They told her “A Gentleman’s Agreement” had been made.

My approach in the workplace has always been to remain comment-less on feminism, in hopes of creating less separation between the sexes. I loathe feminist groups that separate women from men and ask for attention on different rights and topics. I feel like half the problems we find ourselves with in the workplace, mock those groups, and the “me-too” movement even at the best of times.

The comment-less part remained true until this past month, one too many times, I heard the words “Gentleman’s Agreement” in passing, and it ercked a chord in my stomach.

Many positions in power, will likely always be older men. While there is some shifting, and I tried very hard to convince myself for a long time it wouldn’t always be that way, it’s likely that an old dude in a suit will come across as the most experienced and trustworthy (even if he’s the most slimy!), when it comes to managing money and making profit from it.

Does anyone actually think that older men in power are going to want to hire more women now that an additional risk of the “me-too” movement includes getting fired and/or publicly shamed as a result of something as harmless as too tight of a hug? Thanks Hollywood.

Because you know, battling a job interview or screening question about childcare, pregnancy and birth control aren’t enough? Of course most of these questions happen “off the record”, but they’re there. There’s also the added pressure to keep any sex related incidents, we can call them, “hush hush”, you wouldn’t want to be known as the whistleblower.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of men I’ve dealt with (politely) that have done far worse that a hug too tight, that have touched me and requested things that men in positions of power never should have. I’ve had Founders and CEO’s pinch my backside at public events (through my thick fabric black suit at that!), there have been those that have asked for sex as part of consulting contracts, those that have insisted on blow jobs late nights in the office for “stress release”, and even one’s famous words that I can’t help but quote: “I believe there are three things we can do together – business, friendship and orgasm”. Negotiation skills at his finest, indeed.

Had I made a scene in a public place about it with any of these men’s colleagues however, it’s likely I wouldn’t have been spoken to again about business. So, what did I do? I laughed it off, as I did “No no jimmy, not tonight.” I remained in the working circle of older men, and kept doing my best to find a light profile in a dark room.

Somewhere in the middle of the scandal and sexism battled by your average good hearted Joe, is the exclusive Gentleman’s agreement – a longstanding business tradition hard to waiver. The unsaid promise that only men can participate in, and women would well, just never understand, or so I’m told.

But how do these sayings even still exist? In a day and place where I thought for so long that things were equalizing? Call it too much time in Canadian government offices and leadership class at university.

The same agreement finds itself at the beginning of greetings for letters and e-mail chains, WhatsApp conversations and text messages: “Gents, find attached…..”. These sayings in the workplace are not falling off the charts anytime soon. So, what is the best a woman can do, aside from wear a pair of britches and a fake moutache for Movember? Or rant in a blog, like I did here. I don’t know if starting a “Ladies Agreement” will help too much, aside from sounding like an advertisement for period panties. So far the best I can come up with is “A Human Agreement” but that sounds boring, too doesn’t it?

Leave your replies below and let’s see what we can come up with together!

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Tegan J Adams,
CEO & Author

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