How to avoid becoming the tea lady

// 13 November 2006

True story. Two weeks into a new job, I was asked by my boss to make him a cup of coffee. As I hadn’t been employed as his personal assistant, I was, to put it mildly, both surprised and offended. Too dumbfounded and unsure of my new position to come up with a cutting reply to this request, I did in fact make my boss his coffee.

Luckily my face (and sudden lack of coffee-making skills) must have given away enough of what I felt about this to stop me turning into the resident tea/coffee lady. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I’d read this helpful guide to dealing with gender stereotyping in the workplace, published in today’s Guardian.

“Try using humour or cheekiness to draw attention to the issue,” suggests Angela Baron, an adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Angela Mansi, senior lecturer in occupational psychology at Westminster Business School agrees: “Cheekiness gets you out of some tight corners, so try saying lightly ‘Are you asking me because I’m a woman?'”

Readers who want to write in with their own tips can do so using our comment form.

Meanwhile, executives from the top 150 companies in the UK are being asked to compile a best practice guide for getting more women in the workplace. Let’s hope it gets them thinking about the issue.

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