The Purple Systems holiday party isn’t until January, but earlier this week my boss’s boss hosted a dinner for the team leads in our department to thank us for our hard work in what’s been a more challenging year than usual. It was a chance to have some fun and relax. As part of the festivities, some lighthearted awards were given out, something new just like this party was.
Not everyone got an award; I’d say there were 25 to 30 people there and about 6 awards. Some of them were based on hard data: the team lead with the lowest combined age for direct reports, for instance. I came in a close second for one of those, but the award I got was not based on statistics that could be pulled from one database or another—at least I hope not, because it was a prize for wearing Purple Systems logo gear (not clear if it was the most variety or the most often or both). I was surprised. If I were giving out awards, I would have given me the “most likely to find the limits of the new unlimited time off policy”.
I was happy to win something, sure; I got a nice engraved mug out of the deal. At the same time, I was a bit perturbed that I, the only female team lead (we had a second for a brief period earlier this year but she had to leave the company for personal reasons), got recognized for what I wear, not what I do or what my team does. I’ve never perceived the guys I work with or the company as being sexist, but still I wondered. Was I being singled out for an award because they thought if I didn’t get one I’d think I was being discriminated against? And the best thing they could come up with to acknowledge was my appearance? That didn’t seem likely knowing these guys as well as I do having worked with them for years. I could see why my Purple Systems gear would stand out since I’d bought a fair bit of it with the new logo (which was also a new color) to demonstrate that I was a good sport and a team player even though I complained at length about losing the purple in our old logo and the way the change was made and announced and how restricted the choices were under the new regime.
Eventually I decided I was overthinking this. It was a party, with fun awards. It was not going on my employee record. Yes, I’d gotten recognized for my wardrobe. But one of the guys had gotten recognized as a social butterfly—his mug even had a butterfly engraved on it (where mine has a scroll and the company name, nothing traditionally girlie). For all I know, they had the mugs made before determining who’d get which one (they don’t have our names on them). That’s a lot more likely than someone keeping track somewhere of what I wear to work. I don’t even do that.
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