The first observation I made when walking into my internship was that most of the staff members are women. This made me happy as I love seeing women, especially women of color, succeeding and generally running the world. However, I also noticed that although most staff members are women, and the Congresswoman herself is a woman of color, the director of the office and the office supervisor are both white men. It might just be a coincidence but I can’t help but notice that this is a pattern repeated in organizations in every sector – business, non-profit, education, government, etc. Even in offices that are primarily made up of women, the highest position in that office somehow always ends up being a man.
As a woman of color myself, I was excited to be working for a Congresswoman of color. As someone hoping to work in politics in the future, I know how important it is for women of color to be in leadership positions and to be visible to the rest of the world. Maybe that’s why the office hierarchy disturbs me so much. It is unfair for women to be in the background, while men are more visible and in higher positions. I don’t think this dynamic is deliberate in this particular office, but I can’t shake the feeling that it is representative of a larger pattern that is quite unnerving.
As movements like #MeToo and the fight to close the wage gap prevail, we have to acknowledge the overt and the internalized misogyny in our workplaces. It’s not enough to just protect women in the workplace – we also have to make sure that we are providing women with the same opportunities as men and furthermore, we are actually giving those opportunities to women. It’s one thing to call yourself an “equal opportunity employer” and another to actually demonstrate this commitment through your office leadership.