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Don't Call Me Baby

There are many ways—both subtle and obvious, subconscious and conscious—that women are treated differently in the workplace

August 03, 2015
Gender equality image

At industry networking events, I’m often asked if I am the owner’s daughter. At business dinners, I am asked if I’m the girlfriend, wife, or fiancée of our company’s president. In the past, I’ve been asked who my father knew to get me my job. I’ve even been asked, under the assumption that it was obvious, if I was having an affair with the CEO. For many professional women, having to justify their role within a company can be a daily struggle.

A glance at my résumé will prove my status as a valued professional in the marketing and construction industry, with a record of success. So, with more than 15 years of marketing experience and over two years in the industry, it’s disappointing when I am treated differently from my male counterparts.

I have a master’s degree, am an adjunct professor at two universities, and an adviser at a third. I serve on numerous charitable boards of directors and manage several rental properties. Yet, sitting in a meeting with all men, my name and title are replaced by “honey.” I’m “honey” every single time he, a well-educated vice president, addresses me.

There are many ways—both subtle and obvious, subconscious and conscious—that women are treated differently in the workplace, especially in male-dominated arenas such as the construction industry.

On a conference call with a male counterpart recently, he told me that if we were meeting face to face, he’d be able to “make me smile” and the meeting could have concluded sooner. (I assume because I would be charmed and forfeit my position in the negotiation.)

Can you imagine a man saying this to another man with whom he is in a discussion over a contract? Or can you imagine if the man called the other a pet name like “baby” or “sweetie” during the process?

If you’re reading this in an industry publication, there’s a 92 percent chance that you are a man and have never been called honey in a meeting nor been flirted with in an effort to undermine your professional status. Nor have you had to be concerned about whether or not your work outfit will be misjudged as provocative, or judged at all. And you probably haven’t had your motives questioned for grabbing a drink after work with a colleague.

But if you ask your female colleagues, they’ll probably tell you that none of this is unusual. What is unusual is Mosby’s approach to preventing gender discrimination in the workplace.

A Bright Spot

One significant bright spot, however, is the leadership that Mosby Building Arts has demonstrated in supporting all of its employees equally and creating a company culture that respects the important contributions made by women. Mosby ensures and promotes workplace equality with performance-based reviews, predetermined pay rates, gender-neutral recruiting, and a positive workplace culture.

At Mosby, each associate has a performance agreement and yearly objectives that are evaluated each trimester. This allows for fair and consistent evaluation at all levels, regardless of position.

Mosby’s leadership team is equally split in terms of gender representation. Management strives to find the best individuals for every position in the company by posting jobs in an accessible way to all qualified candidates and fairly analyzes pay rates based on years of experience, position requirements, and cost of living. Pay rates are determined at time of job posting, rather than after selecting a candidate.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that in 2013, female full-time workers made just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men; a gender wage gap of 22 percent. At Mosby, that difference is around 4 percent.

Mosby’s workplace culture focuses on diversity and inclusion by making programs available to all associates. The social activities team is made up of men and women from numerous departments, and the suggestions team gives equal opportunity to all associates to provide feedback and implement changes to improve the company.  PR


Kate Ewing is marketing manager for Mosby Building Arts, in St. Louis. She is a Professional Remodeler 40 Under 40 winner for 2015.



About the Author



A bit like your experience, I'm a health professional and run a hospital outpatient clinic, and have been mistaken for the receptionist (that we don't even have) on many occasions! I used to explain I am not the receptionist, but they are welcome to take a seat, but now I just smile politely ...

As a woman in ag marketing, I completely sympathize. Kudos both to you and to Mosby for valuing what is most important, quality work, and recignizing the many ways in which women in the workplace struggle to be taken as seriously as their peers. 

35 yrs in business, Florida State Certified Building Contractor, Building designer and private pilot.
I also have been asked many times if it's my husband's business. (No husband here, younger boyfriend and not associated with the business.) Surprisingly, it comes mostly from other women and not men. Some of my associates and I call each other sweetie or honey as we work together like family and mean no disrespect to each other. Yes I am guilty too, but never baby, that's for home use only!
Most memorable was in a meeting at an architect's office. I had been asked to discuss the design details and budgeting  for a City project. Upon my arrival to the meeting, (with several men) the male architect burst out in greeting of  "Hi Honey!" After turning several indescribable shades of red, he apologized and said he had never called a contractor honey before. I graciously accepted his apologies while trying not to laugh. We have known each other for many years and I am guessing it was said out of fondness and not in a disrespectful or derogatory way. 
Bring it to their attention that you want to be called by your name, not sweetie, but now we must be cautious as to not be given another label. Yeah it's a fine line. Some people may do it out of habit or fondness and will continue unless brought to their attention. 
The people who are really being pigs, call to the mat, doubtful that their coworkers condone this unprofessional and poor behavior.  
Being a female in a male-dominated arena has its challenges, but it also has its rewards. 

Prior to a kick off meeting for the building of a school (for which I was the foreman of all but electrical and HVAC) I commented on how the site looked ready for a motorcross competition since it had rained for the last 39 days.  One of the men commented to me that "No, there's going to be mud-wrestling, with you as the main event."
After we went inside and I was introduced to the team leaders and crews, I never saw him again.

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