Sunday, November 06, 2011

Gender and the operator

I am writing this post not quite sure what my opinion on the matter is, though I feel like I need to have a strong one. I have gotten accustomed to reading in the wanted ads of Arabic language papers calling for an operator or secretary, always female. In fact, yesterday, I called Byblos Bank in Beirut and got the automated answering system which asks to hold for the operator. In Arabic, it's the female operator (عاملة الهاتف).

I even encountered a situation at work when I caught our HR making the same generalization. When I asked them why they are assuming that this person has to be female, the response was, "Isn't that usually the case? Aren't office secretaries and receptionists generally women?" That is the reality of the situation. But my issue is why does it have to be spelled out as if it's a requirement? Doesn't that deter good male candidates from applying? And is that why these positions are mostly filled by women? Most importantly, why does this seems like a wrong that needs to be made right?


Zainab's views said...

I totally agree with you and I always find it awkward. I would like to share 2 cases that I have faced when I was working in a bank; 1st one is of a very rude bad tempered manager, whom no female secretary could survive for over than four months, one of them came crying her eyes out because of him, I told my manager why not hire a male secretary for him? the answer was it is "culturally known" that a secretary should be a female, esp females are known to multitask.

the other incident would be of another male manager who has a very jealous wife, so to avoid marital problems he asked for, and those are not my words, an ugly, mid-aged preferably married lady. I was very agitated when i heard of his request and once again i told them to consider hiring a male secretary to face again the same answer and I have been also told I am a Utopian girl.

Maybe next times we hire a secretary for ourselves we try pick a male secretary, maybe break a cultural perspective, maybe show that male secretaries are as efficient when chosen upon qualification not looks and voice.

Samia said...

Thanks again for bringing these things up. I think that until secretarial work is valued properly, and until all forms of harassment and mistreatment are illegal in the workplace, men are not going to want to be secretaries/administrative assistant, no matter how decent your particular work environment is. 2 forms of unfair rankings are at play here: social rankings which place white collar women below white collar men with the same education level, and job rankings which dictate that secretarial work is less respected than other clerical work. If as a whole administrative assistants were treated better, you'd end up with a job position that both genders would be willing to take. Maybe that would retro-actively work on those social rankings! (There's definitely a case to be made that assistants are treated badly because they are women.)

NICOLE said...

I agree with you Lama. The reason it is a requirement, is because women are more submissive then men in general. This is their nature. So a secretarial position should be given to women according to men, because it is considered more like a feminine job. In another word women are willing to take more shit than men. So men who have secretaries have 2 wives.A housewife and a work wife. Sad but true.