By CHRISSIE SWAN
I would say I am possibly the most qualified person on the planet to answer the question, “What is it like to work with women?“. I am the baby in a family of 3 girls and I spent ten years at an all girls school. I’m totally match fit on this, and this was even before I was part of the ensemble for The Circle, an all female chat show and now, being one half of the first all female metro breakfast radio show. I know chicks. And I dig them.
I have been in the public eye for over 10 years now and I am always astounded by how regularly the question of, “What was it really like to work with only women?” comes up. Along with, “What’s Reggie/Yumi/Gretel really like?” and alarmingly, “How much money do you make?”, it’s a hugely popular question. And it always shocks me because, to be completely honest, I’ve never really noticed a massive difference between working with women and working with men.
There is a misconception that women can’t work together and in my experience this has not been the case. The fact is, creeps, losers and mean-beans can actually just as easily be male or female.
The hardest person I ever had to work with was in fact a woman. She was unprofessional, unsupportive and completely self-centered. On top of all that she was never adequately prepared to do her job, which caused no end of professional frustration. But people like her also come with penises. Her shortcomings as a colleague, and a human being, had absolutely nothing to do with her gender and every thing to do with her character. The difference is, I suppose, that any conflict between us was wrongly attributed to the fact we were both women, and not because she was awful and I was not (this is clearly my take on it and as such is totally unbiased of course) ;)
Honestly, the day I realised I never had to deal with her shenanigans again was one of the happiest days of my life. Having said that, I once worked with someone who used to make me thread raw whole chickens on a giant metal rod just so they could laugh at my face when the pink chook goo would run into my armpits. And he was a man. So as I said, assholes come with AND without boobs.
We are though, I think, too quick to throw women who don’t get along in a professional sense into the catty female basket. I mean, we can’t really have differences of opinion because we’re just women, right? And we can’t be trusted to work together for too long without eventually ‘having it out’ either. For women who work together, conflict can’t just be about two opposing opinions, it must happen because we’re just girly bitches.
This is incredibly insulting because it negates a woman’s knowledge of her chosen field and her desire to do better in it. If two men clash over ideas or work ethic it seems to be respected far more than if two women disagree over the same. Imagine if Karl Stefanovic and Ben Fordham had different ideas about The Today Show? Would the headline be, “The Claws Are Out!” or, “Bitches be cray-cray?” No. No sir.
Working with women has, I believe, distinct advantages. You don’t need to waste a whole lot of words on explaining how it feels, for example, to get your period in the middle of a fancy awards ceremony and spend the rest of the night ducking to the toilet every 10 minutes. A look will usually suffice. I’ve had new babies while working with men and again while working with women and I can absolutely say the latter is better.
At the very least you don’t need to pretend that breastfeeding is like something you’d see in a renaissance painting. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been deep in conversation about Aldi coffee pods or stupid election promises, sitting in the make up chair, surrounded by women, shoving my boob into my baby’s face in the same manner usually reserved for petrol bowsers and fuel tanks. No one even noticed. Apart from the odd exclamation about the alarming size of my funbags, which I suppose would’ve been weird coming from a man anyway.
Weird but warranted, mind you.
I have enjoyed the head start you get when you work with women. There is so much understanding and empathy from the get go. We know each other. We get it. I have always felt understood and respected by the women I have worked with. I have been allowed to be myself. This is no small thing.
I suppose if I were to give any advice at all about working with women is be honest and upfront about issues and do it as quickly as you can. Conversely, make sure there is a real problem and it’s not just you being weird. Make sure it’s worth risking the patronising, “Why can’t you girls just get along?” talk in a closed office with a disappointed boss. And try not to cry. I always cry. It’s not a good look because it dilutes the issue. The real issue disappears into a wet tissue and all that’s left is you, snotty and embarrassed and feeling 14 again.
Working with women has been a privilege and a joy for me. I have become a better person for it. A girl’s girl. And there’s no better type of girl to be.
Chrissie Swan’s Is It Just Me? Confessions of an over-sharer is published by Nero and available in stores now.