There’s a reoccurring theme that continues to happen to me when I go out with my partner and we happen to strike up conversation with strangers. Be it at dinner, attending a wedding as a plus one, making small talk in an elevator, and even attending a conference as a speaker:
I am rarely asked what I do for a living. 😐
I’ll paint the picture for you- here’s a picture of me and my partner at an event…
My partner is an engineer, he’s also a dude. So, typically, when we are at some sort of social event the conversation usually goes as follows:
Other dude: So, what do you do?
My dude: I’m an engineer at ____.
Other dude: Wow- that’s cool, I do sales at ______.
Me: (Slowly explodes from rage on the inside waiting for the moment other dude asks me what I do. Moment never comes. Explodes. 💥)
And how could I ever forget…
Other dude: So, what is your talk on?
My dude: Kotlin
Other dude: (to me) So, are you having fun shopping on this trip?
Me: Actually, I’ve been pretty busy working on my talk for this conference. (Rage-writes an “open-letter” blog post that I never end up publishing. Explodes.)😠
My assumption is that these people we meet assume that I’m “arm candy”; defined as “a companion chosen for their physical beauty, esp. as chosen by a celebrity for attending a social event”. 🍭
So let me take a moment here and #humblebrag and say…
I’m not arm candy, I’m arm pizza. 💪🍕
Here’s the thing: Pizza is way better than candy. Pizza is amazing, and pizza is great on its own. It goes well with a good side salad. But honestly, pizza is just as good on its own.
I’ll admit: I’m guilty of it, too…
I began to notice this frustrating trend of not-being-asked-what-I-do during a trip to Thailand last March. My partner and I were traveling to Taipei, Koh Lanta, and eventually Bangkok for a conference we were both speakers at. I had just landed my first engineering role at Codefresh, and I was bursting with pride on the inside; waiting for the moment someone would ask me what I did so that I could finally say “I’M AN ENGINEER!”. But sadly, that moment didn’t come as soon as I had hoped. My partner (being the “woke bae” he is) would always find a way to introduce me into the conversation, but the alarming rate at which people didn’t ask me on their own pulled at the back of my mind…
There was the young couple at the beach bar, the older woman at the elephant sanctuary, our fellow conference attendees, the hotel bellhop who asked if he was there for business or pleasure. It took about a 2 weeks until I could finally share the news with a stranger. But you know what I also noticed? I wasn’t asking the women in these social situations what they did, either.
This is something both men and women are guilty of…
When I was attending Hackbright in 2017, I found myself correcting many women in my life on the logistics of my relationship with my partner. Even today, I deal with fun questions and comments, such as:
“You’re so lucky you have a boyfriend who would help pay for that”, they’d say when I told them the tuition price for Hackbright
He didn’t pay for my tuition.
“Wow- this apartment is beautiful. Being an Android dev must pay well?”
I pay half our rent.
“I wish I had an engineer boyfriend who would take care of me like yours”
lol wtf does that even mean?
The truth is, gender stereotypes are something that have been engrained in us from childhood. The Hotwheels vs. Barbies toys at McDonalds, the Easy Bake Ovens vs. Creepy Crawlers, the Mighty Maxs vs. Polly Pockets- it’s not totally our fault. We can, however, be mindful of these stereotypes, and make an effort to overcome them.
NOTE: (No joke, I sold my Polly Pocket collection for $300 in 2016 to help pay for Hackbright Academy– so I guess you can call me an entrepreneur? 🤔😂 But I digress…)
So, what are some things you can do to check yourself and make sure you’re
- In social settings, ask everyone what they do for a living. Regardless of gender. Regardless of appearance.
- Don’t make assumptions based on looks.
- Call out gender bias (example: “You said ‘guys’- aren’t there women on your team, too?”).
- Celebrate and highlight the amazing people (arm pizzas 💪🍕) in your life.
I’ll be doing my part by continuing to ask women what they do, and will highlight arm pizzas on my blog and on Twitter. Do you have an amazing arm pizza in your life? Tweet me (@chloecondon) your candidates (male or female) and let’s create #armpizza awareness 💪🍕