into a meeting and you’re not really thinking about who it is as long as they know which end of a pencil goes on the paper.

      After she’d explained she’s not comfortable with what’s happening? No. Absolutely not. And ambushing her in a meeting shows contempt for her courage, convictions, and intelligence–it’s saying “I bet if I put her on the spot she’ll buckle.” It’s a favorite tactic of some folks I know, and they never use it on someone they respect; any person they respect won’t fall for it.

      I work with a number of women who’s intelligence I deeply respect. I don’t ask them to take notes in meetings. I ask them to RUN meetings, and to figure out what needs discussed in meetings. In other words, I put their intelligence to work for me. I’m PM, after all; if the meeting goes well and the project saves money it’s to my benefit.

      Asking a Director to take notes is like asking a professional opera singer to sing at your kid’s birthday party. It’s a waste of resources, and typically shows you drastically under-value their services.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This. They could have hired a temp for the day and had them take notes for this one meeting, and it would still have cost less than LW’s time for just the meeting.

        This is the kind of thing that gets my wife talking about how most corporations’ purpose is to create and enforce hierarchy.

    4. LutherstadtWittenberg*

      You don’t ask the director of another department to take notes for your meetings. Your own project managers should be competent at that task. It’s a statement of sexism; it’s not an accusation without basis in fact.

    5. Observer*

      He may genuinely have been impressed with your intelligence. I think initially there are ways to say a firm no without accusations.

      Did you actually read what the OP wrote, and his email? In the initial conversation, the OP did not actually make any accusations. And even if the OP had reason to think that he was just smitten with her intelligence, she was still right to refuse, and it was out of line for him to ask.

      But even if it were ok, what happened next was sooo out of line, that none of this can be put on the OP. Because his next step was to ignore her refusal and (b>try to embarrass her into going along with it. Trying to claim that this was a good faith action based on reasonable motivations is so bizarre, that I’m questioning the good faith of the comment.

      As for his email followup, do you really expect anyone to really buy that there is any possibility of good faith there. Whether or not she was “nice enough” she was clear that she was NOT going to do it. His reasoning for STILL trying to pressure her – A PEER – into doing the work of his PMs and admin assistants is far beyond the line that it’s the proverbial dot in the distance.

      If you actually manage anyone, PLEASE do not encourage this kind of toxicity. And please do NOT penalize – or even side eye – someone who won’t go along with sexist behavior, and even people who actually call it out.

    6. Verthandi*

      If he were truly impressed with her skills and intelligence, he’d be asking her to take on tasks that come with career benefits for her as opposed to the less appealing parts of his job so he doesn’t have to do them. Somehow I doubt that he ever did or ever would.

      Naaaah. This is just garden-variety sexist behavior and the OP was right to call it out. If it clucks like a chicken, it’s most likely not a swan.

      Business books have been onto this one for decades.

  58. toolittletoolate*

    Your position as a Director gave you standing to call this out in the way you did. Your actions supported many other women who may not have had the standing or the job security to be as bold and direct as you were. I’m glad you did this.

  59. OyHiOh*

    The director of construction shot himself in the foot when he described the OP’s “skill set” in consideration for asking her to take notes. “Skill set” implies (at least in my mind) “things which can be taught.” So find a course for your PM’s to take, or actively coach them yourself on *how* to take notes and manage meetings and you won’t have to drag the “office girl” in to do it for you.

  60. On the Sidelines*

    Haven’t yet waded through all the comments, but aside from agreeing with your approach, why couldn’t the PM bring an admin to takes notes?

  61. Mr. Shark*

    This whole response was great, but was still a soft “no”.

    The correct response would’ve have just been, “No, I’m not your note taker. It’s not my job.” End of story. The fact the LW explained that much was the soft approach. It’s awesome that she stood up for herself, but she never should have had to. The other Director is an idiot and sexist jerk, to put it mildly.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*


      It’s not my job and it’s not okay that you asked me. I’m resentful that you did.

      Walk away.

    2. CM*

      I don’t think the LW’s “no” was soft at all. She said no, explained why, and also called him out for being sexist. “It’s not my job” is typically not an appropriate thing to say at work with no explanation, especially if you are likely to be perceived as uncooperative generally.

  62. To Direct or Not, that is the question*

    Hey OP, don’t forget that you were in the PERFECT position and standing to completely call it what it is. If he asked that of someone lower ranking, she probably wouldn’t have been comfortable calling it out and rejecting the request, TWICE. It’s much easier to tell a peer they’re being sexist than it is to tell someone higher ranking.

    So thank you, on behalf of other women.

  63. Critical Rolls*

    The AUDACITY. It’s really the ambush in the meeting that gets me on this one, and I’m thrilled OP was able to push back on the spot, in front of the PMs, so everyone knew what was what going forward. I do kinda wish she’d looped the CEO in, if he’s decent he’d want to know and it would have given important context to the subsequent misdeeds. But 10/10 for poise, accuracy, scathingness, and receipt-keeping.

    1. OneWayValve*

      I’d be willing to bet that the CEO heard about the whole exchange through the grapevine. Probably within 20 minutes of the conversation.

  64. Hrodvitnir*

    OP is incredible. ❤ I think it is interesting Alison suggested they *could* have taken a softer approach, because my main thought is that

    “I kindly explained that I wasn’t comfortable doing that due to my workload and the fact that there were some deep sexist implications about asking the only woman in upper management at the company to be the designated note taker for employees in a different department. I thought we were on the same page and all was good.”

    may have been better even firmer – “I will not be doing that as it is not an appropriate use of my time. [continue to commentary re: sexism]”

    That said, I’m not in the running for any director roles, haha.

  65. Iconic Bloomingdale*

    Direct communication leads to direct understanding.

    Good for you! You went about this the right way and called out the egregious behavior for what it was.

  66. Green Goose*

    Not exactly the same thing, but something that I wish I had called out at the time. I worked at a catering company years ago that catered for a large event space on the flagship college campus. There were multiple conference rooms, and they had a couple of events every week. We could do simple catering with drinks and snacks or full sit down meals, it just depended. One day the largest conference room was having an event and we needed to refill water and lemonade and bring a huge rolling tray table with finger food to the room. It was an old building so the lobby right next to the room was cobblestone. The tray, which was manned by my two, tall male colleagues was making a lot of noise on the cobblestone but there wasn’t much they could do about it. I was quietly pouring water and lemonade into glasses off to the side.
    A man angrily flew out of the conference room due to the noise and saw my two male colleagues who were making said loud noise, and then saw me off to the side not making noise. He stomped over to me and started yelling in my face about the noise. I just froze while he yelled and then stormed back into the conference room. I was so mad, and that he had clearly made the decision to yell at the woman by herself instead of the two guys making all the noise. I wish I had called him out at the time.

    1. Boof*

      That is some real BS. It’s kind of how I cringe whenever the internet vomits up a viral videos showing a man “punishing” a random women for some kind of low key social contract violation (ie, parking wrong) – can’t help but wonder if they would be so bold if it was a tough-looking man instead of a middle aged woman.

      1. Verthandi*

        Same! The amount of glee in these petty revenge stories is disturbing. I called out a coworker who was telling me his own petty revenge story by asking him whether he’d have done the same to someone built like Conan the Barbarian. To his credit, he said he hadn’t thought about that.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      What the f***?! This guy was [insert rude stuff that probably violates the comment rules]. I’m sorry you had to deal with that nonsense. I totally understand why you didn’t call him out at the time; it was shocking and unexpected and the power dynamic was very much not in your favour.

  67. Jules the First*

    Many many moons ago, as a young woman starting out in architecture, I was given a few basic rules for success by some of the older and wiser women in the practice I was working at:
    – never wear a white top and black bottoms. People will assume you are staff, not studio.
    – never pour coffee. All the men in the meeting are equally capable of pouring coffee and none of them will take a status hit for doing so.
    – never be seen to take notes, or everyone will assume you will minute every meeting from now on as a matter of course.

    To these rules, I add wisdom from my first boss – if you cannot get out of a task that you should not (or do not wish to) be performing, be obviously terrible at it – and my own experience: buy your own site boots and hi vis that fit. Nothing undermines your authority on site quite like having to hop back to collect your too-big contractor-supplied site boot from a patch of mud…

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      That our safety manager took the extra five minutes to order me a hi-vis that actually fits me meant the world, believe it or not.

  68. slashgirl*

    The first school I worked at in this board, we had staff meetings about every two weeks. The school secretary couldn’t attend as she had to be by the phone (staff meetings started shortly after the buses left and if there were any issues, she had to be there). So staff members were often asked to take minutes and give them to her to type up. The principal usually asked for volunteers and I don’t mind doing that sort of thing, so I did it.

    The next day I let the secretary know I had the notes (I’d tidied them up so they made sense)–she asked if I could type them up for her she was soooo busy. I’m new and nice so I said sure. I was kinda “it’s not my job” but figured I needed to be a team player. It happened a couple more times when I took notes (pretty sure she never asked the teachers, I was and am an LT); I’d take them to her and she’d ask me to type them up but never in earshot of the principal.

    So, the next time the principal asked me to take notes? I asked, oh, so innocently, “Do I have to type the minutes up again, too?” He gave me a considering look–I’m thinking he put two and two together to get four–and said, “No, that’s the secretary’s job.”

    I never did type the minutes for staff meetings at that school again.

  69. Arya Parya*

    My first job out of college in an IT department was pretty much sexism free, I think because of the female manager. She had no tolerance for it. She also took the notes at our team meetings.

    When she left, we got a male manager. I was now the only woman on the team and also the youngest. He rotated the note taking, so everyone got to do it every so many weeks. Which is fair, no problem with that.

    Then the oldest guy on the team came to me half joking, half serious, telling me how good I was at note taking and maybe I should do it every meeting. I told him that since I was so good at it, I had nothing left to learn and he obviously could use some more practical, so maybe he should take notes more often. Never was asked again. I hope my old manager was proud.

  70. Kate*

    “I do things I’m not comfortable with all the time” uhhh, I’m not sure how he interpreted what you said as “this is outside my comfort zone, keep encouraging me”. When someone says “I’m not comfortable with that” I thought it was pretty universally understood as “I don’t want to do that”, with the implication that they were overstepping in asking. Either he has zero emotional intelligence, or he was being deliberately obtuse to try to manipulate you. Sure, it was a bit of a softer no, but still could have been clearly understood, unless he deliberately didn’t want to.

    1. Jasmine Clark*

      It was so manipulative. Saying “I do things I’m uncomfortable with all the time” was meant to make OP seem like she was being cowardly. Like “I’m brave enough to do things I’m not comfortable with. Why aren’t you?” Uggghhh this guy is a jerk.

      1. Chris Hogg*

        Apparently “I do things I’m uncomfortable with all the time” does not include taking notes at his own meetings, ya think?

  71. Jasmine Clark*

    Thank you for standing up for women everywhere. There are so many men out there like this who try to manipulate, pressure, and guilt-trip women. We can learn from your example.

    This guy is so infuriating. He knew you didn’t want to take notes, so his little game of pretending he thought you didn’t refuse to take notes was BS. And it was manipulative and rude to announce in front of a group of people what you were going to do, thinking you’d be too scared and embarrassed to say no. I LOVE the fact that you held your ground and refused. This story is inspirational but it also makes me mad at the same time!

    (And honestly, how hard is it to take notes? Come on… stop being lazy.)

  72. Curmudgeon in California*

    This letter makes me happy. I love it when people successfully push back on sexist BS.

    IMO, either the person running the meeting takes notes, each individual attending takes notes, or it rotates unless there is a literal clerical person who job includes note taking for their boss’s meetings. In most engineering organizations clerical jobs are few and far between, so the organizer is usually stuck with it. OTOH, if they came up with a proper agenda and ran the meeting off of the agenda, they can put their notes on the agenda.

  73. Box of Kittens*

    I’m kind of surprised Alison suggested a softer approach here. I felt like it was polite but appropriately firm, especially given OP said she and this person are peers. And frankly more people, especially at the director level, need to be naming sexist/racist patterns we see in everyday life.

  74. Hillary*

    I’ve been asked many times to take the notes (female, Librarian) mostly by male administrators, or in things like construction project meetings. I actually take reality good notes for myself, almost compulsively. I generally get out of it by offering my handwritten notes immediately at the conclusion of the meeting, saying something like “so would you like to take a photo or scan of my notes for your records?” and watch them realize how illegible my handwriting is. Even I retype a summary for myself since I don’t know what I wrote three days later. I just don’t tell a lot of people that unless I volunteer to take the notes.

  75. Lee*

    This has been a particular concern of mine. I have a young woman on my team who has taken it upon herself to be the team recorder. As a former journalist, she is outstanding. I worry about the optics and setting expectations within the team and among clients.

    1. Santiago*

      I’m hesitant to offer an uninformed opinion – I’m a man – but in my first years of working full time job I always volunteered as notetaker, because it allowed me to contribute while listening to the more senior people problem solve (and I had done transcription work.) Obviously, you know the situation better than internet randos – in that field I was only doing this weekly, and not daily, but food for thought.

    2. Jasmine Clark*

      Maybe she genuinely wants to take notes. It doesn’t seem like anything bad it happening here. If there’s some issue later on where someone expects a different woman to take notes who doesn’t want to, then you can set expectations then. But right now I wouldn’t worry about it.

    3. SJ (they/them)*

      These are sensible things to worry about! Also, taking notes is a skill that can improve with practice, so are your other team members getting opportunities to develop in that way?

      That may be a low-friction way to present the issue, in the event you decide to start rotating the task etc.

      Good luck!

  76. LifeBeforeCorona*

    “But you’re so good at it!” Yeah, I’ve heard that line many times. His staff can learn how to be good at it too.

  77. Industry trend?*

    I’m intrigued by this letter as I also work in the architecture industry in a financial role (I’m salaried and it’s considered a professional role) and I experience blatant sexism like that multiple times a day. I get asked to do more admin work than our AAs in a lot of cases. For others in this industry do you find this to be common?

    1. Raine Wynd*

      It’s common, but usually more so in toxic work environments from what I’ve seen (16 years in AEC). More supportive environments won’t do it.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I’ve found there’s a LOT of layers to it.

        I’ve worked in large, small, family, corporate, specialty, and generalized companies. Most of have been fairly supportive. “Family”, of course, had to be brought into the 21st century, but did so with very little complaint once whatever the issue was brought to light.

        There’s a specialty sub-department that is known for being a den of sexism though. I steer clear because its just so ridiculously ingrained that its going to take a full generation or two retiring at least to straighten it out. Its been the same at all the above mentioned, and it was even the same at a university-related position.

    2. SexistCoworkerOP*

      It is so so common. Every job I have worked at since I started in the profession 15 years ago has had some level of sexist shenanigans. I have been asked to plan parties, plan happy hours, organize non-profit outings, clean out the fridge, told that I am too ambitious, told that I was hired because I’m hot and that is just scratching the surface. I’m so tired of dealing with this nonsense though I will say that it is better now than it was 15 years ago.

  78. Reluctant Manager*

    Yes, you rock.

    However, there’s some gendered softening in the phrasing “I’m not comfortable with” that didn’t serve you well. Same with justifying it by saying how busy you are.

    No, that’s not a workable option.
    Unfortunately, I’m not available to do that.

  79. Susan*

    When I first started at my current firm, a male attorney asked me to bring my laptop to client meetings so that I could type notes.

    I told him I didn’t know how to type. He expressed shock that I’m not a “great typist.” (Note that we are the same age, have comparable years of experience, and I went to a much more prestigious law school…yet he dictates all his letters to an admin bc typing is beneath him.)

    I’ve now been pretending not to know how to type for the last decade. (Actually, I probably type at least 150 words per minute and my first job in a law firm was as a legal secretary.) Problem solved.

  80. Roobarb*

    I think you handled it marvellously. Reading between the lines, you have a lot of capital in your workplace, which meant you could be blunt. What I love about this, is that a more junior/younger/less candid woman worker might not have had the capital to say what you said, and may have ended up taking the notes eg giving in when the Director of Construction said “you only said you’re not comfortable”. Like Alison said, sure there might be repercussions, but thank you as a person with more capital for taking on that burden for those who wouldn’t be able to speak like you did, for whatever reason.

    I hope all of that makes sense. It’s a garbled stream of consciousness, but I wanted you OP to know how appreciated this is as someone who may have been that more junior/younger/less candid woman worker :)

  81. Dennis Feinstein*

    “held a grudge and tried… to get me in trouble with the CEO or make me look bad at my job. He has since given that up since it just ultimately made him look like an idiot”
    I would very much like to hear more about this!

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’ve learned to not doubt the ability of someone to double down on being an arse out of petty spite.

      I wasn’t at all shocked by the comment.

  82. Professional Staff*

    ‘My project managers do not have your ability to listen, take accurate notes, and keep the pace of the meeting flowing.’

    I guffawed at the ‘skill set’ comment. As someone who got assigned to take meeting notes from Day 1 in my first job out of college: it’s just not that hard. It’s also not the job of the note-taker to ‘keep the pace of the meeting flowing’–that’s up to the chair.

    It can be challenging to both take notes on and contribute to a meeting, but it’s a valuable management skill and one you should look for in your team of project managers. If that skill is lacking, you should give your team members lots of opportunities to develop it through hands-on practice in live meetings.

  83. ScruffyInternHerder*

    Well done LW!

    This IS my industry, full disclosure. And this is exactly how you have to handle the sexist BS, both the blatant and subtle. My go to has been “I’m an awfully expensive admin and my current workload doesn’t allow me to add anything” (my role is not administrative in nature, its extremely technical) when I’ve been put in similar situations by people not in my reporting structure. I’ve literally been handed handwritten notes by salesmen and asked to correct and type them up for distribution. Not my department, wasn’t in the meeting, and knowing full well that my own supervisor would go nuclear over this (not at me, at him), I declined and said it was not in my scope of job responsibilities.

    Solidarity and best wishes!

    1. RJ*

      This is my industry as well and I agree. The misogyny is deeply ingrained and it has to be put down and eradicated ASAP.

    2. Observer*

      and knowing full well that my own supervisor would go nuclear over this (not at me, at him), I declined and said it was not in my scope of job responsibilities.

      I’m glad to hear that your boss would have your back.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I have been INCREDIBLY lucky that in this industry, I have had a few consistent mentors who have steered me not just in the correct direction overall, but have pointed out exactly how to navigate the sexist waters. And save one, they’ve been men. The one who would have gone absolutely nuclear is a long running mentor and friend who has no qualms about calling the BS as he sees it because most of the time, he has the most capital in the room (I have plenty, he has more).

        Little things such as “do NOT let anyone know how fast you can type”, “do NOT pull out your notepad during a meeting and take prolific notes because someone is going to assume you’re keeping minutes and you are not unless you’re specifically told to”, “keep field ready clothing in your trunk”, “You’re going to need to show people that you know, they won’t assume you do so review the plans carefully”, practicing an appropriate handshake, etc have all been helpful. Some are very much because of the fact that I’m a woman in a man’s world, and they want me to succeed. Its literally been spelled out for me that way.

        Other things are more non-gender specific (my corner of AEC still has a cocktail heavy culture. Do not attempt to go round for round with more experienced folks. Order a new round with the rest of the boys, and send your previous glass back, even if you’ve only taken a hummingbird sized sip from it.) but definitely help me too.

        I agree RJ, and I do my part in training the newest members of the team as best I’m able and steering them to avoid the misogyny. Unfortunately, its not just the most senior (age and experienced) generation of the org chart, its at least two deep. I tend to kick over a lot of apple carts.

  84. Juniantara*

    I am terrified of a construction firm with PMs that can’t listen, synthesize information, and develop action items. What the heck are those PMs doing if they can’t do one of the fundamental tasks of project management?
    When the customer calls with concerns, do they just hang up after the call and guess?

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      We call them Project Manglers and they’re not uncommon, unfortunately. Some have even passed the PMP certifications I’m sure.

      And typically they’re smart enough to simply state “I’ll look into that for you…” and the concerns get dustbinned.

  85. Lynn Marie*

    “. . . now he treats me incredibly respectfully and is a bit scared of me, I think”

    Nothin’ wrong with that!

  86. Essess*

    You really should have brought this to the attention of the CEO. This could be a symptom of additional inappropriate gender bias on his part and it’s something that his supervisor should be aware of to make sure it isn’t a recurring theme. This person is in power over other employees so they could be doing type of behavior to other employees that don’t have the ability to push back.

  87. Luna*

    If your project manager sucks at taking notes, get a better project manager. And if your department needs all the help it can get right now, talk to your boss about how to fix THAT instead of snagging people from other departments.

  88. Software Engineer*


    On my team we usually delegate notes to someone from the meeting leaders team but not the actual meeting leader. (It’s tough to take good notes when you’re talking or trying to moderate effectively!) But that’s us taking notes for each other, not assigning it to the nearest female because ‘you’re better at it’ (which is ALWAYS the excuse for gendered stuff like this!). But as you said the only way to get better at it is to DO it

  89. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    The sheer AUDACITY of expecting a Director to take notes for you. Like, I wouldn’t even make the request, let alone keep pushing. And shame on him for taking your gentle no (I’m not comfortable) as negotiable. That’s another tightrope women have to deal with; a soft no doesn’t always get taken seriously, but you can get punished for a hard no.

    “You’re just better at listening and taking notes” is classic sexism. The unspoken next part is that you’re better at interpersonal and administrative skills because you’re a woman and we couldn’t possibly expect men to do any of that.

    OP, you are a LEGEND.

  90. boxfish*

    LW did an awesome job here in a difficult situation and it’s kind of telling how many of the comments on this are either telling LW she was too direct/blunt, or telling her she was too soft/indirect.

  91. Aspiring Great Manager*

    OP, I bow to you and I want to be you when I grow up.

    I am manager level in a similarly male-dominated field and whoa the shenanigans people feel the audacity to tell me is amazing. So this totally rung true.

    What I absolutely ADORE about your response is that you were all about the facts, just clearly and neatly laid all things out, brilliant!

  92. Properlike*

    Coming over here simply to bow at your feet, OP.

    Your response was blunt in that it was factual. Had it come from a man, no one would’ve questioned it. No one would’ve asked, which is entirely your point.

    I would’ve have burned him with my laser beam eyes. Not good for business.

    Here. Here’s a standing ovation too.

  93. Lils*

    OP, you are my absolute hero and I’m going to point my less-experienced colleagues to this letter to show them How It’s Done. I love every single word of your emails. You’re amazing and I wish I could work with you/for you.

  94. OneWayValve*

    Many years ago, I was the first and only female in a high-level training program. Many vendors trolled through, all vying for our attention and loyalty. And this was in the days of corporate excess — we were given executive chairs, expensive dinners, cases of wine, etc. One vendor thought that taking all the trainees to a STRIP CLUB would be a super great outing! I was so shocked that I couldn’t even try to be polite or tactful. I blurted out “are you crazy? Why in the world would you think that would be appealing to someone like me? And why in the world would you not treat us all the same?!” I said something vehement about not attending, but told my fellow trainees that they were welcome to go if they wanted.
    The next day, I asked one of my colleagues how the evening went. He kind of looked at his feet and mumbled “We didn’t go. Too ashamed”.
    Honestly, I think some of these guys are just so clueless that a shoutout regarding the big picture is not be a bad idea. I was kind of embarrassed at the time about my lack of tact, but since then I’ve gotten bolder and more confident. It’s a good thing.

    1. Jasmine Clark*

      You are amazing! It’s refreshing to see people like you and the LW who are not afraid to call out ridiculous things for what they are.

    2. Vio*

      I’m male and I’d still refuse to go to a strip club, I won’t even go to Hooters. I try not to judge the people who do but it’s incredibly offensive when people assume everyone would or should be happy to visit them.

  95. blood orange*

    I do agree with Alison’s comments on softening being an option, and that you can face repercussions for calling out the sexism, etc., but honestly, I think there was room to call him out even more. If I left a conversation with a peer saying I would not do something, and then he *said I would do that exact thing* in front of his *team*… I’d be livid.

    I would like to add that even when the request isn’t sexist, if anyone is asked by a peer to do something that just isn’t your role, consider pushing back! I had a colleague (I’m a woman, she’s a woman) treat me for yearsss as though I was her underling. She always did it with a kind tone and a smile, which was almost more infuriating. She asked me to take notes during a lunch meeting for her department where I was a tertiary participant there just to contribute. I told her on the spot that someone on her team, who were all present, should handle that task along with the follow up to manage their project. I never got her to stop asking me for things like tech support, taking notes, taking out the TRASH, etc. but I course corrected her every time.

    Big kudos OP!

  96. Vio*

    There is so much wrong with the co-workers reply but “You didn’t refuse when we spoke about it when it was just you and me on the call — you just said you weren’t comfortable with it. I do things I’m not comfortable with every day” is a special kind of stupid. Anyone who doesn’t understand that “I’m not comfortable with that” has a silent “and so I will not do it” (unless otherwise stated) is not qualified for any kind of job that requires any degree of English language communication. Even the most wilful levels of ignorance and delusion should surely struggle to follow “I’m not comfortable with that” with a silent “but I’ll do it”. That’s like assuming that “Shove your head where the sun doesn’t shine” is silently followed by “Because your sunny disposition will bring light to the darkness!”

  97. Lalitah92*

    I love how some male managers employ the workplace equivalent of strategic incompetence by proxy: my employee who’s in a position that *requires* that *basic* skill set isn’t good at it – lemme get a sucker to take that work on! Ah, no. If your project managers don’t know how to take notes at a meeting, that’s something they can’t coast along and push it off someone else. And it always happens to be a woman or POC who gets short-changed with these duties. Heck, just record the Zoom meeting and get those PMs to edit the transcript. There are ways around this without being a total AH.

Comments are closed.