update: all the men I work with go on an annual camping trip together, and women aren’t allowed

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose male coworkers all took an annual camping trip together and women weren’t allowed? Here’s the update.

Last September I posted about the all-male faculty and staff camping trip at my school (all-boys Catholic school).

Bad update: Well, the camping trip is coming up — Monday to Thursday of next week, in fact. Still an all-male trip. Still no women invited or allowed.

Good update: The school agreed to create a committee to discuss women’s issues and experiences at the school, and I was the chair this past year. Administrators gave me TWO professional development days to present information (data and interviews and women’s personal experiences of exclusion) on campus. I got to be in front of the entire school for somewhere around eight total hours, educating everyone on the inherent inequalities of being a woman at an all-boys high school. We did a school-wide survey about exclusion, sexual harassment, and gender inequality on campus. Some of the men were shocked to learn about how the women feel.

The camping trip was discussed! As predicted, there are a lot of people (men) wanting to push back on the idea of women being invited. Some of them sought me out for my opinion, privately, and asked me questions about it in what I’d consider to be a good-faith attempt at understanding my perspective. I used talking points straight from Alison’s answers to guide our discussion. I spoke one-on-one with maybe eight men out of the 60 or so who attend this trip. Maybe I’ve turned a couple hearts? (By the way there are at least five men who are emphatically on my side — very exciting!)

The conversation is ongoing around the trip specifically. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of other cultural issues to address. This year I got pregnant (a great piece of news for me and my husband) and I was devastated to learn there is no paid maternity leave (well, devastated, but perhaps not surprised). Catholic schools managed to lobby for an exemption to my state’s paid family leave policies. (Really pro-family, right?) I joined the faculty contract negotiations team this summer, and I am always working to leverage positive social change where I work.

To everyone who rightfully asked why I am still working there: I think you’re right, and it’s time to leave. I owe them a couple more years contractually for paying for my master’s degree (nice job perk, to be fair) but after that I am not sure I see myself staying. In the meantime it’s imperative that I work to create change, no matter how strongly the cultural tide pushes against it.

Thank you to Alison and the commentariat, who persuaded me I’m not upset over nothing.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. WhyIsEverythingBananas*

    As a Catholic, I want to thank you for your contribution Catholic education and for pushing for change. I hope that leaning on the pro+life argument and Catholic social teaching (especially if this a school in the Jesuit tradition, which seems moderately likely) are useful levers to advocate for more pro-family and gender-inclusive policies.

    1. CheesePlease*

      ditto! also I know there are church specific publications that would be interested in hearing your perspective leadings these discussions and efforts! and the maternity leave could be part of that.

      not like a “drag your employer in the press” type vibes but a “this is what it is as a woman to work in religious spaces” type piece.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        My mother subscribes to U.S. Catholic, which has a more social justice slant. They might be interested in your story.

        But I would also like to point out that this sort of thing is why so many people have left the church.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          And why few, if any, are considering joining it.
          This reminds me of something that happened to friends. The older of their two sons went to Catholic school. Their younger son has ADD and the Catholic school wouldn’t take him.
          They were living in a place where he was going to be the only child of his race in middle school. People were already starting to mess with him because of that, so they moved to a completely different area so he could have a better experience in public school.

          1. what even*

            I attended Catholic school for nine years. There was never a single indication of racism… Sexism and classism, however, ran rampant. Male students from rich families > Female students from rich families > Male students from middle class families (aka the poors lol) > Female students from middle class families.

    2. people need paid parental leave*

      I work for a Catholic organization and benefits are uniform across the board throughout the diocese for churches, schools, etc. There’s paid pregnancy AND parental leave for full time employees (weekly avg hours above 30/week). I’m surprised about the lack of maternity leave, but then again, I’m new to working for a Catholic org and assumed all dioceses would be the same.

      1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

        Unfortunately this will vary from diocese to diocese. When it comes to most policy-level decisions, each diocese is its own little kingdom. Right now only relatively wealthy dioceses offer any kind of paid leave, the rest cry/claim poverty to not afford it.

      2. Mrs Whosit*

        Not all Catholic high schools are beholden to their diocese policies, either. Many function as independent schools (or with guidance from an order rather than a diocese).

      3. What_the_What*

        I suspect the lack of maternity leave at the OP’s job is more because it’s an all boy’s school and they probably traditionally in its origins didn’t HAVE female teachers/staff and it never was a “thing” and hasn’t changed through the years.

    3. I just came to say hello*

      Another Catholic here! OP, I’m sorry you’ve been treated so badly in the Church. When I was struggling with some sexist members years back, I found a lot of comfort and interesting ideas in the podcast “The Catholic Feminist”. She’s not producing anymore, but she was very sharp and well educated theologically. Made me feel less like I had to pick between my faith and sticking up for myself.

    4. RePa*

      Yes, AND – perhaps take a moment to reflect on how you can continue to support and sustain a religious system that is sexist and hypocritically (and conveniently) pro-life only when the life in question doesn’t cost them money or staff time. Harmful systems are sustained by hopeful people, but after several thousand years, perhaps it’s time to consider that this religious system is exactly what it’s telling you it is.

      1. Emma*

        Amen. I have only seen how women and children are considered less than. Not even broaching the rampant and systematically supported sexual abuse of children.

    5. JelloStapler*

      +1. It befuddles me when the Church talks out of both sides of its mouth like this.

      My sister and the pastor actually helped lobby to change the diocesan insurance policy’s language to allow for diagnostic procedures that were not covered before. Because of this, she could get a laparoscopy, get her tubes cleaned out a bit, and get pregnant with my twin nephews that month!

    6. Princess Sparklepony*

      I don’t think they are going to change. They have the laws now written so they save money. There is no reason for them to change their policies. Employees are fungible, they will just hire someone else who won’t get pregnant.

    7. Miso*

      I’m from Germany where we generally have way better work laws than in the US but even here the churches (both catholic and protestant) have a whole other set of work laws and guess what? It’s worse than the general ones! So much for “social” and everything…

  2. Shenandoah*

    Congrats, OP! I hope you find something great in your next role, and wish you luck with the slow, laborious, and oh-so vital work that you’re currently doing.

    (also the “pro-family” stuff while actively making things harder for parents gets me heated every time – I hope you’re able to wrangle some changes there too)

    1. honeygrim*

      Yes. It’s amazing how “pro-family” types are often the exact same ones pushing for laws–or loopholes to laws–to allow them to be so blatantly “anti-family.”

      1. Artemesia*

        A religion that forbids birth control and yet makes no provision for maternity leave — 45 years ago when I had my daughter, the college I worked at had no maternity leave and the employee health care didn’t cover maternity either. I managed to time her for the end of spring semester and we started a month early because we had had fertility problems with our first — naturally this time, we literally succeeded on the first try and so she was a tad early for the schedule. I needed to find coverage for my last few classes or else pay out of pocket for a replacement — I did have colleagues lined up ‘just in case’ for my undergraduate classes and taught my grad seminar on Wednesday afternoon after giving birth on Sunday. (with my first that would have been a nightmare, but luckily this birth was easy so it was manageable).

        We are not far from the time when women were not expected to work if pregnant or with small kids and provisions for supporting them were zilch.

        1. K in Boston*

          Did a double take here – YOU would have had to pay for a replacement if you couldn’t find someone to (it sounds like) cover your classes for free? Goodness there are so many things wrong with that sentence. Horrifying!

    2. Sloanicota*

      There’s actually a horrible through-line there; they’re pro-mother who quit their jobs and stay home, letting their husbands support them, so such mothers don’t need maternity leave and the fathers can enjoy nice bro-time camping trips together.

      1. my cat is prettier than me*

        This is exactly it. I’m not at all shocked the Catholic schools lobbied for this.

      2. Managing While Female*

        While somehow still not paying anyone enough to make their weird fantasy a reality. It’s… mindboggling.

        1. CowWhisperer*

          Right? Every married with children male lay Catholic I know has a working wife – and often a wife who works FT when not on maternity leave. I find this deeply ironic because I knew the women as college students – and they were all about being SAHMs. But none of them can swing it on their husbands’ rather meager pay with families of 3-5 kids.

          By comparison, I was a SAHM for 18 months with my son who was a medically complicated micro-preemie and worked part-time in retail for 4 years when he was small. My husband made enough as a farmer first and as a tire technician when he left the farm that I didn’t need to work full time.

        1. M2RB*

          This perspective (only some families are Real Families) is unfortunately not unique to Catholics – I see it in my Southern Baptist family (where I am quite happily the black sheep who left the “faith” decades ago).

          1. Panicked*

            I’ve lived in the south for 10+ years now and the amount of evangelicals who are actively and passionately fighting against women’s rights (and many other communities) is sickening.

            A friend of mine worked as a church secretary and had to get *permission from her husband* to keep working there after she had a baby.

      3. Boof*

        I know you know this but uhg, that’s so not pro family, that’s just anti choice around who does what and when. Taking away options doesn’t really help families at all. *grumble grumble grumble*

      4. Unfairinschool*

        this. makes me wonder what they would do if all the women just up and quit. could they really staff the school?

      5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        They are pro a very particular type of family. One cis man legally married to one cis woman raising their biological children, with the woman taking full responsibility for all childcare duties. This is referring to the leadership and organizations themselves, not to all individual members. But as a woman in a same-sex marriage raising an adopted child I have yet to see a “pro-family” group that celebrates and supports my family.

      6. Irish Teacher.*

        There’s also the fact that the Catholic church is led mostly by older unmarried men, so…maternity leave is not something they have ever needed (even in the sense a father might benefit from having his wife at home for some months caring for their child). This isn’t to defend it; sheer logic should tell them why it is both necessary and beneficial for their own beliefs, but well, it doesn’t entirely surprise me that a group of older unmarried men might not prioritise the needs of parents.

      7. AcademiaNut*

        And they can’t get divorced because they’ve got lots of kids and can’t afford to leave their husband after years out of the workforce. So it’s win-win!

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      Unfortunately, “pro-family” usually means anti-women. The rationale is that having women in the workforce is a bad thing for families. If all of the women got out of the workforce, men would have an easier time securing jobs, and you wouldn’t need all of these silly, expensive things like maternity leave and child care. If all us women stayed home where we belong there’d be more money for good stuff like men-only camping trips.

      Yeah, I sound bitter but I spent decades having people tell me I was taking a job away from a man who had a family to support. One guy literally said “You’re taking food out of my children’s mouths” after I accepted a job offer for a job he wanted.

      1. Anon Again... Naturally*

        Sorry for the loud bang noise everyone- that was just my jaw hitting the floor. What the actual falafel? The entitlement there is something else. I’d have had a hard time not verbally ripping that person to pieces.

          1. Anon Again... Naturally*

            I can’t take credit- I believe this originated from ‘Art by Veya’.

      2. hereforthecomments*

        I was passed over for a position/promotion (two internal candidates) that in terms of skill and education, I was first choice, and told that they gave it to the guy because “he’s married and has a kid.” Single women don’t need to eat; we’d just get fat, right? Then who’s going to marry us?

      3. Boof*

        Which is redic because taking a huge chunk of your your healthy adult workforce out of commission for the bulk of their main working potential rather than specializing childcare in small groups or whatever (thus freeing up, what 75% of them? Assuming you have a 4:1 childcare situation) really just lowers societal productivity/gdp…
        And that is of course ignoring the fact that not every child has a mom and a dad caring for them to boot

          1. Boof*

            I would argue that depending what you mean by “our” society, within american history I think there were times that women didn’t have much individual rights, and their property was really their male relative’s property well into the 1800s or so, so technically most women weren’t actually getting any pay if they did have a job (vs, doing all the work around the homestead as part of their womanly duties for no money :P)

            1. Garblesnark*

              There were still women with paid jobs at that time in the US, thanks for playing.

              1. Boof*

                I’m not sure why you are snarking at me or deliberately missing the point that women have always had to do a lot of work (and well beyond just caring for children even when they had many) for society to function, even if some societies glorify not paying them for it; and i’m pretty sure that includes a lot of usa history

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Yes, there were times when women in certain states could not own personal property — everything was either her father’s or her husband’s. But even then, if that woman worked in a factory/shop/as a servant she was collecting pay for her labor. Yes it was less than a man would be paid and yes it was expected that it would go straight to her father or her husband, but Charlotte Lucas’ point is still correct.

            3. Lisa*

              Many women were still doing work for pay though, they just weren’t the ones being directly paid.

            4. Dahlia*

              Poor women have always worked. Who do you think were maids, cooks, governesses, seamstresses, weavers?

              1. Boof*

                ? Yes, the point being at no time was this rosy ideal of women blissfully staying at home doting on their children an actual reality; if it seemed like women weren’t working it was because it wasn’t being “counted” (by paying them) or they were being paid much less

            5. NotAManager*

              Just to provide an historical perspective (limiting myself to free women in the colonized US just to limit scope, we’re talking approx. 1600-present): There have always been women who worked what we would consider to be a “job” in addition to domestic labor (there actually is a long history of young tween/teen girls and boys working as servants within the homes of families of modest means to assist with domestic labor).

              In agricultural communities (the bulk of most labor outside major cities) men and women would work on a homestead – the issue of who was getting paid (again, limiting the discussion to free people) is tricky because working for a “salary” wasn’t necessarily a thing in farm labor, especially pre-Industrialization where a barter economy was highly common. Even then though women might monetize their labor (small-scale brewing, dyeing, other specialized tasks) to add additional revenue to the household income (so did men, it must be noted). The labor was often (but not always) gendered and compensated either in coin or paper money (after that became a thing) or exchanged for other goods and services.

              In cities pre-Industrial Revolution it was more common to find women who took on apprenticeships for skilled labor – there were some crafts that were female-dominated, though you could also find women working in fields that were more male-dominated. Again, this was done in addition to their uncompensated household labor and skilled labor like dressmaking would be compensated (then, as now, garment workers are one of the lowest-paid professions globally and it’s worth exploring why garment work – often an overwhelmingly female-dominated workforce – is overexploited and underpaid).

              With the birth of industrialization, both men and women could/would leave the household to work in a mill or factory, however it was incredibly common for women and children to be given piece work to take home and work on inside the household. Again, this was compensated and it was labor performed outside of the additional domestic labor of cooking, cleaning, and minding children (though even small children could perform compensated work, both inside and outside the household). I think it could be interesting to look at the potential connections between historical piecework and modern MLMs or Etsy side-hustles.

              The idea of the “traditional” family structure of a man working in a job outside the home while a wife stays home and only does the unpaid labor of home maintenance and childcare (without a maid of all work or other hired assistance) is a popular fiction based on an extremely small percentage of families following WWII.

              tl;dr Free women have performed compensated labor throughout history and it’s a distortion of the past to claim that the ‘Dad Works, Mom Stays Home’ idea is actually an historical or “traditional” reality. Uncompensated domestic labor is an issue that needs to be addressed as part of labor history, but the historical reality is that for all but the wealthiest families, women were performing uncompensated domestic labor AND compensated labor on top of that.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                Very interesting. I’m not sure that an MLM gig would stack up very well against garment piecework. With the piecework, you had a guaranteed buyer. You might have had to invest some capital to get the pieces to sew but if you did them right, the buyer was going to pay you for them. Although you might have had to buy a sewing machine (on credit) to get started.

                With the MLM model you have to pay for stock and quite a lot of stock sometimes and they say that only 1% of sellers make a profit (although I’ve also seen higher statistics but the highest was 25%, so not such a great way to get ahead.)

      4. Texan In Exile*

        I was the one person on a team of ten – one other woman, divorced with a disabled son, married men with children, and then single, no kids me – laid off. I heard rumors that one of the reasons my boss (married, kids) picked me was because I didn’t have a family to support.

        1. Meg*

          I was told not long ago at my last toxic job that if I got a raise I would be taking money from the other employees with kids. I was pressured to work even more hours to make more money (commission job, sort of after he used some fuzzy math he couldn’t explain to cut it down to almost nothing).

      5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Pathetic man-baby who feels he can’t compete with a woman

      6. MMR*

        These are the same people who rant about America being a communist country and how we need a free market system.

        Ya know those fantastic free markets where only married white cis men born in your own country are ever given jobs, and everyone else whose skills are in higher demand is just “stealing” from them? Very free, very capitalist.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Heather Cox Richardson does a fantastic job explaining what the word “socialism” means in US political rhetoric. Has nothing to do with the state owning the means of production and everything to do with keeping a white supremacist status quo in place.

      7. Your Former Password Resetter*

        The staggering entitlement of these people. Kudo’s for keeping yourself sane in the face of this awfulness.

      8. Cinn*

        That’s even better than the guy who told me that “young women like you” are the reason for the housing shortage because in the good old days we’d all have been married off by now and so not living alone taking up space for lads or families.

        How long till they actually start to use how much unpaid carers (of all genders, races etc) save society so we better go back to when women all stayed home for the greater good? (I really want this to be sarcasm, but I can actually think of people who would use this argument.)

      9. Princess Sparklepony*

        Yes, that is the way they have it set up. It’s normal to be bitter about it.

    4. Prof*

      They’re being pro-family forcing women out of the workplace and into the home. I’m not convinced this isn’t in fact the intent.

      1. Pippa K*

        Yes. When someone says they’re pro-family, it’s useful to ask them to define “family.”

  3. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    Keep up the good work OP, but make sure you don’t burn yourself out! Especially with a baby.

    1. Up the Down Staircase*

      Most public school teachers don’t get paid maternity leave either, believe it or not. We have to use sick leave, and are “advised” to plan our pregnancies around summer break.

      In California, most public school teachers also don’t qualify for the state’s paid pregnancy disability leave, either.

      1. dz*

        But surely you must see this is extra gross coming from an institution that forbids effective birth control and believes women need to carry every pregnancy to term or die trying?

    2. Carl*

      “(Really pro-family, right?)”

      It’s often code for when the men want to pretend it’s 80 years ago, place all the burden on women, and be like “See? Problem solved!”

  4. Myrin*

    Wow, OP, I am truly in awe of your professionalism, fighting spirit, feeling for justice and education, and energy. All the best to you, wherever your path may take you (or, wherever you will take your path, really; you seem like the opposite of someone who will just let their path take them somewhere, which is something I admire greatly).

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I second everything Myrin said. Also, thank you for having those one-on-one conversations with your coworkers. I think you probably did change a few hearts, or at the very least sowed the seeds for change in the future. Best of luck with your future job-search!

  5. Czech Mate*

    Woman in Catholic higher ed, can definitely sympathize that it can be weirdly progressive/not progressive all at the same time. There are so many theological/ideological/philosophical strains that basically anything can be defended as being in keeping with the ideals of the church and/or the institution. I’ve said this on this site before, but my office does a lot of coalition/alliance building in order to make changes. One group saying, “This is inequitable and wrong” may not be persuasive, but lots of people saying “This is inequitable and wrong” makes a difference. Having 1:1 convos with your male colleagues is tiring/time consuming but honestly will probably be fruitful in the long run.

    Also….Catholic schools will do a lot to avoid bad press. Saying “How would parents/students react if they found out…?” or “What do we think would happen if information about this was leaked out of context to the media…?” can sometimes also be effective.

  6. Stuart Foote*

    I do understand that Catholic schools had limited budgets, but it’s incredible to me that their employment practices make it very difficult for their employees to have families, especially since they pay such low salaries based on the premise that people will take lower salaries to support their mission.

    1. Panicked*

      To borrow from the IT world- “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

      They want those that feel compelled to serve the mission to stay forever so they can exploit them, and they want those who have families to stay home and keep quiet.

      1. jez chickena*

        Catholic Priests are well compensated. I many in LA who make well into six figures. Plus, the Parish covers their housing.

    2. Generic Username*

      In some ways, the “lower salaries to support their mission” is a holdover from when Catholic schools were heavily staffed by members of religious orders — the sisters and brothers didn’t need a big salary, after all. And as there are fewer and fewer religious staffing schools and parishes are less able to subsidize their schools, salaries for lay teachers and staff for the most part haven’t been able to keep up with public schools or even secular private schools.

      1. Person Person*

        It’s not really a holdover as much as it was a predicate for the schools to open in the first place, exploiting labor they were able to control with lower wages.

  7. BellyButton*

    It never fails to shock me, no matter how many times men say it– how the heck do they not know it is unfair and unequitable to have a male only event?? How do they not know that gives them some sort of privilege!! Men, be better! You have always had privilege — so it is now time for you to understand and recognize when those privileges are causing harm. Women can’t keep fighting this fight alone. A clear example is being a catholic school that doesn’t give parental leave- men don’t need it, and if a woman gets pregnant she should stay home and take care of the baby. It is just another way to make things unfair to them women who work there. *SMH*

    1. L-squared*

      I think its because often, men (and I am one) will think, and truly mean it, that if the women did this same thing, they wouldn’t care. Like, I bet most of the guys are like “If the women wanted to do a weekend away too, by all means do so!”

      I’ve never had a situation like this exactly. I can’t imagine wanting to go camping for days with most of my coworkers. However, I’ve definitely been at jobs where the women had a “girls night” for drinks. And I can say I don’t think men were bothered by it. These were places where it was a pretty even mix of men and women.

      So, that is where I think the blind spot comes in.

      And I see this in personal things too. In my friend group, when the guys have guy nights, there is much more said about it than when the women do an “ladies afternoon brunch” or will go see Barbie together, or have a book club only the girls are invited to. Often a group comprised of only men, is seen very different than a group of only women.

      1. Kiv*

        I can’t speak for your friends, but I think this is because a case like this, with a male-only work-associated event, it’s (correctly) seen as networking. A women-only event is (correctly or incorrectly) seen as purely social. Perhaps as women become more common at higher levels, that may change.

        1. L-squared*

          I mean, in the “girls happy hours” (what they called them) there were definitely people higher on the org chart than I was going. So it just seems that I’d be hard pressed to see how that ISN’T networking. Hell, at one place they were organized by our defacto HR person. (That wasn’t really her title, but she handled a lot of those type of things)

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I’m a middle-aged woman and would find this very weird.

            The only work “girls’ night out” I’ve ever been invited to was in a department with no men.

            1. Alex*

              I too would be very uncomfortable with a “girls’ night out” at work. I’m non-binary, and I find any event labelled with a specific gender to be pretty exclusionary and gross.

        2. Annie*

          But in this case besides it just being coworkers, it’s not really a “work” event. So that’s why it likely seems okay to keep it only men.

      2. Beth*

        I think you’re right. They’re thinking of it as “There’s a women’s support/mentorship group that meets for happy hour once a month, why can’t we have a men’s outing?” Or even “women probably don’t want to camp/golf/go hunting anyways, they can just have a spa day and it’ll be even, right?”

        They’re not thinking about “90% of the managers at this company are men, so in practice, women having a mentorship/support group is a marginalized group trying to support each other in getting a toe in the door, while men having a private outing is a majority group keeping outsiders on the outside.” Work outings aren’t just social occasions, and employers need to be really conscious of this kind of thing.

      3. Cathy*

        It’s because the men are usually in positions of power and women aren’t. If the men miss the women’s event, they don’t usually miss getting to buddy up with the C suite.

        1. Frankie Bergstein*

          This! Not seeing the context – as this commenter does – leads to drawing false equivalencies.

        2. lemon*


          Expanding on this, I think there’s also the perception that women don’t have access to resources that would make men see them as valuable networking contacts. For instance, women may not be perceived as working on high-impact projects, or we may not be perceived as having useful skills that can help someone with their own work.

          1. lemon*

            Further expanding on this, even if men aren’t *consciously* thinking about networking with the goal of advancing their own careers when it comes to these kinds of events, and are just thinking, “this is a fun social event to make some work friends,” I think they underestimate the power of these kinds of social connections. Who are you more likely to want to work with? Joe, who you had a nice chat with at the camping event, or Jane, who you’ve only ever interacted with via email?

            That’s why I think it’s so weird that a lot of men *don’t* seem to care about missing out on socializing with women. It’s like a very subtle, tacit way of saying that professional relationships with women don’t matter.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        I think the culture it takes place in has a major impact on how people react. I don’t know about the US, but certainly in Ireland, when the nuns and brothers stopped pretty much automatically getting the principalships of our schools, there was almost pleasant surprise when women started getting the principalships of all-boys’ schools as the assumption was that men would get preference.

        There was a genuine concern that women would be discriminated against and there was even some concern about men getting principalships of girls’ schools (I will say my own old college has had male presidents ever since it stopped being a nun, so all women from 1898 to…1998 or 1999, but all men since). So I think it is important to avoid any even appearance of the exclusion of female staff in an all-boys’ school.

        I suspect a man who was teaching in a daycare or a male nurse might well be bothered if all the female staff did something and they were excluded. A man working in engineering or computing probably wouldn’t because it would be in a context where he wasn’t likely to be in danger of discrimination for his gender.

        So I think the blind spot is less about “well, men don’t mind so why do women” and more about how the industry and context can make it different. I suspect the men who truly mean those things are working in industries where they have never had to question whether it was worth going for a promotion because “sure, they’d hardly consider a man.” Which I suspect some women in Catholic all-boys’ school (in Ireland at least; can’t speak for the US) might well have thought 20 or 30 years ago. (The concern does seem to have been unfounded; boys’ schools started getting female principals pretty soon after the brothers left, but the concern was a thing.)

        1. L-squared*

          I was a teacher. The split was similar to OP, except it was probably 2/3 women, so I was definitely in the minority. The men would find out about some of these “ladies nights” or whatever, and we really didn’t care.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      A clear example is being a catholic school that doesn’t give parental leave–men don’t need it, and if a woman gets pregnant she should stay home and take care of the baby.

      And if a couple can’t afford for the woman to stay home, they should be abstinent until they can afford it. /s

    3. Person Person*

      The fact it’s a Catholic School comes into play here for sure. Catholic doctrine is:

      1) Gender Essentialist
      2) Pro-Gender Segregated spaces

      So when you have an institution that holds itself up to be greater than employment but also a place to live spiritual values, I’m sure a large portion of these men think that think having a male only event is necessary.

  8. Apt Nickname*

    I’m vastly entertained but also saddened at the idea that these men are surprised that their female coworkers, who are specifically excluded from something, would feel excluded.

    1. Angstrom*

      It says something that that our local shooting range is more inclusive than her school.

    2. Beth*

      I’m really curious about what “reasons” these men could possibly have to push back on including women that they’d actually be be willing to pull OP aside to voice. You’d think they’d have some shame about hearing a woman talk about why excluding women in the workplace is bad and then turning around and telling that same woman “ok but I think we should actually continue to keep you out”!

      1. Mango Freak*

        I wonder if they’re the kind of “traditional” where they wouldn’t want to go camping with women who aren’t their wives?

      2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        All I can imagine – without supporting their approach – is that for some men this might have turned into effectively a men’s support group, where they can talk specifically about men’s issues, and they’re aware that in opening it up to everyone that this will be lost.

        It’s to their credit they’re willing to start the conversations around this, at least.

  9. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    No paid maternity leave? Freaking ridiculous. OP, good work on raising the issues and congrats on your pregnancy.

    1. lilsheba*

      That’s the US for you. In other countries, especially those in Europe, have up to a year paid leave. Along with a lot of other great things that THIS country doesn’t do. The US sucks in so many ways.

  10. High Score!*

    And religious organizations are shocked that less people want to be involved with them.

    1. lilsheba*

      I also think a lot of people are waking up to the fact that’s all based on myths anyway.

  11. Barefoot Librarian*

    As someone who struggled with the culture at an all men’s college for years AND who was raised Catholic, I admire your dedication and scrappiness. I don’t know how much change you’ll be able to make as this kind of culture runs bone deep. However, advocating for yourself and marginalized folks is NEVER a bad thing and it’s good skill to take with you wherever you end up.

    (Honestly, no maternity leave?! That makes me livid considering the massive amount of time and money the Catholic church puts into “pro-birth” policies and advocacy.)

  12. Ginger Baker*

    FWIW, one-on-one conversations are by FAR the most effective way to change minds (especially if said conversations are with someone the person has an existing relationship). It’s exhausting and clearly not reasonable to ask people to do and not scalable at ALL for that reason, but it’s the single most effective method by a long shot. So: I for one am very glad you had those! And hope you have the energy for a few more in the future if the opportunity arises.

  13. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    In the original letter, I wasn’t thinking this was a Catholic school. OP may still consider resources at the diocese level; there is an administrative body above the board and the good-old boys network, and who knows – their might be a couple of radical nuns.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      My experience has always been that the nuns as a whole aren’t radical, til you stand them next to the patriarchal leadership of the church and then by comparison they are.

      There are definitely radical ones too, don’t get me wrong!

      You might determine where the school’s educational background is sourced – Jesuit, Dominican, there are a lot of them! – and knowing that piece of information, see what that particular order feels about such a situation.

      1. Quill*

        You really gotta pick a cause with the nuns. They’re great at stubbornly sticking to their cause despite what men in the church say, but depending on the location and cause, they may not be well connected to other advocacy groups.

        (The catholic church’s reputation and current doctrine can keep them out of touch with queer and feminist advocacy groups, for example.)

    2. hahahanooo*

      As someone who was worked at a diocesan level, yes, say something. The Catholic Church is terrified of liability. Frame it that way to some higher-ups and you may be able to get some traction on it.

  14. Persephone Mulberry*

    “Some of them sought me out for my opinion, privately, and asked me questions about it in what I’d consider to be a good-faith attempt at understanding my perspective.”

    Yay for willingness to be openminded, I guess, but still disappointing (albeit not surprising) that they passed on the opportunity to speak up in the open forum(s) where – gasp – other men might see (and judge) their tentative departure from the groupthink.

  15. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    “This year I got pregnant (a great piece of news for me and my husband) and I was devastated to learn there is no paid maternity leave (well, devastated, but perhaps not surprised). Catholic schools managed to lobby for an exemption to my state’s paid family leave policies.”

    If someone wrote this into a move/TV show about catholic schools, I would’ve said it was too on-the-nose and not realistic. Shows what I know.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      That sentence astonished me too. I’d have expected Catholic organisations to care about mothers’ health.

      1. Nonsense*

        We’ve got about 2000 years of history that proves the Catholic Church care more about flies than it does women.

      2. Panicked*

        George Carlin has an oft quoted line in regards to adjacent issues. “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine, if you’re preschool, you’re f***ed.”

        They do not care about women, they don’t care about children. They care about power and having dominion over others.

      3. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

        They absolutely do not care about mothers’ health. Some Catholic hospitals will let a mother die of childbirth complications because the baby’s life is more important to them.

    2. Up the Down Staircase*

      Believe it or not, most *public* school teachers don’t get paid maternity leave either. We have to use sick leave, and are “advised” to plan our pregnancies around summer break.

      I don’t know about other states, but in California, most public school teachers also don’t qualify for the state’s paid pregnancy disability leave.

  16. goddessoftransitory*

    “Some of the men were shocked to learn about how the women feel.”

    Siggghhhh,…yes, in The Year of Our Lord 2024, the men still have the luxury of being shocked.

    1. Panicked*

      Women have…feelings? Feelings that we didn’t tell them to have?! Inconceivable!

  17. emmelemm*

    I have several friends who work/have worked for Catholic institutions, and yes, the lack of ACTUAL support for families who work for them is appalling.

    1. smirkette*

      That’s because the Catholic Church as an institution (like so many others) is held together by the invisible and undervalued labor of women—nuns and women in the community doing the mundane, ugly, hard work of keeping a congregation going while so the priests can focus on “more godly” things. Unfortunately, enough leadership still believes that women should be at married, at home, taking care of their children and the church, not teaching or working.

      /former Catholic
      //please no #NotAllParishes — there are enough of them to warrant the general statement.

  18. HugeTractsofLand*

    I’m not surprised that the camping trip didn’t get “fixed,” but I’m really impressed with everything else you’re doing to push a feminist agenda on campus. “Feminist agenda” meaning, of course, that you’re recognizing women as equal partners with issues that equally need to be heard! Even if you leave 2 years from now, you should be proud of yourself for trying to make a difference.

  19. DeskApple*

    I’d talk to an employment lawyer- I don’t know if they can hold you to staying for that cost of the masters when they don’t even pay maternity leave. I’m sure it’s legal but it’s super sketchy.

    1. Selina Luna*

      I don’t know about the “paying for a master’s” bit, exactly, but the OP may have a contract in place that makes it difficult to leave. Like, my state can’t prevent a teacher from leaving in the middle of the school year due to pregnancy complications or something, but if a teacher does leave without sufficient notice, even if they have what most people would see as a valid reason, the school district can request that the teacher’s license be suspended or even terminated. And that makes getting a license to teach elsewhere much more difficult when the reason you left is resolved.

  20. Clymene*

    LW, you are a badass for recognizing these issues and being willing to step into the spotlight to enact change and create a better environment for women in your workplace!

  21. Irish Teacher.*

    What really bothers me is what kind of example these teachers are giving to their students. Teaching in what was, up to last year, an all-boys’ school (and technically, a Catholic all-boys’ school), I made a careful effort to ensure I included plenty of texts in English with female main characters and to teaching about things like women in politics and I know one of my fellow History teachers has made a point of teaching women’s history because it is so easy to assume that mixed protagonists are for girls’ and mixed schools and that boys will only be interested in male protagonists, male historical figures, etc. But of course, it’s not women for the most part who forget that women are half the world, so if anything, I think it even more important for men and boys to learn about women’s contribution (and for white kids to learn about people of other races and so on, but gender is the issue in discussion here).

    I have my doubts the male teachers in this school are ensuring their students are aware of women’s contribution to history, science, etc or in introducing them to novels, poems and films by and about women. And that’s before we get to the question of how they might be interpreting theology.

  22. C*

    Contrary to what the cultural tide would have us believe, there is value in boys being influenced by men in a male-only setting. I’m assuming you’d want a husband to have quality time alone with his kids? I don’t see this as all that different, albeit on a larger scale.

    1. bamcheeks*

      There’s no suggestion that students attend this camping trip— given that LW described it as traditionally involving “heavy drinking”, I’m assuming they’re not invited!

    2. Nonsense*

      Hm. Which values? Because the ones the school is teaching aren’t ones I’d want my son to learn, and you don’t seem able to specify what’s so great about them.

    3. a trans person*

      What the hell is this comment. Like, A+ attempt to create a “won’t someone please think of the children” scenario to scaremonger us feminists away from wanting jobs, but how is this at all relevant to the scenario? Like, at all?

    4. I should really pick a name*

      Can you elaborate on what the work-specific benefits of the male staff going on a camping trip are?

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      What have “boys being influenced by men” got to do with a men-only staff camping trip to which the pupils are not invited?

    6. Insert Clever Name Here*

      IF students were attending the event and IF there was a corresponding event that was all the female employees and students…sure, that’s a valid discussion for the school to have.

      But the actual facts of this letter are that there are no students attending, it is just the male staff.

    7. Indolent Libertine*

      It’s an all-boys school with a majority male staff, so your concern that the boys don’t have enough opportunity for male mentorship seems unfounded.

    8. J*

      What value is that? What does being a man have to do with the value of the influence you’re giving children? Notwithstanding that this seems to be a staff-only trip, comparing it to a parent spending time with their own kids is wild.

  23. All-Girls School Teacher*

    As someone who formerly worked at an all-girls Catholic school, the not having paid maternity leave was also an issue there. My colleagues that had children had to use short-term disability for their maternity leave. This was shocking to me as a teacher at a school that was very vocal about being pro-life and and talked a big talk about family values. But when it came down it actually backing that up, the financial aspect of actually covering the cost was beyond what the school would actually cover.
    Using us for free labor was regularly an issue. We were regularly asked to sub for each other’s classes, which was unpaid (even through Covid with extended absences). Regularly expecting us to work at open house events for admissions, always on a Sunday. Just to name a few. It was always viewed that our work was a part of the religious mission of the school (even when that wasn’t explicitly said), and that we should do all of these things out of the goodness of our hearts. Despite not all employees being Catholic.
    I have been at new teaching job at a non-religious school for the last two years. Trust me when I say that there were so many other major issues, and the money was just one piece of that. OP, I wish you the best in your future in teaching!

    1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      Yeah, I had the same experience at an all-girls Catholic school. And we actually weren’t offered any STD in our benefits package. The school just said they prioritized financial aid for the students and couldn’t afford paid leave for teachers. It may have been true in a strict numbers sense but it is 100% part of why I left that school and teaching altogether.

  24. Pippa*

    Links to two articles below on the status of parental leave in Catholic church organizations, with stories of successful bids to change policies and stories of folks who left when unsuccessful at same, and with internal links to additional data assembled by the authors which the OP or other similarly positioned folks may find useful in lobbying for change at their local church and/or school level.
    Something we can all ask ourselves if we attend a religious assembly with employees or send kids to a private school: “Do the employees at this organization/school receive a living wage and benefits which are in alignment with the stated beliefs and mission of the organization?” If the answer is no, then one wonders where else there is a breakdown of integrity in leadership.



    1. WorkingRachel*

      I love the question you’re asking…and also hate that many public school teachers don’t get paid maternity leave, either.

  25. TLC Squeak*

    Kudos to you for the work that you are doing. I’m sure that, even if you are gaining some traction, it is exhausting.

  26. Festively Dressed Earl*

    My petty side wishes the school would fund a 4 day “spa weekend” for the female staff where LW and all her coworkers take 4 day intensive professional development workshops, then get sparkly pink manicures on the way back and tell the administration that gel nails cost $5000 per person. *sigh* and yes, I know that’s not helpful.

    LW, add me to the list of people who think you’re a badass. I hope your coworkers will keep up the forward momentum once you get to the end of your 9 month intensive body building project. :)

  27. Burnt-out Academic*

    OP, I’m really impressed with the work you’ve done on this and your commitment to continue working towards change even while making a plan to leave. I’ve had my own significant brushes with sexism in academia, tried to push back, and ultimately got too discouraged by the entrenched sexism that just ran too deep. Those one-on-one conversations you had are huge and one way or another, you are making progress. Hope all goes well with your pregnancy and that your pushback on the bargaining committee gets parental leave added for future teachers.

  28. Claire Beauchamp Randall Frasier*

    I worked for over a decade for an all-girls Catholic school, and sexism was alive and well there – in the opposite direction. The only male employees we had the entire time I was there were the Business Manager, the Facilities Director and the custodians. They never even interviewed male teachers, no matter how desperate they were (we started more than one year short a qualified math teacher). We were not a diocesan school – we were independent, so I can’t blame the Diocese. I keep waiting for the school to be sued. I will say, though, that it wasn’t a bad place for women to work. We were very underpaid and overworked, but they truly dud respect “family” so if you needed to stay home with a sick child or sick elderly parent, it was totally ok and employees would step up to cover for you. We also had maternity leave: 3 months at 50% pay.

  29. hazel herds cats*

    OP inquire as to whether they might waive the remainder of the service time you owe in exchange for paying for your Masters. It doesn’t cost anything to ask, but more importantly, you’ve become a source of discomfort for them. It’s actually very common for orgs to waive such repayment requirements in similar circumstances. I’ve even known of instances in which the employer broached the issue.

  30. gingersnap*

    I worked for a catholic diocese who suddenly added a single week of paid family leave after the Dobbs decision. I am 100% sure it was just so they could say yes they offered leave when reporters called to ask. So many Catholic institutions preach pro family values and practice anything but. I’m at a Jesuit Catholic college now and it’s not perfect but it’s sooooo much better.

    OP, I feel you and just know it gets better. I had the same contract issues and ended up paying back a couple grand just to get out. You got this!

  31. JustAnotherOpinion*

    My $1M question is what is being taught/modeled to the all male students???? Is another generation of patriarchy being trained?

  32. Dog momma*

    If there’s 1bullet I’d be very happy about dodging, it would be me attending a camping trip, with co workers no less. Wouldn’t matter if they were male or female, I HATE camping! lol.
    Camped 2-3 times in a tent as a kid with the grandparents. Never again!. The closest I got to camping was my little RV, when I was showing dogs. But that was a hobby and I had friends that did the same. And if I was alone I did my own thing. Not with a bunch of co workers.
    Have fun, male campers from work.. ( I’d be waving goodbye!) And I don’t care if they’d come up with something for the women..never cared for all that ” bonding” at work. They’re my co workers, not necessarily my friends.. though I do have 2 close friends from work I stay in contact with since retirement.. we’ve since made a long distance move, so I see them maybe once a year.

  33. Wendy Darling*

    OP, I am super impressed that you’re continuing to advocate for improvements. Like no sarcasm I find that really admirable and I want to be more like that. I’m much more inclined to be like “this place is a hot mess and I wash my hands of it” as a means to control my own frustration.

  34. Cubefarmer*

    If I were a parent of a student at this school, I would sure as heck want to know about the camping trip policy and the lack of family leave for employees.

    What a terrible outcome for LW.

  35. MigraineMonth*

    I just wanted to say that I’m really impressed with everything you’ve done, LW! I wish it weren’t necessary, of course, but thank you for stepping up and shouldering so much of the burden. Congratulations on your pregnancy, I hope all goes well, and here’s to finding a culture of inclusion either at your current employer or your next.

  36. Elio*

    I continue to never be surprised at the hypocrisy of religious institutions (so “pro-life” that there’s no maternity leave). Sadly not surprised at the government giving them special rights to screw over their employees. You’d think the exception would be against the laws about sex discrimination but nope.

Comments are closed.