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Breaking Gender Cliques at Work? 806

An anonymous reader asks: "No-one likes finding themselves being the 'odd one out' of a clique, and gender barriers make them harder to break. The question is simple: what can a girl in IT do when she finds herself on the outside of those cliques of boy coworkers? Or inversely, what should groups of boys at work be doing to be more welcoming for that lone girl in the IT office?"
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Breaking Gender Cliques at Work?

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  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:00PM (#16017948)
    Geek guys are intimidated by women. The really odd thing about it is that geek guys are more intimidated by women they are attracted to, but that their attraction does not match the general population. In other words, the women that geeks are most intimidated by are the ones that "normal" guys would be less intimidated by.

    But as for the fix, be human. You won't be able to pull that one off without work. Find what they play, practice it, then invite everyone to a LAN party. If you don't want it at your house, it's perfectly acceptable (socially, check with your boss for employer rules) to have the LAN party at work after hours. If you host a LAN party of the game that everyone likes best with delivered pizza, you will go a long way towards being "one of the guys." And, I don't know how to say this, try, but don't look like you are trying. And yes, it is hard to integrate into any existing group, especially if there is something that identifies you as different.
  • Family games! (Score:4, Informative)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:00PM (#16017953) Homepage
    At our workplace, we have a small-but-dedicated group of lunchtime gamers.

    Over time, some of our female co-workers have joined us from time to time to play the games. They're usually nice and simple table-top games with straightforward game play and the like. The girls frequently enjoy themselves, as the games are not overly geeky, so even the non-tech females join in and play. We've had a few who could win some of the games fairly often.

    Every game seems to develop it's own slang and silly sayings which correspond to some of the game events, which adds to the overall fun of the game for all involved.

    We game because it's more interesting than having to actually have conversations which go much beyond the superficial. =)

    I would definitely say table-top gaming can be a good way to include people -- though it kind of depends on having at least one board-game-geek to be the provider of the games. One of our member is constantly finding new games to play, and finding ones which fit well into a lunch-hour and have good game mechanics. I suggest Board Game Geek [boardgamegeek.com] as a good starting point as it has a lot of resources and reviews. Some of the non-geek female co-workers have actually gone out and bought some of the games, and other gamers have started buying copies of them to play with their families on the evenings and weekends.

    As far as how a guy breaks into a mostly female clique, I suspect most Slashdotters would desperately love to know that one. So if anyone has more insight into that general conundrum, tey should post it. ;-)

  • Perfect summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by siberian ( 14177 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:15PM (#16018074)
    Men and Woman just don't realize how differently we view the world sometimes.

    Well, ok, Woman don't understand how Men view the world sometimes. Men on the other hand do have a vague instinctual understanding of how to not piss a woman off and number one on that list is "Keep your distance until you get a signal."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:01PM (#16018483)
    You cannot (legally) be accused of sexual harassment for asking a co-worker out, whether its with a group or for a private date.

    Actually, asking co-workers out on dates is forbidden by many corporate anti-harrassment policies. Sometimes the policies specify that multiple requests for dates is an act of harassment; other places that I've worked just mentioned that liasons between co-workers are frowned upon as a matter of professionalism.

    So, you might not go to jail, but you might be fired for it. Adherance to HR's policies is usually a contractual obligation, after all; and they all frown upon dating co-workers.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:17PM (#16018663)
    You cannot (legally) be accused of sexual harassment for asking a co-worker out

    I think you misunderstand the court system. You can accuse anybody of anything. The police investigate and the courts prosecute. If the accusations have no evidence, normally you get found not guilty.

    However, for some things, merely the accusation is sufficient to damn you in the eyes of many. And at the next round of layoffs, guess who is first on the chopping block? Or if your employment is "at-will", say goodbye.
  • Re:lawyer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:17PM (#16018665)
    My last company I contracted with, when I came on the job, I was taken aside by the senior lead to be walked thru the policies. As we went over the sexual harassment, He said, "If you see a female in our area, ask "Do you need any help here?" Don't refer the her as a HER. If she says no, they go back to work and ignore her. Don't engage in any conversation, it only opens you to a sexual harassment suit." I thought he was kidding, but said ok. 3 months later I was called into a 5 person panel investigating the sexual harassment in our area. There where 2 females, 2 males and a lawyer. I stated I had not talked to any females in the building. I was asked whether I had seen anyone talking, and that my job was riding on this. I said no. I had to sign a paper about it. Two weeks later I saw one of the guys talk to a female contractor, Talking to him afterwards - he said he was polite refusing to open the door to our security area. 2 days later I was called in to vouch for what I had seen. I was the only reason he didn't lose his job. He has 2 kids, just like I do. I won't talk to a female that is not in view of people I trust and about work.
  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:22PM (#16018724)
    2) A lot of guys don't like the girls around because they feel really uncomfortable that they might say "the wrong thing", and the next minute they are having a "sensitivity training" session with Human Resources. Don't be emo. Please. Take a joke for what it is - a joke - instead of taking it personally. Bonus points for telling a few yourself, it will help us relax.

    I completely agree with this point. A group of guys will talk like a group of guys. When even a single woman enters the picture, the group changes.

    Now, some groups of guys can deal with that and adapt without anyone even thinking about it. But if you want to be a part of a group that's almost entirely guys, it will help if you make it clear that you're comfortable around a group of guys. You can't go into this assuming that the group will suddenly become a femme-sensitive, metrosexual crowd, just for you. (And if some do, they may resent you for it.)

    If you have a break room where everyone eats lunch, just sit by them. "You guys mind if I join you?" Participate in the conversation. Eventually you'll be welcome.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:2, Informative)

    by TinoMNYY24 ( 569172 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:26PM (#16018762)
    DISCLAIMER: Not all women are bad and evil, I'm making generalizations that only apply to a small subset of women and merely illustrating situations where things can go wrong. I'm not trying to start a sex-based flame war. /DISCLAIMER I agree with the AC who also responded to this post. Companies, especially in America, are overly concerned with sexual harassment. And all it takes is one accusation to blacklist you, sometimes forever. Everyone knows that one woman who thinks that every time a man makes eye contact it's a come-on. There are women who think that merely approaching them is akin to demanding sexual favors. Approaching a woman like this and casually asking her to join your group for any non-business reason is enough to send her off to the HR department. It's not a risk I want to take, even if it would be nice to have her in the group. It's a shame, and the only real solution is for the woman to do the approaching.
  • Re:lawyer (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @04:37PM (#16018891)
    Just wanted to point out some misconceptions here:

    "Some group of ultra-feminists with get-em-fired happy lawyers"

    1) Feminists don't care about suing companies, they care about having a reasonably equal presence in the workforce.
    2) Lawyers don't care in the least about firing employees. Firing is something Employers do because they're afraid of Lawyers, and hope that a quick firing will avoid a lawsuit.
    3) Lawyers care about money. The people who "ruined it for the rest of us" are the same way: they only care about money.

    The problem-people isn't feminists or genuinely anti-racist people. It's assholes who want to get-rich-quick at others' expense. In almost all cases everyone loses out but the lawyers. Two people lose their jobs, the company and the "victim" spend a lot of money on lawyers, and the lawyers get rich.
  • Re:IT Ettiquette (Score:3, Informative)

    by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:22PM (#16019867)
    What on earth are you on about? *Most* IT departments "in the real world" are staffed by either incompetants and/or people who know little about star trek or dungeons and dragons. On that matter, most guys in IT departments never got bullied, and actually have talked to a girl before.

    Not everyone's a stereotype mate.

    (I probably shouldn't have used the words stereotype and mate together, I'm sure it's bad form or something)
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:4, Informative)

    by lubricated ( 49106 ) <michalp@@@gmail...com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:25PM (#16020273)
    >>Every single one of them is impartially investigated

    and there you go. Who would want an investigation? The fact that they are all investigated is reason enough to avoid any potential situation.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mgabrys_sf ( 951552 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:53PM (#16020454) Journal
    Yes it's called "fostering a hostile work environment" - that means ANYTHING YOU SAY, DO - OR NOT DO - can make someone and their lawyer very very rich. Enjoy your collaberative work environment that promotes diversity and sensitivity. I'm working for myself - with no employees.
  • Re:Hahaha... (Score:1, Informative)

    by SueAnnSueAnn ( 998877 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:34PM (#16020683)
    I am sorry you guys find my statements out of line.

    Your right those of you who are not sexist should be encouraged you are the EXCEPTION NOT THE RULE even in the Metro-sexual twenty-first centaury.

    I am not in my 20's working in the IT field; I am 50 retired and had a successful career in the RF communications business. From things, I read things have not changed much over the years. When a man engages in conversation with a woman, his eyes move from her eyes to here breasts. If there is anything, there to look at his eyes will stay there. He may not even know he is doing it. Unfortunately the female in the conversation notices right off and in the back of her mind she knows she no longer his his attention. This is very sad as women have a different way of looking at problems. It's a shame because without this sexual tension coed work environments work much efficiently.

    I have held 2 part time jobs in order to make a little extra spending money. I enjoy working with people so both jobs had a large element of interface with other people. The first job was a part time working as distribution manager for a small newspaper and publication distribution company. I can tell you first hand not much have changed from the 80's when I was an RF tech. the work environment is still sexually charged. One contributor to this thread said females need a thick skin well I he might be right. Then again maybe some men need to move the center of their attention from their groin to their brain.

    The second part time job took me to the Midwest where I worked for a friend's ex-spouse (my girlfriend's ex-spouse for those who want to know) a small home repair orientated business 4 employees accounting me. The business was a mixed sex business and we all got along just fine. It was the happiest and most fulfilling year of my recent life. The only people who ever questioned my abilities or the abilities of my girlfriend were a few customers. Old fashioned male chauvinist, and a woman who never seen 2 women this kind of business. By the time we were done, they all were won over.

    The moral of the story is The Work Environment is a construct of everyone's interactions. As long as men view women as sex objects, there will ALWAYS be tension, lack of trust and questioning of motives. Unfortunately most men NOT ALL don't get it. In the last 40 years American Society has become ever more sexually charged to the point that you can't watch a TV show or listen to the radio for an hour without there being some point of conversation linking sex into the subject matter. American society is obsessed with sex and most of it's population have grown up in that obsession and don't feel it's impact. It's like being the frog in the frying pan you don't know how hot the water is because the heat has been on low for decades now.

    The problem is You are What You Eat, that includes the media you digest.
  • Re:lawyer (Score:2, Informative)

    by RalphTheWonderLlama ( 927434 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @12:25AM (#16021799) Homepage
    I actually asked something like that in my sexual harassment training class. We went over all the things you can't do and how anything at all can be considered harassment if it makes someone uncomfortable and I asked, "so if you wanted to ask someone out, how could you do it?"

    There was pretty much just silence in the room.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault