A friend of mine is on a committee with two men, and their task is to set up a panel for a seminar. Many of the panelists will be judges and other "important" people. A similar panel was held in the distant past, and as a result, there is a notebook full of materials (the handouts--about 100 pages or so) from that seminar.
Throughout the meeting, the self-declared "leader" of the committee tended to talk to and make eye contact with, the other male, for the most part. He also, on a few occasions, when discussing things that needed to be done or decisions that needed to be made, would say "you and I...oh and (women attorney)...need to do..."
At the most recent meeting, the leader handed my friend the notebook (which had been in possession of the other man all along) and asked her if she would look over it and determine which materials might be useful for the upcoming seminar.
Now, this might sound like somewhat of an innocent request, but keep in mind that the only tasks that remain, now that the committee has met a few times and has agreed upon the format and content of the seminar, is to contact the judges and other "important" people.
Presumably, those tasks will be left to the men, since my friend has now been assigned what is essentially an administrative (and extremely dull) task. Furthermore, it's pointless since the notebook consists mostly of old power point presentations prepared by prior participants, none of whom will be on the panel this time.
Typical, in my experience. Woman tend to be assigned the "background" stuff, much of which is essentially administrative. Women are assigned grunt work while men get all the glory.
So, knowing this, how does one respond when "asked" to perform a menial task when serving on a committee with men?
Shouting "No, you sexist pig! I'm not your secretary!" is essentially ineffective, since the request seems so innocent.
Calmly refusing without declaring sexism would likewise be ineffective, since the end result is to make one appear to be unhelpful and disagreeable.
Make a "joke" about giving the woman the administrative task?
What does one do?
This type of situation is an example of what is so frustrating about practicing law as a woman. The sexism is so subtle and is based upon the underlying assumptions and stereotypes of those with whom you interact--that woman are more organized and thus more adept at the behind the scenes tasks. So, women repeatedly receive dull, background assignments of lower importance.
And, although women are purportedly on "equal" footing, they are constantly talked over and interrupted. Women are excluded from mixed gender groups by virtue of body language and eye contact. When women manage to get a word in edgewise, their contribution is discounted as irrelevant or unimportant. And yet, when a man makes the same point 2 minutes later, it's met with declarations of genius.
These things are so subtle, and yet so effective at making women lawyers feel like second class citizens.
But, the issue remains. What does one do? How does one avoid being an "overbearing bitch" in these situations?
What say you, mis amigas?