Man and Woman Swap Email Signatures At Work — And Expose Hardcore Sexism

Adobe Stock / Antonioguillem

male and female colleague

Adobe Stock / Antonioguillem

What happens when a male and female employee switch identities? You guessed it -- the man realizes just how hard it is to be a woman at work.
When Martin R. Schneider, a writer and editor at Front Row Central, swapped emails with his female co-worker, he revealed on a Twitter thread -- which went viral -- that it “fucking sucked.” He said he “was in hell. Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single.”
We all know that sexism in the workplace is real, but Schneider and his colleague Nicole Pieri’s story -- perhaps because it’s told through the eyes of a man who’s confronting it for the first time -- is particularly compelling.
Schneider documented the experience on Twitter, beginning by explaining what led him and Pieri to swap emails in the first place. “Nicole and I worked for a small employment service firm and one complaint always came from our boss: She took too long to work with clients,” he writes. “As her supervisor, I considered this a minor nuisance at best. I figured the reason I got things done faster was from having more experience.”
Schneider writes on Twitter that one day, he was emailing with a client who was “just being IMPOSSIBLE. Rude, dismissive, ignoring my questions. Anyway I was getting sick of his shit when I noticed something.” He’d accidentally be signing his emails as “Nicole,” because the two shared an inbox.
When he began using his own signature, he says he saw “IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT. Positive reception, thanking me for suggestions, responds promptly, saying ‘great questions!’ Became a model client.”
Schneider explains (through tweets) that he and Pieri then decided to conduct an experiment: for two weeks, he’d sign all client emails as her, and she’d sign as him. This is when he came to the realization that being a woman at work “fucking suck[s].”
Meanwhile, how did Pieri fare? No surprises here -- Schneider says she “had the most productive week of her career. I realized the reason she took longer is bc she had to convince clients to respect her. I wasn't any better at the job than she was, I just had this invisible advantage.” He says he showed the evidence to his boss, but “he didn’t buy it.”
Schneider tweeted that he was most disturbed by the fact that while he was shocked, Pieri was accustomed to this. “She just figured it was part of her job,” he wrote. “(I mean, she knew she was being treated different for being a woman, she's not dumb. She just took it in stride.)” reports that Pieri penned a Medium post about the fact that her boss rejected this hard evidence. She writes that she couldn’t wrap her head around it, but instead of staying in this toxic environment, she quit her job and started her own business as freelance writer.
We’re glad to hear that Pieri found a male ally and idn’t opt to stick around when her boss chose to perpetuate this awful discrimination. Yet this story -- like Susan J. Fowler’s recent confession about her experience with sexual harassment at Uber -- is a blatant reminder that many workplaces and our society at large have a lot of work ahead.
Leaders at companies can take concrete steps to diminish workplace sexism, and we hope that these stories will encourage them to do so. We also hope this kind of exposure will inspire more women who have experienced sexual harassment at work (or otherwise) to share their stories. While it’s disappointing and upsetting to hear about these injustices, increased transparency may lead to more efficient change.


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