open thread – April 28-29, 2023 — Ask a Manager

A new-hire notice this week prompted some thoughts, and a question – if I weren’t only one year from retirement, should I/would I call out my department for a lack of diversity and inclusion?

About twelve years ago I accepted a position at a company that is a quasi-governmental entity (I’m in the USA, and this is state level, not federal level). My profession is either salaried or contracted, and the deadlines and overtime can be crazy.

This company is great. Neither deadlines nor overtime is crazy. There are raises each year, in the 2% to 4% range; small but still raises. They go to great lengths to communicate and to listen to employees – town halls, smaller “chat sessions”, ELT sessions, surveys (where feedback is often acted upon). They make sure we don’t lose any ‘official’ holiday time, e.g., if July 4th lands on a Sunday, they give us Monday off. They also slip in some extra (always paid) time off each year, like if Christmas or New Year is on a Friday, they’ll give us the next Monday off. Vacation and Sick Time are generous.

When the Great Panini first started, they PROACTIVELY had everyone set up to work from home in less than two weeks. Last year they did a survey to see if we preferred to continue to WFH (we still must reside within the state), work in the office, or a hybrid. No surprise, folks voted to continue to WFH, so that is now our official configuration, and they’re in the process of adjusting real estate to support that. Yay!

BUT now to talk about my department and how it’s changed over the last six years.

When I started here twelve years ago, my particular department was about 60% female and 40% male. The management levels, starting with Team Leads and going up to Chief, was about 70% female and 30% male. For example, my team lead, my manager, her boss (Assistant Director) and our Chief were all female; only our Director was male, and he was the only Director at the time. There was also one Manager (MAN1) and one Team Lead (TL1) in our department who are from a country where women still struggle within a permission-based culture, have difficulty obtaining education, and so forth. (I’m trying to convey what I hear in discussions with many women from this country, while keeping this as anonymous as possible.) Initial employment from these men’s country (let’s call it MenCo), is on H1B visa.

So twelve years have passed, and people have retired, been promoted, and left for other opportunities, as people will. My department has probably tripled in size, to about 200 people. MAN1 has been our department’s Vice President/Chief for six years, and TL1 is a Senior Director. But the latest new-hire notice, of another Senior Director from MenCo, made me realize some things.

Out of the 24 management positions we now have in our department (VP/Chief, Senior Directors, Directors, Assistant Directors, and Managers; we no longer have Team Leads), only three are female. One is a male not from MenCo. All four of them are (only) Managers. The remaining 20 are men, from MenCo.

The other employees in my department are in two types of roles, and one is considered ‘more prestigious’ than the other. All of those in that role are men; all but two are from MenCo. The ‘lesser’ role is filled predominantly with women from MenCo, mixed in with maybe 6 men from MenCo, and only a few of us old-timers left from before.

I…don’t quite know what to make of this. It’s really just now hitting me that my department has moved from diversity and inclusivity to…what? I’m not even sure what to call it. The change in perception and treatment of women has happened so slowly that I only really noticed it when I was moved to a different team early last year. Now that I’m working with people who are newer to the company, I’m seeing it more and more.

I only have a year before retirement, and the benefits and overall culture of this company are great, so I don’t plan to leave this job. But, if I was ten years younger, what would I or should I do? Call out this change? Leave it alone? Commentariat, what would you do?

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