Man Discovers His 'Invisible Advantage' at Work After He Switches Email Signatures with a Female Colleague
A Pennsylvania man learned just how much subtle sexism women endure in the workplace when he and a female colleague conducted a surreptitious experiment that led to eye-opening results.
Martin Schneider opened up about the experiment in a series of tweets Thursday that have since gone viral, explaining what he learned when he and then-colleague Nicole Hallberg switched email signatures for a week.
“I was in hell,” Schneider wrote on Twitter. “Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single.”
Hallberg, meanwhile, had a decidedly different experience.
“I had one of the easiest weeks of my professional life,” she wrote on Medium for a story she wrote about her experience. “He … didn’t.”
Schneider explained in his tweets that the whole experiment came about after he noticed a client was talking to him rudely, and couldn’t figure out why until he realized that their shared inbox meant he was inadvertently signing emails as “Nicole.”
When he explained to the client in email that he was actually talking to “Martin” instead of “Nicole” he said there was an “immediate improvement.”
“Positive reception, thanking me for suggestions, responds promptly, saying ‘great questions!’ Became a model client,” Schneider tweeted.
“Note,” he also tweeted. “My technique and advice never changed. The only difference was that I had a man’s name now.”
Schneider, who supervised Hallberg, also explained that after their experiment he finally understood why it took her longer to get work done — an issue he says irked their mutual boss.
“I showed the boss and he didn’t buy it. I told him that was fine, but I was never critiquing her speed with clients again,” he wrote.
Hallberg, meanwhile, writes in her Medium post that while Schneider might have been shocked by the results of their experiment, she was, well, not.
“I would like the record to show that I have the filthiest mouth in the tri-state area, and one of my pasttimes has always been trying to come up with jokes off-color enough that I can actually embarrass Marty,” she wrote. “I would also like the record to show that I developed a trucker’s mouth and bawdy sense of humor precisely because I’ve always had to act ‘like a man’ to be found funny and be accepted in male spaces.”
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Schneider put it in ever starker terms: “For me, this was shocking. For her, she was USED to it. She just figured it was part of her job.”
“I wasn’t any better at the job than she was,” he also wrote. “I just had this invisible advantage.”