Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Damn You St. Valentine!

There are discriminations and there are discriminations. For many years I was in denial that sexism or racism affected me at work. To date, I maintain that sometimes they do, but on a daily basis, they don't. But there is one kind of discrimination which has affected me since day 1 of my employment, that I have come to mind more and more over the years: being single (let this encompass being childless as well.)

I work in a company that is very child friendly. Some people work from home once a week to stay with their kids. We have infinite sick days that apply to child sick days as well, so long as the #of days used per week doesn't raise eyebrows. Many parents come and leave work on their children's schedule with no questions asked. Having said that, only less than 10% of the company is female so most of the married guys are likely making their wives take on most of the child rearing responsibilities.

Imagine my surprise when I've instances where I've told my work that I couldn't flex my schedule on say, a Friday evening, and that conversation showed up in my one of my reviews as 'Sometimes your team members feel that you're not flexible with your schedule.' My reaction was, and if I had a kid and I'd to leave every evening at 5pm to pick up my kid, would anybody complain?

A perfect example of when this was blatant was this past Valentines day. Our team broke into two to work on two deliverables, both due on Valentine's Day. To assist with collaboration, we split the team by geography. The younger crowd (Team Singles), working out of a more urban setting, ended up one one, and the older crowd, people with families (Team Married) living and working out of a suburbs office in another.

Team Married got a headstart with a pre-existing document, which meant that from the get go, Team Singles was behind. That gave Team Single a furious fist week by the end of which both teams were on equal grounds. In fact, in terms of quality of product, Team Singles was ahead. Well and good, you'd think.

On the day of the deliverable, Valentines Day, thing fell apart. On Monday morning, Team Married requested to take one of our team members. We asked why, they said they felt that they were a bit behind. Ok? We gave them one person, immediately realizing that, shit, we didn't plan on losing a person so we're adding a few hours per/person on our team for that day. A slightly late day, we think. That's alright.

Come 5pm, Team Married, except for the person we gave them, is out the door (7pm is a regular end of work day). "Oh, I promised I'd take my wife to dinner.", they said, one after another. Are they kidding me? (OK. For a moment here, let's examine this same scenario if I was to show up and claim, "sorry, my guy is taking me out for diner" ... I wonder how much sympathy I'd have received. It just doesn't sound as "forgivable".) So Team Single acquired another couple of hours per head since we had to finish our document and theirs.

In the end, the deliverables were sent out in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, with some of the Team Singles members clocking 18 hrs for that day (following a 90 hr previous week). I know that doctors and lawyers routinely have long weeks, but there's a good reason I'm not one of those. And the last thing I expected in my career choice was for being single to work against me.

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