As a sophomore in college, I was given advice from an industry professional that no matter what I do at work, that I should always take my tears outside. She suggested to us that we cry in the car, away from where people could see and judge. As an engineering student, it was understood that crying was a sign of weakness and should be avoided at all costs if I wanted to play in a male-dominated field.
When I was assigned tasks such as ordering lunches and taking notes as I watched my male counterparts design aircraft parts, I did everything in my power to not get emotional.
It wasn’t explained to me that emotions are not on or off, like a light switch. When I was assigned tasks such as ordering lunches and taking notes as I watched my male counterparts design aircraft parts, I did everything in my power to not get emotional. I had the same degree and experience as the men, and even the same job title. Frustration built up inside me. I would pinch my skin; I would slowly spell in my head the names of things I saw, w –a – l – l. All I wanted was to not cry at work. When I confronted my management about the gender-biased assignments, my emotional management tricks had hit their max and I tried to wipe the flood of tears away from under my glasses. I was like a pot of water that had boiled over, leaking everywhere.
I thought I had failed.
Desirable assignments are given to men at a higher rate, which leads to more advancement opportunities and networking for men.
I’m not alone. Even Sheryl Sandberg has openly discussed crying at work. Current studies show that more women cry at work than men (41 percent compared to nine percent) and women are more likely to cry over “being unfairly blamed or criticized, someone else taking credit for work.”
At the same time, women are more likely to have to prove themselves over and over again to gain the same level of respect as men. Desirable assignments are given to men at a higher rate, which leads to more advancement opportunities and networking for men. When women become mothers, they are more likely to be perceived as less committed to their work than men who are fathers. Since women are more likely to be unfairly blamed and disrespected, how is it fair to judge them when they cry?
This raises the question: If men were treated like women in the workplace, would they cry more?