Little experiment

Switching places, at least over email. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Meet Marty Schneider. Alternatively, meet Nicole Hallberg.

As Nicole and Marty tell their story, they worked for a business rewriting clients' resumes. They reported to their company's founder, who both Marty and Nicolle say they thought was kind of sexist.

But, the unexpected sexism in this job, Marty explained, came from clients. (Unexpected, perhaps, to Marty; less so to Nicole.) Back to our story:

"One day I'm emailing a client back-and-forth about his resume and he is just being IMPOSSIBLE. Rude, dismissive, ignoring my questions. I was getting sick of his [attitude] when I noticed something. Thanks to our shared inbox, I'd been signing all communications as 'Nicole.'"

I've never had a shared inbox. Maybe you have. Regardless, Marty played along. He pretended that it had in fact been Nicole who had been emailing with the client, but that now he, real-life Marty, would be stepping in to take over. Result?

"'IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT. Positive reception, thanking me for suggestions, responds promptly, saying "great questions!' Became a model client."

Nicole wasn't surprised, but Marty grew curious. Was it simply the fact that the client had thought he was a woman, and now thought he was a man, that was responsible for the change in attitude?

So, they tried an experiment. For two weeks, each of them dealt with their clients from the shared inbox as they always had, except that they each now pretended to be the other.

Marty signed his name as Nicole. Nicole told clients that she was Marty.

Marty continued on Twitter:

"I was in hell. Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single. [Meantime], Nicole had the most productive week of her career. I realized the reason she took longer is bc she had to convince clients to respect her."

Nice story, right? It has a moral and everything: Marty learns about sexism.

Let's check in with Nicole, who gave her take of the whole thing in a longer post on Medium. She backs up most of what Marty says happened, and says he's one of her best friends—but also calls him out for having had a "bad habit of talking over [her] and ignoring" her.

"To his credit, and probably the reason that we are still friends," Nicole wrote, "he listened," after she called him out on it.

Their boss? Not so much; he flat out said he didn't believe them when she and Marty came to him with the results of their experiment, according to Nicole:

I will always wonder. What did my boss have to gain by refusing to believe that sexism exists? ... I never did figure it out. Instead, I quit and started my own business.

I must admit that I'd be happier if we had a screenshot of an email conversation from this experiment, or a few direct quotes, or something. 

Especially since we're now told that the whole thing apparently happened back in 2014, at a company Marty and Nicole don't want to name, but that is now under completely different management.

But, maybe let's suspend our disbelief. It takes a viral story from years back to get people talking about this kind of thing, maybe that's a worthy experiment in and of itself.

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7 other things worth your time

  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is calling for longer delivery times for some first-class mail, shorter hours for some post offices and more expensive postal rates — all part of a 10-year reorganization plan for the U.S. Postal Service that he unveiled Tuesday. (NPR)

  • Citigroup will now have "Zoom-Free Fridays" as a way to help bank's employees deal with stress. … However, they may still be required to do internal audio-only calls “as well as external Zoom calls, including with clients and regulators.” (Bloomberg)

  • The suspect who allegedly killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado supermarket was identified as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, from the Denver suburb of Arvada. Authorities say he bought the weapon he used in the shooting six days before the attack. (AP)

  • A second batch of $1,400 Covid stimulus checks is scheduled to land in people's bank accounts today. It’s not known how many payments are being made this time, but the first batch, last week, included 90 million payments totaling more than $242 billion. (CNBC)

  • Homeschooling is up. Unsurprising perhaps, given that there was a pandemic, and that some schools (ahem, my town) still haven’t opened. But still striking to see the numbers: about 5.4% of households with school-aged children homeschooled just before the pandemic, rising to 11.1% in the fall. We shall see whether it’s temporary or not. (Washington Times)

  • Nice story about a woman from the seacoast town of Scituate, Mass. and a American G.I. in Vietnam who wound up almost randomly as pen pals, but kept up their correspondence over 77 letters. The woman’s daughter compiled them into a book. (NYT)

  • This is cool. I don’t really know why it’s trending, since it’s almost 90 years old, but it is. In 1930, the Indiana Bell Telephone Company has to move its headquarters. I mean: Literally move it, rotating the entire 8-story 11,000-ton building. “The massive undertaking began on October 1930. Over the next four weeks, the massive steel and brick building was shifted inch by inch 16 meters south, rotated 90 degrees, and then shifted again by 30 meters west. The work was done with such precision that the building continued to operate during the entire duration of the move.” (Amusing Planet)

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