Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's a Woman's World (Maybe, Someday)

My wonderful, strong, capable daughters. Shatter it, girls!

Rose suggested today’s topic, and it’s a timely one.

Two of my first “grown up” jobs were working as head hostess at an upscale restaurant, and as the receptionist at a small personnel agency, both in Atlanta in the mid-1970’s. The eatery, “Daddy’s Money,” was my first brush with folks eating out on their expense accounts. While many of the clientele were pleasant, several were outrageously rude and dismissive, bringing me to tears as they berated me over the wait time for a table, or the quality of their service (neither of which I had any control over). One night, a bellicose gentleman went on and on about my ineptitude. My manager, Mitch, stood beside me during this whole tirade, and I expected to be defended, at least a little bit. Instead, Mitch shook the man’s hand, comped his dinner, and offered him free drinks. Stunned, I asked him what had just happened. “He’s an important man, honey, and we need to keep him happy. Whatever he says to you, your job is to take it on the chin.”

Picture the show “The Office,” minus all the humor, and you get a sense of life at Hallmark Personnel. The staff’s unenviable task was to place some pretty un-placeable people in entry level positions around the city. The consultants all worked on commission, and morale was quite low. I greeted arrivals, and handed them the basic job application. I felt terrible for some of these people, clearly out of their depth; in some instances, I had to correct their spelling of the street they lived on. They were sent on fool’s errands, to companies that would never hire them—spending bus money I’m sure they didn’t have to spare. But the Hallmark staff needed those commissions, and needed to show the boss that they were “hustling.” Our boss, our “Michael Scott” if you will, was Al, whose head was as inflated as a balloon. Unlike the loveable Michael, Al had no redeeming qualities I could see. He bullied his employees, and talked at, rather than to, me. I often heard him on the phone with corporate headquarters, passing other people’s ideas off as his own. In the end, Al and I parted company on pretty poor terms. It was one of those horrid conversations where I went in to quit, and he turned it around to make it seem that he had fired me.

In the ensuing years, I was lucky enough to work at our children’s theatre, and have been well treated at Christ’s Lutheran Church. But I hear too many stories of women still being paid less, and respected less, than their male counterparts—and that’s just so wrong. It sometimes seems as if, for every glass ceiling that we shatter, another one is hastily constructed. I believe we women need to hang on (for dear life) to the advances we have made in society, and keep on advancing, until, someday, hopefully in my lifetime, true equality is achieved.

                              "Nine to Five" by Dolly Parton

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