I work in a small office in which I am the only woman. Not only am I the only woman, but all my co-workers are old enough to be my father. They’re normally very kind to me and treat me respectfully, but there are exceptions.
One day our office had to pack up our loose belongings because our carpets were being replaced over the weekend. Anything that wasn’t in a drawer or in a box had to be packed. We have loads of bookshelves in the office, and the company offered us twelve boxes to pack our stuff. I could immediately tell the twelve boxes would not even hold a third of our items, and said so to the delivery man. He said, “If you need more, just call us!” I immediately told him, “We need more. I’m telling you that now.” He repeated that we could just call IF we needed more, and left.
My co-worker witnessed this and began immediately assuring me that the man knew what he was doing. That he does this all the time and could probably tell at a glance how many boxes we needed.
“We used boxes just like that all the time at my last job,” I protested. (I used to work in a bookstore.) “I know how many books fit in a box that size. We don’t have even close to enough.”
The reply was surprisingly lacking in tact.
“Well, not to be sexist or anything”—and as we all know, this is invariably followed by something sexist—“but women aren’t known for their spatial abilities.”
You know, I’m not even a particularly spatially talented woman myself, but I had six years of experience putting similar items into boxes, and had said so. I guess that’s irrelevant because I’m a woman, though.
We ultimately needed over forty boxes to pack up our office. We had to ask for boxes twice more and ended up having to provide some of our own because the company delivering them wasn’t responding quickly.
I’m sure no one in this debacle walked away having learned that my evaluation of the situation was valuable though. When they are proved wrong, they always process it as a fluke or an exception to the rule. Not as an indication that there is no rule in the first place.