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You Wouldn’t Want The Girl Germs To Rub Off On Your Face

, , , , , , | Working | June 23, 2023

In the 1980s, I worked for a naval architecture firm. We had a standard PBX phone system, where phone calls would be answered by our receptionist, and then she would manually forward the call to the employee.

We initially had a woman working full-time as the receptionist but eventually had a woman from a temp agency take the job. When the receptionist needed to take a lunch break, one of the department secretaries would go up front and answer the phones. If they weren’t available, our office manager (a woman) would take over the post.

And if she was also unavailable, some other professional-level (engineer or tech writer) woman would be asked to cover.

As I took care of the technical side of the phone system, I knew how to operate the front reception phone. One day, the office manager asked the female tech writer that sat near me to cover the lunch shift in reception. She was a bit overwhelmed, as she had an assignment that needed to be finished by close of business.

Me: “I could cover the front desk.”

Office Manager: “No, you can’t. Your salary is too high to cover that position.”

Me: “I make two dollars less per hour than [Female Tech Writer].”

Office Manager: *Sheepishly* “Oh.”

She walked off, and she ended up covering it herself.

What she couldn’t admit was that company policy was to have females answer the front phone. Men answering phones? We couldn’t have that!

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