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Here’s what happens when a man switches work emails with a female colleague

After a man switched email addresses with a female co-worker, he realised the extent of sexism in the workplace

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

No matter how socially conscious the men in our lives are – no matter how feminist, no matter how #ImWithHer – sometimes it can be difficult to communicate just how different it is to move through the world as a woman. The big things are easy: you come home furious because someone felt you up on your way home, or you call to ask if they can meet you at a bus stop because you’re nervous of making the journey alone, and they get it. They realise that personal safety is different when you’re a woman. It’s the smaller things. The – to borrow a phrase that I really, really hate – the microaggressions of daily life that are so small you’re not even sure they're sexist. 

Someone takes credit for your idea – but maybe they had the same idea. Someone doesn’t promote you – but maybe it wasn’t your time. Someone sticks you with the tea round one too many times and you wonder if it’s because you’re the youngest woman – or maybe it’s just because you make good tea. 

Yesterday, Martin R Schneider, the editor of the film website Front Row Central, started a Twitter story that quickly went viral. He described an experiment he had conducted a few years back with a female co-worker, Nicole Pieri. It began when Schneider was accidentally signed in on Pieri’s email and noticed that a client was being incredibly rude to him. When he informed the client that he was talking to a man, not a woman, the client’s behaviour changed and he became instantly more polite. Following this, Scheider and Pieri decided to conduct an experiment: they switched email accounts. For two weeks. And here’s what happened. 

Schneider’s tweets have sparked discussion around race, as well as gender, in the workplace, with other Twitter users sharing their experience.

The effects of Schneider’s experiment make me wonder: should this Freaky Friday approach to social equality be mandatory? Should we all be forced to walk a mile in one another’s shoes? You’d like to think that it’s not necessary and that it would be enough for us to simply tell one another when we’re experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Sadly, I just don’t think that’s the case. Humans are like that – we need to experience things for ourselves in order to believe them.


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