What Happened When A Man And Woman Swapped Names At Work

Illustration by Anna Sudit
We all know that women face certain disadvantages in the workplace. Whether that’s being forced to wear uncomfortable, constricting clothing, having to bat away unwanted sexual advances, or even being fired for taking maternity leave as we attempt to continue the human race.
These are all obvious ways in which women can be screwed over – but what about the more latent and pervasive little injustices we face every day at work? One example is the discrimination we may face for having traditionally feminine names. Very often, we’re working alongside male colleagues, doing the same jobs and meeting the same people, but aren’t progressing up the career ladder at the same rate. Could our names be to blame?
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Martin R. Schneider, a writer and editor for movie-reviewing site Front Row Central, recently had an experience that opened his eyes to just how differently men and women are treated in the workplace. The initial tweet in the thread chronicling his experiencing has garnered more than 9,000 likes and over 7,000 retweets at the time of writing.
It all started when he began accidentally signing off his emails with his female colleague’s signature, as they had a shared inbox.
Schneider, who was working at another company at the time, recalled how his colleague Nicole was receiving regular criticism from their boss for spending more time on tasks that involved corresponding with clients.
Schneider attributed the criticism of Nicole to the fact that Schneider was more experienced, but then one day he noticed a client was acting particularly difficult over email. "He is just being IMPOSSIBLE. Rude, dismissive, ignoring my questions," he tweeted, adding: "Telling me his methods were the industry standards (they weren't) and I couldn't understand the terms he used (I could)."
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Then Schneider realised what was going on – he had been accidentally signing off his emails with "Nicole", as they shared an inbox and she had been working on the project before. Schneider then re-introduced himself and – guess what! – no more problems.
“IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT. Positive reception, thanking me for suggestions, responds promptly, saying ‘great questions!’ Became a model client,” Schneider said. “Note: My technique and advice never changed. The only difference was that I had a man's name now."
Following this wake-up call, the pair decided to conduct an experiment, choosing to swap names for two weeks, which Schneider said “fucking sucked”.
Meanwhile, “Nicole had the most productive week of her career”, Schneider said. “I realised the reason she took longer is bc she had to convince clients to respect her."
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“By the time she could get clients to accept that she knew what she was doing, I could get halfway through another client," he tweeted. "I wasn't any better at the job than she was, I just had this invisible advantage."
What surprised Schneider even more, however, was how normal Nicole felt it was to be treated so poorly as a woman. “For me, this was shocking. For her, she was USED to it. She just figured it was part of her job,” he added. “(I mean, she knew she was being treated different for being a woman, she's not dumb. She just took it in stride.)”
While many have praised Schneider for highlighting the problem in such a frank and public way, others said a man shouldn’t have to directly experience discrimination before acknowledging that sexism is a very real problem. Whatever your view, you can't deny Schneider has brought much-needed attention to the issue.
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