And that my friends is a question I have wrestled with more than once in my professional career. It’s the ultimate love-hate relationship.
And this is why. Hands up if you’ve ever had a conversation about the merits of a top loader vs a front-loading washing machine. Or what about whether Napisan or bleach is the answer to getting that white shirt really white again. Asleep yet? And let’s not forget the obligatory conversations about poo, nappy rituals or the food fads for an assortment of little people.
I think you get my drift.
And if it’s January everyone is on the obligatory diet due to the imagined weight packed on over the holidays. Heaven help you if you have the audacity to bring in biscuits or eat a donut at your desk during this sacred month as I did a few weeks back.
I thought everyone would have calmed down a bit by then because it was February. Diets never work right, so I figured everyone would have fallen hard off the wagon by then. But no – I was chastised by the office matriarch for the sin of temptation. I am woman – I will make you fat. That it was my life’s work to ruin her chance of thinness.
In an all male office they probably just slap each other on the back and say ‘enjoying that you fat bastard’ as everyone piles in for a second helping. Now that is the kind of office I could live with. One where I could relax and have a biscuit with my cuppa without comment or justification required.
A preoccupation with food and diets is an obsession in all female offices. In one place I worked, a colleague always ‘had a meeting’ whenever a birthday cake was being cut in celebration – she would disappear before the event and re-appear when she thought it would all be over. Another seems not to have made lunch or cooked a meal since 2005, having jumped on one of the diet bandwagons where everything arrives at your door in a box or a packet of some description and labelled with a number or day of the week.
These people with their locked down food worlds often have no idea how to enjoy life – like everything will fall apart if a social invitation arrives which might necessitate sharing a meal – quelle horreur. The diet obsessed keep life itself at arms length. And if that means sucking down on a cigarette three times a day rather than having lunch – well, poor them I say. Food fascism is in a whole other league in all-female offices and is undoubtedly the most tedious aspect.
But to be fair to my female co-workers. It’s not all bad because where it really counts, the vast majority do a stellar job, especially the mums. In my experience I have found women to be harder-working, more productive, more focused, more competent and far better communicators and often make better managers. No question.
Some of the women in my office have young or school-age children. I don’t have kids myself but over the years I have concluded that far from being unreliable employees (as some employers tend to think); women with kids and who also work are often exemplary employees. They are fantastic multi-taskers, are highly productive and generally have their nose to the grindstone all day. And often it’s because in a sense, they do have something to prove and I’ve seen this many times. It is easy for employers (at least in the old days) to be skeptical about employing women who they think will get pregnant and then leave. But the truth of it is that those women come back more motivated than ever and are a huge asset. Parenthood is bloody hard work possibly making the workplace seem like childs-play on their return.
And believe me there have been times in my life when it feels like I’ve had to cover for a conga-line of women going off on maternity leave, one after the other. Their duties picked up by others often for no additional $$. I can’t lie, at times I’ve resented it. The cost for women to have their babies and then return is a burden borne by others to some degree and this is especially true for small businesses. But despite that, over the years I’ve seen how hard they work when they return, how thrilled they are to be back in the workplace and how hard they work to prove they are worth it. I’ve employed women returning who’ve had a long time away from the workplace to raise their children. And in many instances have employed them over other candidates because it is obvious they just want to be given an opportunity again. In short these women have earned my respect. So putting the poo conversations to one side – all female work places can be fantastic.
But for overall balance, mixed gender offices are definitely more fun and more cohesive. I generally like to have a scattering of boys around the place. And even a few men. I think men stop the bitchy cycle and competitiveness which can occur in all female offices.
All-girl offices, what do you reckon – nightmare or nivana? What’s your experience.