I Was the ‘Diversity’ Hire Who Ended Up Saving the Company
They told me I was the first woman doing that job. I don’t really know why that was impressive or why they felt the need to bring it up but they did, at the interview. I know that should have been a red flag but I had to have this job.
I was on a tight deadline to graduate college and without the job experience, I would not be able to.
The interview was pretty straight forward. Traditional questions with traditional answers, or so I thought. I mentioned having done some work with IT and security camera wiring. This stood out to them and they were simply shocked that a woman would be doing this kind of work.
Regardless of all the unnecessary remarks, I accepted the job when they called to offer it to me.
My First Day
I vividly remember an intense snowstorm. I was taking public transit and when I made it to my second to last bus stop (which was by the airport), they announced that the buses could not be used in these harsh conditions. I had half an hour to get to work and being the diligent person I am, I took an airport limousine. The drive was ten minutes and $50. I was already losing more than half my daily pay trying to get to work, but it was my first day.
My efforts were in vain. I was the first person there and no one had shown up. I had to wait outside in the freezing snow for an hour before the first person showed up. They let me in and soon after, my boss showed up.
I didn’t even get a proper chance to introduce myself to the rest of the employees because merely an hour after showing up, the power was cut out due to the storm and we all had to head home.
I like to think of this first day as a warning as well but like I said, I needed the job.
My Boss and His Needs
I was at the bottom of the food chain. Merely an intern who had to be there in order to graduate but at least I was useful to someone. That someone was my boss, who asked me daily to go to the cafe across the street and buy him a bagel and a coffee.
Of course, I obliged. The first time I went, I paid out of pocket and expected him to pay me back when I gave him the food.
This went on for about two weeks. I’d had enough and finally asked him for my money. He gave it to me, another two weeks later.
I thought the smart thing to do in this case was going to the HR department. I didn’t want to be “that person” but I was in no place to buy someone else lunch, let alone someone who was doing the bare minimum in terms of being my boss. HR was adamant about the situation and persuaded me to let it go, after all, I had already been paid.
Yes, I’m a Woman, So What?
I was at this company for approximately eight months and not a day went by without someone comparing me to the people who were in my position before. These people were all men. I was the first woman in three years doing the job and they did their best to never let me forget it. They constantly compared my habits, my abilities, my qualifications to do the job, and on occasion, my outfits.
I brought it up to HR several times, but once again, I was ignored. I later found out that she and my boss were best friends and since the bagel and coffee incident, I wasn’t a crowd favorite anymore. I could hear them whispering about me and I tried my best to stay out of their way.
At first, I found confidence in the fact that a woman managed the HR department, but unexpectedly, this did nothing to help my case.
I wanted to understand how comparing me to the previous employees would be beneficial for me, but at that point, I was just finding excuses. My boss expected me to stay late every day, without over-time payment. If I left before him, he would complain because the previous employee stayed until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.
Even though this job was temporary, I still wanted to make a good impression. The comments got to me and I began doing everything like the previous male employee who was in my position.
The comments didn’t stop though. If I wore a turtleneck one day, I’d get comments saying it was too hot. The next day I would come in with a short sleeve top and get looks up and down. A certain employee went as far as to ask me if I “was going to the club to dance after work”.
I was truly disgusted with this behavior and once again went to HR. I hadn't noticed, but she hadn’t come to work for over a week. I was totally unaware because like I mentioned, I was steering clear of both her and my boss.
Rescuing the Company
After not showing up for a week, the HR manager announced via a simple e-mail that she would not be coming to work anymore because she had flown off to Dubai to live there.
Although they didn’t deserve it, I offered my help because even after all the circumstances, I still wanted to make a good impression.
My boss knew I had HR experience and suddenly, I was his saving grace. I completely took over the HR department and fixed all of her mistakes. Turns out, over the last couple of months, before I had been hired, she’d been blowing off work and not keeping track of anything. Needless to say, my reports about inappropriate remarks were nowhere to be found.
It took me a month to get the HR department back into shape and I worked overtime to make sure files were organized and the company was in order. I was in shock about how this company was still managing day-to-day activities. We had employees in the office not accounted for and the company was still paying employees that had been fired months ago.
It took me a lot of effort to make these changes and I still got unnecessary comments from employees. I was saving the company from destruction and the most important thing about me was still my outfit or how I wore my hair that day.
After having served my time at that horrible company, I had an evaluation with my boss. I thought I would do well after all the efforts I put into the company, but every answer he gave to my performance was mediocre.
I was taken advantage of at this company. They took advantage of knowing the job was mandatory for me.
I’m still in shock to this day that after saving the company thousands of dollars and getting an entire department back in order, the most important thing about me was my looks.
I don't doubt that thousands of women go through this every day yet we still want to be the heroines of the story.
Like me, I want everyone to have hope that someday, people like the people I worked with come to their senses and realize that women at work are more than just “something to look at”.