I don't mean to be hurt, but I am. I'm a female who works in IT so aside from myself, it is almost entirely men all the time. I have never worked directly next to another female in any of my roles.

This is entirely outside of work and is a new thing: it is not well established and hasn't been going on long at all. There's a "boys only" group of guys who get together to meet at a bar and watch sports. The person who started it is a manager and he didn't invite everyone - just "his friends" - about 8-12 people who work in the same, closely related teams. I like sports too and would like to go.

Apparently, a rule to the gatherings is that no women are invited. This guy used to be my manager but recently I've moved under someone else but we all still work closely. I approached him about it to see if I could go to and he said guys only and it's just his friends here at work. He suggested I do a women's only group with the only three other females even relatively close to my position, whom I don't know and haven't actually worked with. That does not interest me.

Should I take this personally? The "boys only" rule really only excludes me, as the other three women wouldn't be interested in going anyway. Do I even have any grounds to care because this is outside of work? It is discussed during work but not too openly. I do not know if they discuss work at these gatherings.

Should I be concerned about the effect of this gathering on my workplace and career? If so, what should I do about it?

  • 2
    @gloomy.penguin, could you please clarify if any improper actions have occurred in the workplace? i.e., plush assignments, unwarranted promotions? You don't indicate any such problems in your posting and yet many comments and answers seem to be assuming that your manager is making those kind of actions based on this "guys-only" club.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:30
  • 5
    @gloomy.penguin if people are asking you for information that's relevant to the question, please edit the information into the question. If you (or other people) want to have discussions, please use The Workplace Chat. Comments are not meant to live forever; the important information should be in posts. Also, there is already a link to a chat room specifically for this question; discussion should go there. Comments here should only be to request clarifications. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 1:40
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    Is there anything in the employee handbook or P&P that defines the minimum requirements for an event to be a "company event"? Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 11:57
  • 12
    Moderator note: I have made a major edit to get this question back on track. Adding more and more about how this upsets you isn't helping. And asking us to validate your feelings isn't an on-topic question (that should have been caught much earlier), so I have changed it to add a question about how to respond. Most of the answers covered that anyway, so I don't think this edit invalidates any answers. Despite the magnitude of the edit, I've mostly brought this back to the original version. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 22:21
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    @Hobbes - I was moved to a different client. I work in consulting. It ended up being a good move regardless but I was a little paranoid about the company's motivation. Nothing else changed or was addressed. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 23:16

11 Answers 11


This answer is based on the assumption that these "guys' nights out" are completely a private social gathering and not affiliated with the company at all.

It is the right of every person to get to hang out with who they want after work. If they choose to do an all guys group, that is their deal. Whatever may appear sexist, racist, whatever group someone has out of work has nothing to do with work. Suggesting that you should infringe on this would basically mean that anytime you or anyone else in the office has a get together that everyone should be able to go. There just would be no end to it and no one would be happy.

However, if this spills over to work, then you need to bring it up to HR. If these people are being promoted at a faster rate than others, it is a concern. You knowing the exact group makes it easy for you to gauge this, so that is a good thing.

But as it stands, you can't make people hang out with you after work – for whatever reason. But it is definitely worth noting and monitoring, because I feel this attitude would move over to the workplace too.

Note: I wouldn't assume the guys are pigs, yet. Or sexist. It could very well be that if you got invited, the wives might not like it or that they may invite themselves. The guys might just want to be able to cuss and act like immature men (hit on girls or other mischievous/illegal things). You say they meet at a sports bar... could be a strip club. You should not take this personally at all. I would also advise you to not hold a grudge on these guys unless you think they treat you lower/different. There are too many unknowns to jump to conclusions.

Edit based on author's additional questions: Everyone is excluded from things sometimes. Even as a male I had a situation very similar to yours when I first started working. All of the management played hockey. Those who were invited to the games played, drank after the games (on company tab), and were all promoted at superhuman rates. And hockey wasn't my thing, so I didn't go.

What to do???

I could have quit. I didn't (it turned out OK; not great but OK). You can quit, but you might hate your next job, who knows?

  1. You could go to HR and report this. HR will talk to managers. Managers may or may not have to break up their night out. Everyone will know it's you, and no one will want you on their team.

  2. You could get a lawyer (based on some crazy advice you have been given). Said lawyer will talk to company lawyers. HR will get briefed. Managers will get briefed. Things will get uncomfortable. You may have to quit. Based on what we have so far you have little to no case in the USA.

  3. You could just try to befriend people in your office and eventually hope that they see that the night out isn't fair, and they change the rules. You could drop hints that you wouldn't mind accompanying them. If there is a large group going, I am positive that some wouldn't mind you going.

  4. Give this vocal minority a little time to work. Monitor how the managers behave around you at work. Make sure you are being treated fairly. Just know that you don't have much discourse now, as I didn't and it does SUCK. It SUCKS knowing that there is a group at work that is treated preferentially. But it happens everywhere and I know that doesn't make it right.

  5. Just live with this one issue given they are nice otherwise.

And footnote on the hockey managers. It was broken up after 3-4 years by a lawsuit. A female employee sued the company. She won some money plus a better position. It was clear sexual harassment (at a bar after a game). New management cleaned house and the world was a better place. These hockey managers were bad people. I don't get that from your question but who knows. This person that I do know that went through this harassment had a tough 1-2 years. I know her and appreciate what she did for everyone. If something is clearly wrong and you need to take action – I am all for it. But you need to make sure it is clear to everyone. And also know that even if there is discrimination and that you are right, it isn't easy even with an open/shut case.

  • 3
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:24
  • 2
    Please take further discussion to the linked chat room. Thank you. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 19:51
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    This answer is being discussed on meta: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/q/3132/325 Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 16:19
  • 1
    I think this it is too broad and not very clear answer to the question. Too much of 'you could do that or this, or maybe that'. I understand you try to explain your point of view, but it is confusing overall. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:30

Your company's specific policies are probably relevant here too. My company has a policy that any social gathering including a manager and any of his subordinates can be construed as a company event and that all the regular rules of conduct therefore apply. The policy is in place to prevent liabilities for discrimination or for an employee that commits DUI. Were I you, I would look through my company's HR policies for something similar.

  • 6
    Very good point - your company's specific regulations on this come into play here, and you should know them before acting on any advice you get here.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 20:36
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    Good to know and… well this is a bit insane. I mean, I understand the rationale behind this, but still, if a company wants to tell what I can or can't do in my spare time…
    – o0'.
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 11:18
  • 1
    I voted this up. But I have never worked for a company that had anything close to resembling this - but who knows.
    – blankip
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 17:08
  • I'm not sure HR is a solution to a social problem. Except if she is bringing a rare skill to the company, she won't have leverage. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:32

My concern is that a manager started the group. He has explicitly selected a favored group of people to hang out with. Historically, the people in a group like this will be the ones getting the more interesting assignments, the promotions etc. from this manager. They will end up having more impact on design decisions (and will likely make a bunch of them in the bar where you and the other excluded will have no chance to give any input.) and in general the people excluded will become more isolated over time at work. They will be considered not good enough for the group and that is not a good place to be.

You are right to be upset especially when the jerk told you specifically that you weren't good enough to join because you were female. Certainly, I would have no respect for this manager and not trust him on any issue in the future. He has basically told you that you are not a person of value to him. Act accordingly.

What to do about it is another matter however. You can raise the issue to HR and become a pariah with the group even if you win. You can go work in a different company where you have more enlightened managers. You can create another group of people who meet outside of work on a different night and include all the men in the group except him. You can tell him that you are insulted that he doesn't consider you a friend. None of those are wildly good though.

What you probably should do is watch out for signs the group is getting preference at work. Especially note when there are decisions or opportunities made that you are unaware of because you aren't in the group. If you find yourself in that position, ask when this was decided. You want visibility to the idea that this group is getting preference or more impact on decisions.

Make sure to be heard when design decisions are being made and make sure to push for the assignments you want. If decisions are being made excluding you that you professionally disagree with, then push back on them and explain why those ideas are bad. Make it clear that you are a contributing professional who deserves respect. You will have to work harder to get noticed positively at work than these guys will. That is a given. So make sure you do. Is that fair? No. But life isn't fair.

Now personally if I were this guy's boss, I would have a talk to him about favoritism. What he has done is totally unprofessional. He is opening the company to liability when he wants to give these people promotions, etc. There is is reason why many managers will not pursue friendships with the people who report to them.

Actually there are a lot of them. If these guys are doing something wrong, is he as likely to correct them or let it slide because of the friendships? Managers cannot, in general, afford to be friends with their subordinates. It causes workplace issues. It causes good people who are not in the "In" group to move on to other jobs. It causes poor decision making because everyone with a stake in the decision doesn't get an input. It cause people to take advantage of the friendship and ask for favored treatment the others not in the group don't get. And it creates resentment. It also makes the men in the group feel that excluding women or minorities is OK and contribute to turning them into crappy managers themselves someday.

(And by the way, there are plenty of places with more than one female programmer. Where I work there are not only several female devs (at one point we had more than 20 of us) but female managers all the way up to and including the VP in charge of all development. They just are outside certain sections of the industry like start ups and game companies. The next time you are looking, look for a place like this; you will find out that it is much easier to be dealt with fairly in a place like that.)

From the comments, it appears foreign workers are excluded too and that your boss and his boss attend. My advice to you is to leave this company. If your own boss won't speak up for you when he attends and your boss's boss thinks it is ok to exclude those who are different, you have no future at this place. This is the group who will receive preference for everything. Leave now. Only white males need apply here.

  • 23
    does this mean that a manager should not have his personal life after work? For example if you were the manager and decide to go somewhere with your friends after work (who happened to work with you) does this mean that you have to automatically invite me, just because I happened to work with you? Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 6:12
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    @SalvadorDali it does mean that when you're the manager of a team you need to be very careful about how you handle and how you are seen to handle relationships with team members. This is one reason why its often said that its easier to manage a new team than your old one after a promotion, for example.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 7:30
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    Wow, tons of assumptions here. "He has basically told you that you are not a person of value to him. ". Seriously? no, all he said was he doesn't consider the poster a friend.
    – Andy
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 22:35
  • I always think gaming companies have more male programmers because females don't put up with the ****ty conditions at these companies (which is why I would recommend anyone to avoid them like hell).
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 8:55
  • You assumed the invited guys are given a preferencial treatement which was not stated. But if it is the case, I agree with your comment Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:36

Note: this starts of examining the behaviour as harmless, and then explores it from the point of view that its evidence of malice.

Try not to downvote until you get to the end.

Should I take this personally?

We can't answer this. You can if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it. It might be personal, or it might just be a group of friends getting together.

Lets get a few things out of the way.

Is it sexist?

Probably not. Opportunities for men to bond now days are rare, and it may just be an attempt for some guys to get together and share a common experience. Sometimes people enjoy mixed company, sometimes they enjoy the company of the same sex. Just the existance of the club isn't evidence of sexism.

The question you really need to ask is "Do you really want to go?" and if so, why?

As you said:

There's a "boys only" group of guys who get together to meet at a bar and watch sports.

No where in your question have you expressed an enjoyment of sports, or bars. Have you previously stated an enjoyment of bars and sports at work? If not, they may have just assumed you wouldn't enjoy it. Contrary to popular believe, sports bars aren't great places for business. They are loud and distracting, and only conducive to very short conversations and most likely if they are there to watch sports, non-sport talk will probably be frowned on.

So what can you do?

If it is a sports night, and you want to go because you enjoy the idea of talking about sports with work colleagues, start talking about it at work. Bring up the games you watch, where you drink with other friends, events you are interested in. If you demonstrate that you are interested in coming for fun, and are knowledgeable on the topic, its likely since its new, that someone will just invite you out of habit of conversation. Go, enjoy have fun.

What if you don't like sports, but don't want to be excluded?

Firstly, I'd recommend against complaining to HR, at least straight away. Going to HR is the nuclear option here. If it is just a guys sports night (which again, isn't illegal or immoral), and you get it shut down because you can't go you will become the enemy - and as unpopular as this statement might be, some of the guys might be right to feel that way. Getting an event shut down, because you can't (or don't want to) go isn't fair for two reasons:

  1. If it is just a friendly group, you basically make it impossible for them to be friends. Its well documented that after a certain age, men experience difficulty in making and maintaining friendships. Men are also shown to act differently when in single-sex rather than mixed groups. Taking away an avenue for a group for men to be friends, taking that away may make people angry.
  2. If it is a networking group, it is sort unfair to guys who may not have other avenues to access management. Most formal "mens-clubs" are now not allowed, and contrary to common believe, most men don't have access to the all powerful. As a woman, you have access to "Lean-in", the Ada Initiative, the Anita Borg Initiative, and many more groups specifically targeted to helping women advance. There are very few mens-groups for those starting out, taking that away may make people angry.

As an alternative, consider doing what the boss said and starting your own thing. Not a womens night, not in direct opposition to theirs, just a night out talking about a thing you all enjoy. If you start a competing "sports and beer" night at the same time as theirs, people will see it as petty and be forced to choose sides.

Talk with your colleagues and find out what common ground you have. Do you all enjoy underwater basket weaving? Organise a night at the local pool. All enjoy POPULAR_TV_SHOW, organise a showing, or a coffee break where that is the topic.

Should I take this personally?

Not really, not everyone at work is your friend, but not everyone in real life is your friend either. You can dwell on this, and internalise it, get angry and take that anger to work, then see everything through that lens of anger. Or you can be pro-active, make other events.

I tried all that, no-one came to my events and other people are always being given better opportunities.

Ok, if you've got to this point, you've done everything you can to rule out obliviousness or general camaraderie. The guys who go to these events also seem to be first choice for everything good. Not only that, new guys joining the company get to go, and you are still being sidelined. At the least, its blatant favouritism, at worst blatant sexism.

  1. Document everything - start keeping a diary. Establishing a pattern is important. Focus on big things, who goes to conferences, who you can tell gets raises (this may be hard), show that its always people who go to the informal 'sports night'. Email to ask to go to things, demand emails back.
  2. Find allies - Are others not invited, can they do the same?
  3. Speak to HR - Don't complain about the sports, thats the first mistake, complain about the manager. If you bring it back to the sports night, people will attack it like I did. 'Its harmless', 'its just sports'. Thats when you go, "no, observe this pattern of behaviour". Again, stopping the sports night isn't the issue, its stopping the behaviour. If you get the sports night shut down its a pyrrhic victory, the behaviour just goes underground where it is harder to fight.
  4. Lawyer up - HR didn't help, and shrugged it off. Good, get it in email, go to a lawyer. You have everything you need for a winning discrimination suit.
  5. Start a blog - People love stories of women who fought discrimination and won, they also love stories of women who fought discrimination and lost. Either way...
  6. Clear your schedule - you are going to have a lot of speaking engagements soon.
  • 2
    "As an alternative, consider... starting your own thing." That's not the point: she's being excluded from a work related gathering. Her boss will presumably not attend the new gathering, or if he does, there is a "separate but equal" issue.
    – user383
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:04
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    "Start a blog". Why do people think that a substitute for sexist behavior is to go public and risk looking like a crazy person?
    – crthompson
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 21:03
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    “Opportunities for men to bond now days are rare” – Do you mean, other than fraternities, fraternal orders, gentlemen’s clubs, strip clubs, sports leagues, dive bars, poker nights, ...? Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 23:39
  • 6
    I'm not in the US, so we don't have fraternities, or fraternal orders, or gentlemens clubs, and strip clubs are rare. I don't like sports. Dive bars are unisex, so are poker nights.
    – user9158
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 0:38
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    @BraddSzonye Fraternities are for college students, gentleman's clubs and strip clubs are the same thing and not for everyone, not everyone cares about sports leagues, dive bars are mostly about drinking, poker nights are usually organized among friends so they can be hard break into, etc., etc., etc. Factor in where you are in the country and your age and yes, it can be really hard to make friends as an adult.
    – anonymous
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 18:53

As a fellow woman in IT I can totally see how you feel with this. It's not really a comfortable working place for you, if all the guys you work with are interacting socially and you are specifically banned from doing so. It could harm your relationships with your coworkers and stop them from seeing you as part of the team.

Personally, I think if the reason is "X guys won't be allowed to go if a woman is there" then it is those guys who should lose out as they are the ones actively discriminating.

My first step would be to speak to the boss and explain that as you are friends with the rest of the group, you find it personally rude that he would actively exclude you from the group. If that does not work, depending on how close you are with your colleagues you could try starting up a separate social night to persuade people to drink with you instead of with the boss.

I know if it was me, I'd struggle to continue working on that team when the boss (and potentially some of your coworkers) are so sexist that they feel women and men cannot socialise together.

  • 9
    I already said something when I asked to be involved and no one really wants to start something on top of doing that, too. The two things would be too frequent. It's not just the boss, it's his boss, too. It's the boss beside him. And... it's so dumb. I'm gonna have to just grow a penis or something. At least I'm already white. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:50
  • 7
    I like everyone and I don't want to leave. But I want to feel involved and like I belong and like a member of the team. I want to be equal... and valued. And... I don't want to have to fight or beg for it. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:53
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    This was my thought, too. They may not be doing anything particularly "illegal", but it's hurtful and bad for the group to leave someone out solely based on their gender. Assuming the op would enjoy having a drink at a sports bar and everyone on the team gets along well, these guys are missing out by not inviting her. If the op guilts/forces them into to inviting her, they might end up feeling resentful, so that doesn't seem like a good move, but as another woman in IT, I get this kind of thing regularly, and I feel your pain.
    – Keiki
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 16:11
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    Another woman in IT here, and the whole incident makes my blood boil. Yes, he is free to invite whoever he likes to after work events, but the second he added that "no women invited", he crossed a line between inviting friends and outright discrimination. I would call him on that. Make sure you use the word "discriminatory". Not because he excluded you, because he has excluded you because you are a woman.
    – Jane S
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:03
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    Agreed, Jane. It's ridiculous that this is still happening today and doubly ridiculous that there's any debate here or anywhere else about the nature of the actions of the managers here. The best I can say about them is that their behaviour is unintentionally bigoted instead of intentional. So they'd merely be incompetent managers instead of purposely bad, which is still awful.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:43

I think what confuses people about this question is there are three separate issues that need to be addressed:

  1. Do your boss's gatherings count as "work life" or as "social life"?
  2. Are those gatherings discriminatory
  3. What should you (the OP) do?

I will now address each question individually:

Your boss's gatherings are work related:

There are two situations where an employer (your boss) can socialize with an employee outside of work as part of their social life. The first would be if the boss knew the employee before he (or she) started working for them. The second would be in the rare case where they both worked together for such a long time that they trusted and knew each other very well. In both of these cases, the boss and the employee would know each other well enough that they would interact in small groups (e.g. themselves and their family) rather than with a lot of other employees.

Boss-employee relationships that aren't like I described above (i.e. when the employee is relatively new and doesn't know the boss from outside of work) don't have enough trust for them to be social relationships. If you have been working for a boss for a year, and your boss invites you out for drinks, you will feel an obligation to attend because he (she) is your boss, and you don't want to look bad. In these situations, there will inevitably attempts to get the boss to address workplace matters (e.g. salaries, disputes, co workers), even if those attempts are subtle ("employee x is so annoying"). Although the boss may not notice this, they invited employee will associate the gathering with work, because the relationship is not close enough for the employee to consider the boss as a close friend (as opposed to a nice person).

I don't know what side your boss's gatherings fall under, because I'm not part of your office, but my guess is that they are work related. The fact that boss is meeting groups of employees as opposed to an employee individually is an indication that they don't know each other very well.

Regardless, if these gatherings are social gatherings, it is your bosses responsibility to keep them private. If your boss is talking about or planning these gatherings in the office, then not only is he being unprofessional, but those gatherings are "work" gatherings because he's associating them with work. Since you know about these gatherings, that may be the case.

(I think the situation would be different if it OP's boss was not present at these meetings, but that's an entirely different question).

You have the right to participate in work gatherings:

Your boss is clearly discriminating by gender in deciding who attends these gatherings, and he also is picking favourites -- two things that are clearly unacceptable. It would be fine if your boss took a specific team out to dinner to celebrate a new product, or an employee out to lunch to discuss an idea, but the way your boss is choosing who attends this gathering is discriminatory and has no workplace function.

What can you do:

I think you should do something: as you said, "It hurts to be excluded," and you are at a disadvantage because you have less influence than your co-workers. Here are some suggestions (you will have to decide which solution is best):

  1. Complain to your boss -- since you've already done this, I'm not sure whether this will change anything, though you could try again with the benefit of better understanding of the situation.
  2. Complain to HR or another authority figure.
  3. Talk to the other employees (such as the other women or other people excluded from the gathering) about the discrimination and ask for help.
  4. Leave the company.
  5. Take legal action (I have no idea if this is feasible -- I am not a lawyer).

Don't "create your own group" and try to exclude your boss (that's unprofessional and exactly the conduct that you are trying to stop), and don't gatecrash these gatherings without being invited. Be professional, be respectful, and make sure it's your boss -- and not you -- who is in the wrong.

Good luck :)

  • 8
    @LegoStormtroopr Even if he has a perfectly valid reason for saying "no women", that is by definition discrimination. To "discriminate" means to "apply a distinction to a group with a category." When you only buy trucks rather than cars, you are "discriminating" as well.
    – Kyle Hale
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 14:27
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    @LegoStormtroopr Now whether it's unfair or nefarious discrimination is another matter. I would think very poorly of a boss who didn't invite all of his subordinates to an event where he invited more than a single subordinate.
    – Kyle Hale
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 14:28
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    This is the best answer here.
    – Marcin
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 15:23
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    @LegoStormtroopr with all due respect, I'm not sure how I could make that any clearer. I spent ~5 paragraphs explaining that these conversations are work related, and I then explained that because they are work related, he should exclude her because of her gender (which, according to the question, he clearly did [he said she couldn't attend because she was a woman]). What else do you want me to do?
    – user383
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 19:40
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    Where do you get that people have to work long together to have a trusted relationship or know each other from before? Is this a law or fact? Please support it if it so. I have known some people a few weeks and trust them a lot and others for years and would never trust them. I have also known someone before the workplace that I didn't like that much... This just sounds like your personal opinions given as fact. Also the author said that these were non-work related events. Other than that your answer seems a duplicate of several others.
    – blankip
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 15:29

Since this is a gathering that takes place outside of work, you probably don't have any legal grounds to complain - though you could consult your HR department to find out.

There may be legitimate reasons that your colleague doesn't want women joining the social gatherings he has after work hours, and if it were directly related to work you would be within your rights to request that reasoning - but if it isn't related to work, and isn't interfering with your work either, there's not much you can force him to do differently.

It is discrimination, regardless of the reasoning behind it, but good or bad, there's nothing illegal about it. You could form another social gathering among your colleagues that is less discriminating towards sex, but you can't force your co-worker to stop his own social gathering unless there's a legitimate reason it is infringing upon your rights as a worker.

That being said, it could impact your rights as a worker. Even if his gathering is outside the office, if it starts to impact things in the office, it's an office problem. If he only ever shares promotion opportunities or important business information at these gatherings you're not allowed into, then it is interfering with your work and your rights as a worker, and you could complain about it to HR.

This is the sort of discrimination that usually goes under the radar - because it's happening outside the office. So the best thing you can do to combat it is to form your own less discriminating after-work social gatherings, and to keep an ear open for whether or not this co-worker is unfairly giving his after-hour buddies an advantage over you.

Unless he does though, he's within his rights to gather with whom he wants, even if his reasoning isn't very good, or even very ethical.

  • 17
    There are many things that are discrimination that aren't evil. I don't enjoy the company of people who chew with their mouths open and I will exclude them from my dinner plans. As long as I don't refuse to hire them, work with them, or promote them, I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. I'm not going to feel guilty about only socializing outside of work with the folks whose company I enjoy.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:32
  • @ColleenV I didn't say it was evil - just that her ability to do something about it if she doesn't like it is not related to whether it is or not. The only thing that is is whether or not it impacts her job.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:36
  • 3
    you have no legal grounds to complain - This statement needs to be backed up with a reference or removed. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:37
  • @ReallyTiredOfThisGame Removed. While I'm fairly certain that there's no legal room to complain, I'm not entirely certain, and shouldn't say that I am.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:41
  • I guess the idea that there had be a "legitimate" reason to want to hang out with just the guys or somehow it's not ethical rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe he or one of his friends just doesn't enjoy her company and the no women allowed rule was made up to save her feelings. Quite a few of the other women I've worked with have trouble separating personal from professional and I'm extremely uncomfortable socializing with them outside of work.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 0:33

You are totally right to feel bad about being excluded; it isn't just that you were left out by accident which is fairly common. You were actually told you weren't welcome.

At my previous job there was a clear line drawn between the guys with families and the single people. Those of us with families weren't involved in straight from work social plans and would be ditched fairly promptly even when it was a work-sponsored event.

I finally took the attitude, why do I want to spend my precious personal time with these people? I went home on a Friday and enjoyed time with my wife, children, family and friends. It eventually dawned on me that the main thing that tied me to most of them was the chance we worked in the same building.

I hate to suggest to anyone to leave their job when they've done nothing wrong. However life is too short to be unhappy (or gloomy), so if that is how you feel it might be best to move on. If they lose a valued member of their team over this issue it might make the manager think twice about his attitude, and if he didn't value you enough to be sorry to lose you then you're even better off leaving.


Do I even have any grounds to care because this is outside of work? It is discussed during work but not too openly.

Yes, you're within your rights to care or complain. Being treated differently based on your gender is illegal in the United States.

From the EEOC website:

Sex-Based Discrimination

Sex discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person's sex.

I know you may not want to take any action, but I would bring it up to HR. This is the kind of thing that could get your company in legal trouble.

Someone in HR should be able to go by his office and say something like "I heard you're holding guys-only get-togethers after work; that's not acceptable. You either need to be sure to invite women or you need to halt the get-togethers altogether." (If they're talking about it at work, they can claim they heard the story second- or third-hand, and keep your involvement out of it.)

  • 22
    I'm not sure HR has any jurisdiction over non work related activities that take place, according to the OP, outside of work. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 14:47
  • 13
    @KentAnderson - the issue HR will have is that you cannot tell if favoritism is going to take place as a result. It could be as simple as the boss siding with one of these men over a women in a work dispute. What if the woman then goes to HR and says "I think <boss> favors the guys who are part of his after-work drinking group"? The manager has left the company open to an EEOC complaint by doing this, so yes, HR will put a stop to it. Even if it's after hours, even if it's on a weekend, the appearance of discrimination puts them in a must-act situation.
    – Adam V
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:00
  • 8
    Only HR would be able to look at the promotion/demotion and hiring records for the manager in question. Whether or not it is occurring 'after-hours' is not the only relevant thing to consider. Is work occurring? Even discussing work-related things, rumors, guidance, etc. This manager is excluding female coworkers from gaining the benefits her male coworkers are enjoying by the company that is being kept. If a bunch of co-workers, of equal levels of responsibility and having not oversight among each other, got together, ok, but he is a manager. The fact he is not hers does not matter.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:05
  • 12
    @LaconicDroid - When you accept a role as a manager you take on certian responsibilities. One of those is that you are "AT ALL TIMES" a representative of the company. As a manager you can not organize an after hours social group made up mostly your reports with out it being perceived as an extension of that role. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:14
  • 7
    @LaconicDroid If they want me to represent the company outside of working hours, they can pay me for my time. They do it is one reason that managers get a large salary... Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 14:14

Why do you believe that your manager or co-workers have to include you in their personal lives because they are doing something you are interested in?

If you have information to indicate that this has had an actual impact in the workplace, then you absolutely should discuss this with HR. But contrary to some of the answers here, you shouldn't be taking action because something might happen.

While your boss may not be being a great guy, and he certainly could be handling this much better, he doesn't have to in his personal life, as long as he doesn't let that impact the workplace in an inappropriate way.

You mentioned that it was guys only, but also that not all of the guys in the group were invited. What about the other guys in the group who were not invited, do you believe they are also being mistreated? What reason did they get for not being invited? Seems like there is more than just a gender issue going on here, as you are not the only person who was not invited.

Your boss may be lousy at giving reasons to not invite someone, but that really doesn't matter for his personal life.

If my boss doesn't want me to hang out with him and the other guys at the bar, because I am a runner, or I have dark hair, or I am taller than him... then while that may be silly or stupid, he has that right and if I don't like it, that is my problem, not his.

Correct me if I am wrong, but nowhere in your post was there any indication of preferential treatment, promotions, project assignments, work-shifts, etc. in the workplace. Until that happens, you shouldn't be taking any actions with HR. He has his life outside of work and you have yours and they don't have to intersect just because you want them to.

  • 1
    @Cucu, re-reading, it does look a little agressive, but I stand by it. I've heard the same argument about single vs married. Maybe the single guys don't want to hang out with someone to hear them talk about their spouse/kids, and they shouldn't have to. Our happiness is our own responsibility,and we shouldn't be forcing other people to do things our way to make us happy, even if we think they are being an idiot :)
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:24
  • 10
    When you form a social group of your reports for after hours activities, you are not doing that as a personal life event, that is a work event. Its possible probably even likely that many of the guys in the group do not want to be there, but it is expected and you do things like this that are expected because its part of the game at work. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:32
  • 6
    We can agree to disagree, but I don't believe it is implicitly a work event. People who happen to work together can also socialize together without it having to be a "work event". I don't mean to imply that the boss in this case is "right", more so that we shouldn't judge unless there is actual meaningful impact in the office.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 18:17
  • 3
    @ReallyTiredOfThisGame It isn't that it has to be a work event. The problem is that Neopotism can creep in even when someone is actively working against it. Now maybe you are right that it is becoming a work event, but even if it wasn't, it could still be a problem. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:19
  • @ReallyTiredOfThisGame the op doesn't indicate everyone involved is this guys manager, in fact he's not her manager either. He's forming a social group for his friends is the only thing we can tell from the op.
    – Andy
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 23:09

I won't address the rightness/wrongness of this - that's well answered, from multiple angles.

However, assuming your HR policies don't forbid this and/or you decide not to complain, it's worth analyzing the approach you can take to both ameliorate the harms that may occur from this, and perhaps eventually get you invited anyway.

The major issue here is that socializing is a necessary element of working with others. If you are friends - or at least friendly - with those you work with, it is both easier to work with them and likely your career will progress faster. People who are friends are more likely to:

  • Overlook transgressions or mistakes, and help you to avoid them in the future.
  • Help each other develop their skills
  • Introduce them to others, widening the social circle further
  • Help out when overworked or on a difficult project
  • Point out when their friends are making a social faux pas or a workplace mistake
  • Share office gossip, including details that can be helpful navigating the social or political environment

In addition, having a positive, engaged relationship with your manager can help develop your career by putting you in a better position for promotions; even if he/she does not intentionally favor you over others with more skills, being favored over another with equal skills is often a bonus, and you may get more opportunities to show your skills and abilities.

So, what can you do about this?

First off, it's worth talking to your former supervisor about your feelings. Not accusatory or anything like that - just let him know that it hurts your feelings that you're not invited. You understand (sort of) that it's boys only, but it nonetheless is hurtful. Don't try to convince him to invite you here - just let him know how you feel. It's important not to disguise feelings in social relationships, as they often lead to the breakdown of the relationship.

I would also point out in that conversation how insulting the suggestion to have an all-girls happy hour is; he may not have been aware of that (I could see that being something that is an obvious alternative to someone not thinking carefully). Again, don't berate him for it: just point out that it came across badly.

Second, ask if you can invite the group (or, the group of guys/gals that you like) to a different gathering. Happy hour on a different day of the week. Barbecue at your house (or a park). Lunchtime taco bar at work. Bowling or softball or whatnot. The important thing is to get into the social group here: if you're not invited, invite them instead. It doesn't have to be all the time; once a month, three times a year, whatever - enough to spend some time in a social gathering where you're not thinking about work.

I'm pretty awful at doing things like this - I'm pretty much the stereotypical asocial nerd - but even I've managed a few times to invite work people to bowling afternoons and baseball games. I also have a couple of people at my workplace who are more social, and I try to tag along with them when they come up with activities. If you have the same problem, I encourage you to find someone who is more outgoing and can help you set up an activity or two.

I wouldn't set this up as a competing activity, by the way; the point is to include many of the same people from this group, after all. Don't even mention the all-male happy hour: just invite them (whomever you want to invite) to your activity/gathering.

Ultimately, the point of this is to put yourself in a position where you can get at least some of the benefits of socialization at work, even if you can't be in the "inner circle". You might end up better friends with them, or maybe you can find some other friends and end up with your own inner circle - who knows. Either way, taking proactive steps to improve your social position (and make more/closer friends) at work is key.

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