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I'm the only woman on my department's team of 6 software engineers. We just had a new manager start and he's assigning me Jira tasks like "organize a teambuilding activity" or "see about getting someone else a new keyboard". I've asked him about why I'm assigned these and he says we can discuss it when my Jira queue is empty (which will probably never happen). The only engineering stuff I'm able to do is old projects that I was already working on when he started, but even for that he's been trying to get my other coworkers to do them instead and he'll assign me a pair programming task with one of them for something I would have done on my own before - none of them pair program with each other. I believe he's treating me this way because I'm a woman. What should I do here?

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  • 3
    Whose job is it in your organization to order someone a new keyboard or organize team events?
    – ColleenV
    Apr 5 at 15:44
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    What country are you in?
    – Peter M
    Apr 5 at 15:56
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    What are the seniority levels of you and your teammates? Did you push back when your manager deflected the discussion? Do your teammates have similar problems? What size is your company? Does it have an HR? Are there female managers you can approach for advice? (Not implying anything, just developing details). Apr 5 at 16:40
  • 3
    Regarding the close vote, I guess the voter wants you to explicitly state that your goal is to have your manager stop treating you differently than your co-workers. Also, if you edit your question to add the information requested by others it will help us figure out what your options are.
    – BSMP
    Apr 5 at 17:33
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    Are your colleagues supportive? Surely they share some of the blame if they are happy for you to be given the task to order them a keyboard? Surely some of them are annoyed they have to sit down a pair-program with you when it seems there is no need? Have you casually discussed this situation with them? Apr 6 at 16:59

3 Answers 3

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Your next steps may be dictated by some of your answers to the questions in the comments, but for now: gather evidence. If this is eventually brought to a higher-up or HR, you don't want it to be just your word against his. Record the tasks you are being given, and try to get proof that no one else on your team is being given tasks like these. Get it in writing that he is refusing to discuss the reasoning behind giving you these tasks and that he is passing off your projects.

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  • I think this answer is correct. I will add that if the OP is using jira then all the information about who is assigned what tasks is available in computational form. Gathering evidence should be easy and complete.
    – User65535
    Apr 6 at 13:08
  • jira tickets aren't "he said she said".
    – bytepusher
    Apr 11 at 18:44
4

Consider the following:

  • Consider the possibility (though I do not think this likely from what you have said) that there is nothing sinister going on here... perhaps your manager sees you on the fast track to a promotion and wants to get you ready for the next step in your career. Buying keyboards? You'll have to do that when you're a manager! Organising team events? That's thinking wider than your own individual contribution! Pair programming? An opportunity for you to mentor those less capable! And the difficulty of getting a meeting with him? He's just busy! On the face of it, this sounds doubtful... but allow the possibility that things are not as they seem. Sometimes there is more going on.

  • Keep records. Lists of work tickets you've been given, emails from him refusing your request to meet, etc. It might help to demonstrate patterns and if worse comes to worst, provide evidence. Particularly record anything that affects only you. Is everyone being asked to do more pair-programming, or only you?

  • If your company has an HR department, discuss your concerns with them immediately. I suggest not raising it as a formal grievance yet, but they should be aware of your concerns as soon as possible, and this may help forestall any future remarks about "why didn't you say anything?".

  • Try again to discuss this with your manager directly. To avoid sounding like you are demanding a confrontation, it may be helpful to propose this as a regular 1:1 catch-up (which a good manager should want to do with their staff anyway), perhaps every two weeks or on some similar basis. In such a 1:1, "how do you see my role fitting into the team, and how are you deciding to balance my workload?" are perfectly reasonable questions for any employee to ask, and to which you should be able to expect a reasonable answer - and give your own input.

  • Try to phrase your questions in non-accusatory terms: "please can you explain your recent push for me to be involved with more pair programming?" rather than "why don't you trust me to write code alone?". Drop reminders into the conversation about the good work and competencies you have done in the past.

  • If your manager still says he will talk to you only when your Jira queue is empty (which sounds absurd - when is anyone's work queue empty? - but perhaps your company works in a way that that does happen), empty your work queue. Get work done if possible, or assign the tickets to others with requests for more information, and with your newly-empty queue, ask to talk with your manager again.

  • If your manager agrees only reluctantly to meet with you, or you think he may become defensive or confrontational in the meeting, consider asking a trusted colleague or other manager to join the meeting as an observer. Note that this immediately escalates the meeting with your boss beyond a "normal" 1:1 meeting, so it is a judgement call as to whether or not this would help.

  • If your manager still refuses either a regular or one-off meeting, or his answers support your idea that he is discriminating against you, that is the point where you should formally escalate to HR if you have them, or your boss's boss if not. Request a meeting in writing (i.e. by email), explaining that you think there is a possibility of discrimination and you would like to discuss your concerns with them - don't even mention in the meeting request that you may be the victim, or your boss the perpetrator. In that meeting, take your written notes and evidence (for your own reference if nothing else) and describe the situation as calmly and clearly as possible. Explain that your goal is to be treated fairly and with respect, and to be able to continue doing your job to the best of your ability..

  • If escalating does not resolve the problem - or isn't an option, perhaps if there is no HR, or senior boss to escalate to - it's probably time for another question, as the answers will depend on what has happened since, your unique circumstances, your location and local laws, etc. It may be necessary to take legal recourse, or to move to another team, or even to move to another company. None of these would be good outcomes, of course. You have a right to be treated fairly and without discrimination. Sometimes those rights are improperly withheld, and sometimes there isn't much that can be done about it if the person discriminating is in a position of power. But don't worry yet - it might not come to this.

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  • Exactly. "I have considered the possibility and it is definitely not the case, I am certain" - great. Then hopefully there's some value in the rest of these suggestions. Apr 6 at 16:47
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    Never ever discuss concerns with HR unless you are okay with your boss knowing you did, because the first call after talking to you will be to your boss. HR works for management, never forget that.
    – Tiger Guy
    Apr 7 at 1:32
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    "Buying keyboards? You'll have to do that when you're a manager" - Excuse me!? Why on earth would a manager be responsible for buying keyboards? That's either a job for some type of assistant, or for the IT helpdesk, or employees just do it themselves (following guidelines set by a manager).
    – sleske
    Apr 7 at 5:57
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    @sleske one of the managers where I work is RESPONSIBLE for purchasing and allocating the equipment, as they have a budget and need to justify their purchases and allocations. I seriously think you underestimate the importance of this task. Apr 7 at 19:09
  • @Old_Lamplighter: Yes, budget is typically a manager's responsibility. In my experience, managers set guidelines ("one keyboard per employee", "may choose any USB keyboard under 30$", "report keyboard budget usage every month", or just "be reasonable about hardware and limit spending to $300/employee/year"), but do not handle the details of ordering & installing stuff. But yes, that will depend on company culture and the level of trust - I do recall a (small) company where the CEO insisted on signing off every travel booking for employees.
    – sleske
    Apr 8 at 6:06
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Just tell your boss you will see about getting someone a new keyboard when your Jira queue is empty.

On a more serious note, does your company have a administrative/support department? Are you the most junior member in the company (besides the manager)?

If you are the most junior person and there isn't any dedicated admin/support staff, he could just be giving it to you because there is literally no one else to do it.

****************************** edit **********************************

@BSMP Not even sure what that even means...

@Ester Obviously you wouldn't say that to your boss, it was supposed to be humorous. If getting a keyboard was the Jira ticket (I doubt it is), then the user is literally complaining about doing their job. I don't see anything hostile about my above answer.

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    Just so you're aware, your deleted answers count against you in the algorithm for the answer ban. If your answer is getting down votes, deleting it and reposting it does not help you.
    – BSMP
    Apr 7 at 17:54
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    The original post said "assigning me Jira tasks like [...] 'see about getting someone else a new keyboard`". It is not helpful to provide an answer that is humorous, focus on only one of the problematic behaviors when the other problems contradict your hypothesis, and theorize that the OP is lying, and these are probably all reasons why your answer got downvoted. Just things you may want to avoid in the future.
    – InBedded16
    Apr 8 at 20:13
  • I mean that the system will ban you from posting answers if it decides that your contributions to the site aren't good and it considers your deleted answers in that assessment.
    – BSMP
    Apr 25 at 5:57
  • Side note, @username only notifies folks if you do it in comments (and only for the first user name you do it with).
    – BSMP
    Apr 25 at 5:59
  • @BSPM Honestly dude, this question is clearly a problem of a woman failing to understand her role within the workplace. Thankfully, the Supreme Court in the United States is putting things back in order, so we don't have to hear ridiculous complaints like this anymore. May 13 at 1:18

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