I used to sell cars. I say “used to” not because it was something I did many years ago, but something I did until last week when my health problems kicked in full-force. So, I’m on a bit of a hiatus from working at the moment. Anyway, it wasn’t a glamorous job, but you can make decent money doing it short-term and quite a bit of money if you settle in and make it your career. The bad thing about it is that it’s not the most welcoming environment for women. I’m sure you’re shocked.
There are several factors that make the job unwelcoming. You’ve got the stereotypical people coming in who don’t think a woman can explain anything about how cars work, even something like anti-lock breaks. There are the customers who have the “oh they only have women working here to draw men in, so now let me talk to someone who I can actually talk cars with” attitude. Then you have the people who are not-so-subtly asking themselves “women can’t do math, so how is this woman going to explain what my payments will be?” I was fortunate enough to have co-workers who weren’t as sexist as the customers I dealt with. I did, however, have one co-worker around my father’s age who told me he had a crush on me and would openly flirt with me (it only got worse when I told him I had a girlfriend).
Let me be clear though, this was not a work environment where it was impossible to work as a woman because of the misogynistic attitudes. Hell, the other two women who worked with me were among the dealership’s top sellers and there was no one there praising them for doing well “you know, for a girl.” Honestly, I sometimes wondered if the two women I worked with even noticed the sexist things they came across. I’m pretty sure the younger one did based on her eye rolling and occasional death stares at people as she went about her business as if nothing happened. As for the older one, well, there was one day she asked one of the guys to park a car on display for her, telling him “I’m a woman, I can’t park a car in reverse for shit.” For the record, that guy was also new and he promptly told her that he’s horrible at it and if she needed help, I was the one to ask. Internalized misogyny is thing.
Unfortunately, between your standard sexism our society unfortunately sees as normal and the internalized misogyny in women who have been raised in said society, practically no one gets to work in a place that is 100% woman friendly. We women get men explaining things to us as if we were a child, we get them taking projects away from us for whatever reason they come up with that day, or we don’t even get the projects assigned to us in the first place because our bosses didn’t think we could handle it. We also have women who have no idea they don’t make as much as their male co-workers or even worse, they think the sexual harassment happens because that’s “just how men are.” I understand that. I also understand that not everyone has access to the education I had that made me realize how much misogyny is around me on a daily basis, even in myself, even now. The internalized misogyny is something I still work on (nothing like that ever goes away in the blink of an eye), but I’ve found that in misogynistic environments, I feel more pressured to prove stereotypes wrong.
I already mentioned that the older woman I worked with was told by a male co-worker to ask me to park a car for her if she couldn’t do it. He knew that because I had gone out of my way in the past to back the biggest vehicles on our lot into the smallest spaces simply because I knew the stereotype that women can’t drive/park exists. I constantly went out of my way to prove that I, as a woman, still belonged in this job. I felt like I had to, that if I failed, my failure would be seen as something to do with me being a woman rather than something like being an introvert who probably shouldn’t be working in a job that involves twelve hour shifts of talking to customers. What I hate about the pressure I place on myself is that I know it’s not going to go away once I take care of these medical issues and start working again. Unfortunately, this is just a reality of being a woman in any job.