In a previous article, I detailed some of the ridiculous, hurtful things people will say to a tall woman in the workplace. Here, I share with you situations that are along the same lines, but have more to do with unfair assumptions about a woman who is tall that I have encountered innumerable times through my twelve years of adult employment, some of which occurred in corporate situations where one would think such things would never be discussed. Here I will outline these situations and help you avoid costly human resource issues.
First of all, the most pervasive assumption people will make about a tall woman who is strong and broad is that she is a lesbian. While I personally have no issue with lesbians, I do have issue with someone making blanket assumptions about my sexual preference based on my appearance. All too often, invitations to corporate functions were addressed to me “and partner”. Some coworkers went out of their way to come out to me, as if I were a member of a select club. Others expressed thinly-veiled shock when I mentioned my husband in conversation. While some of this can be blamed on a certain amount of tomboyishness on my part- I never have been the type to wear dresses or makeup and all of my shoes are flats- I find it offensive that such assumptions were even made. Yes, there are men who are not intimidated by a woman who is his physical equal and find her attractive. No matter someone’s build or size, do not make assumptions about their sexual preference.
Along the same line of thought, far too often I was called upon to act as a man at work. While call centers are not known for their abundance of male employees, it is important that if you are recruiting women to do any sort of heavy lifting or manual labor that you ask for volunteers. Do not select four strapping men and the tallest, biggest woman you can find. It is inappropriate and rude to lump a female in with males based on her appearance. Once again, I can’t believe how often this would happen. There I would be, in dress slacks, flats, and a blouse, helping the men set up tables for corporate food events, moving boxes into storage, or wrestling with heavy seasonal decorative pieces. Sometimes another man would step in at seeing me struggle, but more often than not, it was treated as a normal occurrence.
Finally, another serious misunderstanding with tall women that occurs is to ever assume or even question their birth-gender. I have no problem with transsexualism, but was offended that such an assumption would be made about me. There have been light-hearted cracks intimating that I may have “been a cute little boy” and have been approached furtively on advice about how to ‘break the news’ to parents, friends, and colleagues about an upcoming sex change. Awkwardly, I had to explain I was born the female they see before them. Never make an assumption of transsexualism, because that is exactly what we are- tall women, and both birth-females and transsexuals alike deserve to be treated as such.
In summation, making assumptions about sexual orientation, birth-gender, or physical strength is never a good idea. Tall women want to be treated the same as everyone else, not singled out due to our differences. By avoiding these issues, you can avoid harassment charges, human resources involvement, and much embarrassment in the workplace.