Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
At my company all the managers are women except me. It used to be
that women felt excluded from the old boy’s network, but now the
tables have turned here. They get together for lunch or for “spa days”
where I am not invited. Ideas?
Minority of One
At the risk of sounding overly sociological, the major divisions in
almost any group of people are race, gender, and class. And class can
be determined in part by money, which is tied to manager vs line staff.
It also includes also a perception of rank and power that’s true within
Just like army policies that restrict fraternization
between enlisted and officers, your organization probably has
personnel policies as well as a corporate culture that’s also in play.
This culture of separation protects both groups of people (from
potential or actual abuses of power, such as sexual harassment).
Everyone is trying to move up, whether it’s in a university or a
corporation. And rank is power. So as horrible as this may sound to
you, socializing with you might not be good for the very people with
whom you want to socialize.
The good news is there’s an end run for you. You’ll need to choose
carefully among the women, in part based on whom you like and
might even want to work for. And in part based on their own rank,
power, and inter-relationships. Choose two and ask them each to
mentor you. You’ll have to have a pretty good intro speech about why
you admire each of them, and what you want to learn from them.
You’ll also need to say what you bring to the table, both in skills sets,
ambition, and an implicit willingness to make it worth their time. Think
about volunteering for some committee one heads, or for a special
project there’s not enough paid staff for.
What you’re doing will be transparent to everyone. But the rules of
culture work for you in this case. It’s considered bad form to
discourage the ambitious. Translation: it’ll be hard for them to say no.
One caution to remember; they are managers and you are not, so you
should not treat them like friends, and should not be indiscreet about
your negative views of other managers, at least not too soon or too
detailed. Remember, you don’t know the elbowing and infighting
among them. But once you develop rapport, you can let your guard
down a little. One last note; backing out of these situations is harder
than getting in. so choose well and wisely, and be sure you have the
commitment and energy to make it worth your time.