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A WOMAN’S PLACE

13-01-2010

Dave Woodhall fails to pick up a new television. He succeeds in making a not-so-remarkable discovery.

I’m a technophobe. My wife isn’t. Give us both a laptop each and she’d be using hers to rule the world while I was still wondering where the sandwiches fit.

So when our TV finally broke last week she was the one who went onto price comparison websites, found the best deal, checked reviews, ordered it and arranged for collection. My job was to drive us to get it.

Come Sunday and we turned up, spoke to the nice lady on the customer service desk and waited patiently for someone to find our set in the warehouse. And waited.

While we were waiting a few staff members spoke to us, asked if we were being seen to, apologised for the delay. The usual sort of customer care basics found on page two of the manual. Then after a few minutes of this my wife said “I feel invisible.”

And it was true – none of them were talking to her. Every employee had walked up, looked at me and completely ignored her, even though she was the customer and I was the hired hand.

After that I sat back while she deliberately got in first before they could say a word. They’d reply by looking at me and talking to her, talking to her while looking at me or constantly shifting their gaze from one of us to the other, as though something was wrong but they didn’t know what.

I also noticed that all the sales staff were male while all the staff in customer service and working on the tills were female. It helped pass the time until they told us they’d made a mistake, the TV wasn’t in stock and please could they deliver it tomorrow?

It also made me wonder. Why is it that almost a hundred years after we gave women the vote, are there still some unlikely areas where such attitudes exist?

The staff were all youngish and would have grown up in a world where discrimination and to a lesser extent sexism aren’t issues. They would all have been employed by an HR department committed to anti-discriminatory practices.

Yet from what I could see (which admittedly wasn’t the entire sales floor) there wasn’t a single woman considered suitable to sell televisions and computers to the public.

Then again, how many times have you come across a female working on the sales floor of a car showroom? Or a man in a shoe shop for that matter?

It seems that even now there are still some jobs deemed suitable for men and some that are ‘only’ women’s work.

ARE SOME JOBS STILL MALE OR FEMALE ONLY?

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