|AUGUST 16, 2011 --
In one week the office where I work is about to introduce a new element to our office dynamics. His name is Tyler and he will be the first man to work full-time at the National Grange headquarters in Washington, D.C. in a few years.
Sure, we have a few men who work with the eight women in our office, but ten floors down with as little contact as possible. Our building engineer, our part-time printer, and the membership assistant, who is a shipping god, are all men whom we also see on occasion.
Others even go to great lengths to avoid us.
There’s the Grange’s national president who resides in Oregon and flies out to oversee operations for one week a month. Two months ago he chose the wrong week, the week when six of us were, let’s say, at our most unforgiving and irrational. I’m sure he won’t make that mistake again.
Our membership/leadership director lives in Washington state and hasn’t made an East Coast visit since I started working at the Grange in March. And we have our former Legislative Director, the last man to work in our office full-time, who now serves as our Special Director for Trademark Protection and Brand Management.
He juggles houses in Vermont and Wisconsin, and sometimes comes to stay in his condo in D.C. when he’s dropping by the office. These visits are short, just long enough to pick up the mail, get a strong whiff of estrogen, and remind himself why he retired.
However, Tyler will have no choice of when to deal with us, and I, for one, am really excited about the possibilities of his presence.
This is the first office in which I’ve worked with only women and right off, I noticed that with all these women in the office, there is little to distract us from womanly concerns.
It seems that each time a few of us gather for lunch or after a staff meeting, the conversation inevitably finds its way to such topics as the chore distribution in our households or our fears about menopause. The conversations are full of detail, rich and soul quenching, but have nothing to do with our task at hand.
It’s not that we’re sitting around having endless conversations and not doing work.
We find time to chat our lives in the elevator, on our smoke and lunch breaks, while getting water, coffee or tea, on the way to the bathroom, or as we photocopy materials. It’s wonderful that when I am having a particularly bad day, I can put a sign on my office door that reads only “Cramps” and everyone empathizes. Or my coworkers know they can share the stupid thing their husband or boyfriend did the night before to an audience of nodding heads.
I love that I don't worry much about bad hair days or clothes that are both professional and sexy every morning. I wonder if this is similar to a time before women entered the workforce, when offices were staffed with only men and there were endless conversations about sports or long discussions about how wonderful and perfect the women in their lives were. I also wonder if there was such a time.
After thinking about the position we were going to put Tyler in, and considering how the office could change, I got curious: Are there any studies linking dual-sex workplaces to higher levels of productivity? I’m sure there are, but they must be buried under all the ones that remind us of the wage disparity between the sexes.
So I only have my own experience of what it’s like to work in such environments, and from that, I have come to the conclusion that a bit of testosterone in our workplace could ramp up the quality and quantity of our work. The undercurrent of competition that seems to flow in workplaces with both sexes would allow us to show each other how much better we can do than the opposite sex.
Actually, I think it may be the distraction created by the differences in experience and understanding between men and women that can be highly motivating and productive in a work setting.
It seems that by adding the male element to our office, we women just might be forced to find subjects to discuss with more common ground like our daily office tasks or creative ideas for our departments. We couldn’t talk ad nauseum about topics covered, or passed over, by our 8th grade gym teachers on the reproductive system.
However, I’m a little afraid we’re going to make Tyler run screaming from the nation’s capital, back to the heartland in little under a week. If we don’t, he’ll either be well prepared for marriage or give up on women entirely.
As of last night, Tyler realized he was the only man in the office after I sent him a “welcome” email and included the names of the rest of the D.C. staff. If he is bold and chooses to jump into the sea of estrogen that awaits him, we wish him well. He starts Monday, August 15.