15 January 2008

When you go to the bathroom with your boss: Same-sex working relationships

It is reported on the U.S. Department of Labor's website, Women's Bureau, that in 2006 women accounted for 51% of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations.[1] When you put that statistic together with the fact that the role of the Administrative Assistant is mainly dominated by women, with men only representing 5% of the workers, [2] the likelihood of working in a same-sex working relationship with a woman becomes increasingly higher. It is also more likely if you are a woman from the baby boomer age that you will be working for a much younger woman.

Long gone are the days when companies had executive bathrooms

I entered the workforce in 1974 and until recently had never worked for a woman and I didn’t think I wanted to. I had heard all the horror stories from other assistants complaining of mood swings, high expectations, perfectionist tendencies and the list went on. I have found none of those things to be true however. Rather, I find working for a woman has been a refreshing change with the added bonus that she understands me. She respects my knowledge and experience and looks to me for assistance and guidance in the areas she knows I have expertise.

I think the fact that I am close to her mother’s age makes it harder for her to view herself as my boss, but rather she sees me as a co-worker. Regardless of how she feels, however, she is still my boss, the same as any man has ever been, and I am her employee. I respect the position she holds and look forward to seeing her advance in her career and cheer her on as she goes where women are just beginning to feel more at home.

It still surprises me however when we share the same bathroom space. I am not used to discussing work issues with my boss while fixing my hair or washing my hands at the sink. The bathroom also was my private place to go where I would see my female co-workers and we could have a quick chat and complain if we had too. Not anymore. You just never know if your boss is in the next stall!

Do we really want to go there?

Today, there is even talk of men and women sharing the same bathroom space, as portrayed in the popular television series Ally McBeal.

Same sex working relationships and sharing bathroom space with my boss is one thing, but I hope I retire before I see unisex bathrooms in my office. There are some things that you just don’t want members of the opposite sex to know about you, especially your male co-workers.

A friend of mine works in an office where men and women do share the same single bathroom and she compares it to the complaints mothers have long had at home with the bathroom habits of husbands and sons.

It's a brave new world out there.

Here is a link to a debate in Britain "Are Unisex Toilets in Schools a Good Idea?" Duh! No...

[1] U.S. Department of Labor, Quick Stats 2006, http://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/main.htm (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, 2006 Annual Averages and the Monthly Labor Review, November 2005) (accessed January 13, 2008)

Stats Canada, Women in Canada, http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/060307/d060307a.htm (accessed February 1, 2008)

[2] Chicago Tribune, A job once filled by men became a pink profession (2006), http://goucher.edu/documents/MediaHits/Chicago%20Tribune%20news_%20A%20job%20once%20filled%20by%20men%20became%20a%20pink%20profession.pdf (accessed January 13, 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia,

I actually find this a bit disturbing. I wouldn't feel comfortable going to the washroom with my female boss (who is actually female).

There's just some things that need to be left the way they are.


Richard Rinyai