I am currently part of the WA Gender Equity Taskforce working with the Australian Institute of Architects to create recognition around and promote gender equity in the architecture profession. We had a meeting this week and one of our group brought up the issue of introductions, as an example of where men perhaps don’t realise their behaviour can make someone uncomfortable.
We’ve all been in that situation when meeting someone, particularly for the first time, where women are treated differently to men. It usually goes either of two ways. 1. The person reaches in for a kiss on the cheek and/or a hug. 2. The person shakes all the men’s hands but not the woman’s, leaving her hanging. Both situations are uncomfortable in a professional setting. I understand this is a cultural thing, and every situation is different. But there is nothing like a stranger putting themselves into your private space, and also straight up treating you differently from the menfolk. It’s something so small that I doubt people even think about it, really. So, if you are meeting someone in a work setting, and in a group, introduce everyone the same. Kiss everyone on the cheek or shake everyone’s hand, and you’ll soon notice what makes people uncomfortable. On the safe side, handshakes are the most acceptable option for everyone.