Thursday night I slept very disturbed. I have been working on a project that I enjoyed so much, I would even work outside my work hours – I am always working so I am not certain what those are- because of how much I enjoyed it. That night in relation to the said project I received an email detailing the amount of remuneration I was to receive. This was very different from the agreement my boss and I had signed in February. The amount was less by roughly 40%, now that is a fucking huge chunk of money. I didn’t respond to the email as it was late in the night but the guys I was working with corresponded and I watched. Was this a play of sexism right in my email? I sent each of them different texts and alluded to picking it up on Friday.
I wrote three sentences to my friend, switched off my phone – something I never do and slept. Friday morning we had a meeting with the client and as pissed as I was it was my duty to attend. One of my colleagues, the client and I were to be at the meeting. Very demotivated I went to the meeting that took about half of my day and as we walked into the lift my colleague brought the money issue up. I listened. Just before I could explode the lift opened to let in more warm bodies so I just stood there seething. This is the point I should call them names as you already suspect, I am in my head! I had got replies to my texts with different tales as to why I was receiving that amount.
On the ground floor the lift stopped and as it opened to let us out my body seemed to mimic the lift and let out the anger. I picked my ID from the guard and swiftly walked out. I hate leaving my ID with guards at buildings because that means I can’t lie about my ID number. As the Nairobi cold breeze hit me the anger came back. I digress, every time we had meetings these guys were perfect gentlemen, they would let me walk into places first, let me sit first, pour me tea and pass me endless bottles of water. It’s a sea of men in boardrooms Y’all. After meetings, we would debrief and go our separate ways. Not this Friday!
I let my colleague walk into places first, I declined tea, yes and I’m Meru we love our tea, I don’t love tea but I don’t decline a tea offer. I declined water and I even opened the door for him to walk in. Yeah I know I also shock myself with the shit I can pull. I was insanely polite aka passive aggressive or as it is now called PETTY. I am the queen at petty street, I built it, painted it and my house is at the very end of PETTY STREET. As I walked to the bank my colleague caught up with me and said, “You seem odd today?” Oh, my goodness, the nerve of some people! I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “That’s because I am disappointed and angry”. He had touched a raw nerve, “Last night, a lot of things went through my mind as to why you, a group of ALL MEN would choose to shortchange me? Is it because my boss isn’t in the project anymore? Is it because I am a woman? Is it because I am soft spoken? Is it because I am petite? Why?” He looked at me stunned. Yeah, my boss was with me on this project but these sleazeballs made him leave, finally a cuss! We walked for a minute without talking and stopped. I mentioned that their stories were not matching up and his eyes widened. I said, “Oh, yeah I texted both of you and all of you have different tales which makes me wonder why you are lying to me after I have done all this work.” Then he said he got a percentage of his pay cut but was given an explanation as to why. Big mistake telling me that, big mistake! I said, “I’m glad you were awarded the courtesy of an explanation before the cheque came in which nobody cared to give me. You only explained to me when the turn to pay me arrived. I feel cheated and there is nothing you can do to convince you guys are not trying to steal from me.”
Because MAN has to have the last word, as I was about to walk away he said, “Stop pitting me against my colleague by saying we gave you different stories. You are trying to bring a disagreement and you know money is an emotive affair. And the way in which you are asking is not how to ask it.” Boy, was I shocked! He proceeded to tell me how it’s not about the money but how this was a learning process most especially for me. When do we start acknowledging everything is a learning process but you need to be fairly remunerated when you put in work? When? I had suddenly become guilty for asking for what was/is rightfully mine. I nearly asked him to give me a tutorial on how exactly should ask. I am not confrontational so if you know me you can imagine me trying to have this conversation with an adult man and not crying in the face of all this douchebaggery*. When I felt tears welling up my eyes I said, “We should talk more about this later, I am not in the correct frame of mind right now but you are all lying to me” then quickly walked away.
As I crossed the street with crowded vision – yeah some tears fell- I flashed back to how my boss was pushed out of the project, how this guy and his alter ego reprimanded me on emails and cce’d everybody in conversations I had only emailed him and then I turned out correct. How he has been rude to service people everywhere we have gone. How he has tried to tell me my boss is incompetent. And I wondered, what is the place of a woman in the office? It reminded me of the times my boss has had to tell clients that I am competent every time I go to consult with them. And it makes me think maybe it’s not just me, it is all women. Every time I think about the amount of money they are trying to swindle me I want to cry. But it’s not just about the money it is a lack of respect. It is a lack of ethics and integrity. It’s being disingenuous.
In consulting I have encountered prejudiced clients, clients who have wanted to deal with my male colleagues and boss over me yet I am equally competent if not more and when they have to come back to me they have to explain themselves. Every time this happens and it’s as often as twice a week, I remind them they ignored me, I remind them that I a woman and to check themselves because that shit is rude and sexist. I do this because as a woman I know we have to literally fight for our place even when we are competent. I do this because I root for all women at the workplace.
I am not sure the initial agreement will be honoured and it breaks my heart that I have now stopped enjoying a project I was so invested in. In all this I keep wondering is this sexism? I ask this question because everyone else in this project but me is male. If I was a guy would they do this? Would they? I’d love to hear about your hard experiences at work…