Workplace culture is an interesting thing. For me, a natural observer, I find it crucial to understand the inner workings of my new workplace upon joining the staff. I watch how my fellow employees communicate with each other, the types of friendships they have within the group, what kind of jokes they make and the general consensus of how well they work together.
For me, I have done about two different jobs in my life. The first being various political internships and campaign work, and the second being waiting tables in various restaurants since the literal day I turned 16.
The latter is less impressive on a resume, sure. But, the knowledge you acquire from being a server can build you some pretty next-level people skills. You’re able to read others and at times it feels you can virtually read people's minds.
There are many things I appreciate about the time I’ve spent in restaurants. The people I have met, the things I have learned about the industry in general and the money never hurts. Most importantly, I’ve taught myself an interesting lesson. One that is crucial for the modern day woman’s success: how to infiltrate a “boys club.”
A boys club is a culture built around a strong, unspoken and fraternal bond between a group of men. These men have each other’s backs, fiercely, and the benefits of the club may only be reaped by its coveted members. Dues? Perverted jokes, cheap cigarettes and the complete and utter suppression of emotion.
We have all encountered these fascinating creatures in action. They are virtually everywhere. High schools (students and teachers alike), restaurants, law firms and police squads. They travel in packs and are almost impossible to disband. The male social unit is a mobilized effort that finds strength in the pack.
So, what does that mean for the female forces of the world that just won’t accept being the odd one out?
Don’t be the odd one out. Understanding the inner-workings of a “boys club” does not mean selling out on all your feminist ideals. It means forcing yourself into the conversation and not being ignored or objectified.
There’s a great saying that goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” From my experience with boys’ clubs, joining them is beating them. The moment you allow yourself to be seen as an outsider amongst a group of men is the moment you become an outsider.
Now, this piece is not about being submissive to the patriarchy. On the contrary, it is quite the opposite. This is about how to handle being a lone female in a group of men in a work environment.
The point is not to abandon your womanhood because you have to pretend to be “one of the guys.” This is about inserting the notion that you are a female, but that does not lead to different treatment by your male counterparts.
So if being “one of the guys” is naturally who you are, you’re in a great spot. If not, don’t worry. They might even notice and try to exploit it. But, don’t let that happen.
When encountering boys’ clubs stand your ground and demand respect. But, also realize there are ways to do so without isolating yourself. Gender norms and phenomenons can be weird, man. But, realizing they exist is your first step to navigating them.
Good luck, my fellow ladies. And may they never have to encounter the wrath of a girls’ club