Being the Only Woman on a Team of Men
“What’s for lunch today?”
“Let’s go to that place with the blonde chick.”
Really? Again? Sigh.
It’s nothing new: Women are a rare species in technology companies; only 30% of the tech workforce is female. Now multiply this number by 0.1 and you know how many managers are female. Right… not too many.
Happy was I when realizing that my new manager would be a woman. Cheers to emancipation! Finally somebody that shows men how work gets done. My hooray did not last long: she is based in Palo Alto, while the team and I are in Houston. My local manager: male, of course. My team mates: all men.
There I was, facing a new job in a different country, the youngest on the team and the only woman - what a combination. First obstacle to conquer: team lunch during the first week of my arrival.
Time to use my James Bond strategy:
1. Be polite and observant.
Pay attention to the group dynamic. How do your colleagues interact with each other? Is there a leader? What is the general tone? Do they joke around? You will find out everything you need to know pretty fast. Why? Because we are talking about men, not a bunch of quirky girls that see you as a competitor. Your colleagues will not play-act something they are not.
2. Speak up.
Meg Whitman did not become CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise because she was standing in a corner waiting for somebody to acknowledge her. You have to show them your potential.
You have a great idea? Present it.
You found a mistake? Point it out.
You have additional information concerning that topic? Speak up.
3. Become a part of their in-group.
Once you have discovered the group dynamic, it should not take you too long to position yourself. The good thing is men do not rack their brains over why you react a certain way. So just be yourself, maybe a little more straightforward, even. Tell a joke sometimes. Expect to listen to pick-up lines, they might try to flirt. (After all, they are just men.)
What I do? It depends. I counter their remarks, I roll my eyes, or I joke with them.
And sometimes, I just eat chicken wings while watching blondes during lunch break, having a great time.