Do you remember what it felt like to be the last kid picked for dodge ball, or to be the last girl asked to dance at the cotillion classes your mother made you go to? I do (although I never played dodge ball and never tool cotillion classes). The point is that at some point in our lives and even into our adult years there are certain situations that make us feel less than adequate - like being the only girl without a date to a wedding or being the only employee not asked to attend the after work cocktail hour. Everyone wants to feel welcome and wanted, but should it make a female upset that she is not treated exactly like her male co-workers.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a male employee who has a male boss can sometimes forge a stronger bond than a female employee with a male boss. Take my husband for example, he has a great working relationship with his boss. They often go to lunch to "discuss work" and even talk about things much deeper than work. Sometimes when I hear stories about what they talked about at lunch I wonder whether his boss would have talked about those things had I been his employee instead. I have gone out to lunch with my boss before, but we never get much deeper than our plans for the upcoming weekend. I would like to think that my boss would act the same around me as he would a male employee, but the truth is that he probably doesn't. But should that bother me?
Just the other day I was at work and a colleague stepped into my office to discuss something business related. Usually when you walk into a person's office to talk about something that not everyone should hear about you close the door. However, when this individual walked into my office he stood in the doorway and didn't shut the door. I told him to take a seat and shut the door and he told me that he never shuts a door in a woman's office and never shuts his own office door when a female is in there. At first I thought nothing of it, but as time went on I began to feel a little upset by his actions. Why didn't he treat me the same as the men he talked to? Was he afraid that I was going to say he harassed me?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that an interaction between a male and a female at work may give off a different impression than an interaction between a male and a male. Part of me (the feminist part of me) thinks that I should be treated exactly the same as the men at work and should be asked to go do the things that the men do - whether it's going for drinks, having a poker night on the weekends, or being invited out to lunch. But the other part of me (the rational part of me) realizes that men and women only have so much in common. And the even more rational part of me realizes that a female employee having a drink after work with her boss gives off a far different perception then when a male employee grabs a beer with his male boss.
I think it is important for women to understand that there are differences in the appropriate relationships that a male boss can have with his employees. This can work in the reverse as well. It would be strange to see a female boss asking her younger male employee out for a drink after work. The bottom line is that some interactions just send the wrong impression and we have to be prepared to accept that. We live in a litigious society where one wrong move can land you in court and in massive debt. My point is that in life there are certain boundaries that cannot be crossed, and sometimes that may result in slightly different treatment.
Now, just because there are limitations to certain interactions at work doesn't mean that you cannot work closely or have a close working relationship with a male boss or a male employee. They key is to always be aware of the perception your interactions with the males in your office, including your boss, send to others. You never want to be known as the employee that only got a raise or a promotion because you are sleeping with the boss (even if you are not). You want to be known as the professional woman who worked hard to get what she has.