I'm a woman of small build (1,60m) and have a rather high pitched voice. If asked to estimate my age, people guess me at least 5 years, usually 10 years younger. I am 31, so people guess me at about 20 - 25 years old, which would be the very beginning of a professional carrer. I work as a software developer as the only woman among men.
The Problem (Capital P)
People, especially in work and business situations, tend to treat me like an inferior until I can prove my worth (by sharing my knowledge and experiences) or stand my ground in some ridiculous verbal riling.
During that initial time, and sometimes long after, people display what I personally call "parental superior behavior". The symptoms include:
- Not asking for my opinion on work-related matters, ignoring my advice
- Interrupting me when I'm speaking
- Generally speaking in a way a parent would speak with their child
- Taking objects out of my hands without asking if I need or even want help carrying them
- Forwarding tasks that are unpleasant or "below them" to me (like paperwork)
- Ignoring tasks I forwarded to them
This "parental superior behavior" has haunted me for all my work life and regularly causes unpleasant situations for me.
I'm absolutely convinced that this is not a conscious discrimination, but I certainly feel discriminated. When I address the behavior directly, people tend to laugh embarrassed, but seldom apologise or change their behavior.
What I tried so far
- I try to pitch my voice lower, but it puts a strain on my voice and I cannot keep it up for long.
- I maintain an upright posture to make the most of my small height.
- I avoid "girly" behavior and act professional in work-related situations.
- I once tried to discuss the issue directly with my team member, but he did not understand my problem and thought I was being difficult or attention seeking. Our professional relationship has suffered so greatly that it was one of several reasons to change my workplace.
In two weeks I start at a new job. How can I act or speak to prevent this "parental superior behavior" from the very beginning?
For clarification: I do not want to be treated specially or differently from others. I just want to be treated with the same amount of respect as everyone else.
Thank you everyone for your help, especially Daniel, who opend my eyes with his comment
In my experience you tend to see those behaviors in places where roles are not quite clear (modern "flat" hierarchy) and where the is a lot of competition. It´s a matter of establishing dominance.
Every time I experienced this kind of behavior, I felt belittled and treated like a child, but I guess that was just the easiest way for someone to establish some kind of dominance over me. I think we all remember some bullies from our school days. There never was, is, or will be a person so perfect that someone who wants to bully you won't find a reason to bully you.
I will take your many advices to heart and be more confident in my interactions with new collegues. And I think I will not take it quite so personally anymore if someone tries to belittle me again.