When you work in a male-dominated company, what will you do? Read more about how this reader copes with it.
“A few years ago, I got a job in a well-known MNC investment company. It was my second job and I felt I was a young and dynamic go-getter with enough working experience to deal with the rat race culture. I wanted to earn a lot of money to support my retired parents and pay for my sibling’s education – they werestill schooling then.
But I soon found that forging a career in the finance and investment industry was not easy; I am a hard worker, but it was a male-dominated company and everyone was very competitive. I realised I needed to do more to stand out… then I noticed something: My male colleagues were especially helpful to me on some days.
At first, it was simple things – I’d ask a male colleague to get my photocopy printouts at the printer or make me a cup of tea at the pantry. They would happily oblige and would sometimes even offer extra help. At first, I thought they were being genuinely nice. But then I started to catch them stealing a look at my chest or ogling down at my legs and butt…
Since young I’ve had a pretty face. I am shapely, with long legs, and I am bosomy by Asian standards. I began to realise my looks were driving my male colleagues to act nicely towards me.
So I decided to play up my looks to my advantage. I became more daring and started to dress more scantily. My dresses became tighter and my hemlines rose higher. When I went shopping, I would consider tops which were cut lower to accentuate my cleavage.
If work became too hectic, I would ask my male co-workers to help me. When I needed to compile statistics for meetings or to complete tedious for meetings or to complete tedious documents, I would turn to Joshua*, a co-worker who was very efficient with paperwork. He was married but I knew he had a thing for me – he was always stealing looks at my body and he even “liked” all my Facebook photos online.
And one of my bosses, Michael*, started offering to help me buy my lunch. Once, I had a craving for chicken rice from a certain store located 20 minutes away, and he drove all the way just to buy it back for me.
In a span of just two years, I got promoted three times and rose to become a division manager. My hard work helped, but so did my good looks.
But it was during the celebration of my third promotion that a harsh realization hit me in the face.
Some of my co-workers got together to organize a night-out party. We ate at a fancy restaurant, drank wine, went for some karaoke and drank more. By the time we hit the dance club, most of us were tipsy.
We had more to drink at the club and I got on the dance floor with Michael and Joshua. We were having a great time when Michael started putting his hands on my shoulders – and then moved his hands to my breasts. I could also feel Joshua’s hands groping my butt from behind. Even though I was high, I was aware of this and felt really uncomfortable.
As they became more daring and started opening caressing my body, I decided it was enough and pushed them away. Then Michael whispered in my ear, “What’s the matter? I know you love letting us enjoy your body!” I excused myself, told the others I wasn’t feeling well and left the club.
The next day, I reflected on what happened. I was really angry at them, but I knew I was equally at fault for what happened at the club. I had dressed too seductively, flirted too much at work and sent out the wrong signals. Michael’s words at the club were especially hitting.
I felt ashamed. In hindsight, I felt like I had been prostituting myself – and that’s not the image I wanted to come across! I wondered what the men in the company were saying behind my back? What did my female co-workers think of me?
That was three years ago. Since then I have moved to another smaller investment company. The environment here is less competitive and I no longer feel the need to dress so sexily everyday. I’m glad I left behind such as manipulative work culture.”
*Names changed to protect privacy.