I don’t particularly like LinkedIn, and I don’t think I gain much benefit from it. Yet, there is a modicum of professional utility I have been able to derive from it as that surveillance platform provides an easy way to get in touch with people after a while, in particular now that I have dropped Facebook completely. I tend to add more or less anybody I interact in some meaningful capacity in my professional life. Just like “friends” on Facebook, connections on LinkedIn don’t carry much weight. Thus, you liberally add people. It’s not a place you spend much time anyway, so there really is no harm in filling your virtual Rolodex.
What I have noticed is that while men almost always accept my contact request — and I do likewise when I get such request from men — women behave much differently. I should probably add that I work in a male-dominated industry. Women are generally only diversity hires or hold supporting roles. Still, sometimes I bump into women, either in conferences or meetings, and just like with new male faces, I send out contact requests. What I have noticed, though, is that those women I meet — my sample skews to slightly younger ones, the older ones don’t seem to behave like this — view their “connections” as more than they are. There were women I’ve worked with on project who didn’t add me presumably because I didn’t engage in any small talk with them, whereas with guys this is a complete non-issue. We get straight to the point and get things done.
I think part of the reason that women are held back in the workplace is that they carry too much about “popularity”, whereas for guys that does not play any role at all. I normally don’t even form an opinion of the guys I work with. I only care if they can do their job. I also appreciate that guys, for the very most part, just let me do my thing. When I explored a heavily female-dominated industry many years ago, the opposite was true: there was constant gossiping, and the quality of your work was basically irrelevant if you had the support of the mother hen running your group or department. People looked at you funny if you just did your job. The amount of backstabbing and bitching I witnessed was mind-boggling. Probably completely coincidentally, that company had to move to a smaller office and shed a significant number of employees in later years.
Well, if you think that your colleagues have to be your friends, it is easy to see why people just reenact high school in the workplace. In some industries this might work. In others, sadly a minority that is under increasing pressure, it does not. On that note, German engineering used to be of an excellent standard. Those days are long gone. I think a big part of that is due to diversity and an overly collegial atmosphere, and putting “feels” over facts. Heck, in the US, feminist engineers build bridges that kill people. In the end, the laws of nature don’t give a damn about your wish for a more female-friendly workplace. They will just crush you if you do. But, hey, at least you had an “inclusive” workplace and got to hang out and “chill” with your girls.
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