Column: The price of being a woman


Josephine Mittelberger, Design Chief

Having been in the workforce since 14, I have my fair share of stories up to this point in my fairly short life. And while most of these will be muddled memories one day, I cannot say that I have learned nothing—how to carry plates so that the tower of plates is half my height, how to hold nearly 20 cups without spilling, how to create wall decor from scratch. But what will stick with me most is how to deal with the gender gap. 

And I’m not talking about the wage gap, but something more abstract than that: how men act in professional settings versus women. At one restaurant I worked at, for a few months the only bussers working were me, a girl who was just 15, and a man in his 20s. When it came to the more difficult tasks, like taking out a trash bag that was almost as heavy as me, I did not let my coworker take it out every time—I’d roll up my sleeves and drag it out myself. 

I felt as if I had to prove that every cent going my way was earned. So, when my coworker would only tend to the smaller half of the restaurant, or leave early and make me do his post work, or showed up 15 minutes after the restaurant opened leaving me to flip all 60 chairs that were “too big” for me to handle, I kept working. While I felt like my check had to be earned, it was clear to me that he felt as if his check was signed based on attendance alone. 

This isn’t a pattern confined to the few months of work I had, but something that I have seen in school and extracurriculars I have been in. Although girls will typically do their work or help with a club no matter who is looking, when certain boys complete a task, he only does it to get praise from a teacher or club sponsor. Because of this, the work that some women put in is lost to the strategic “hard work” of even fewer men. 

The frustration of hard work being overshadowed by a man with a big ego is something that many women can relate to. Many women who are in the workplace professionally struggle with being taken seriously and have less opportunities in their jobs due to that perception. Because we have always had to fight for our place in a voting booth, our spot in the workplace and our seat in a school: we always try to prove that we belong by picking up after others.