Over the course of my 5-year career, I've experienced a variety of work environments: a male-dominated news site with somewhat of a fraternity house mentality, a women's company, a media brand run by results-driven prep school guys, and finally a gender-balanced office. At each and every job, I did what I could to befriend the ladies around me, as it's not always easy trying to get ahead in a man's world. It's well known that women earn less than men, don't negotiate their offers or salaries, and are often slighted for trying to juggle family life and work.
That's why it's nice to have female colleagues with whom you can commiserate about women-specific issues. Here are some other reasons you ought to buddy up with the girls at work.
1. They understand your "female problem" woes
If you're in a bad mood, working through excruciating cramps, feeling all around messy thanks to your period, or all of the above, talking to a female coworker might help. Your candor might even inspire other women to open up about their own misadventures with menstruation later on down the road. That time of month is unpleasant in many ways, but it's part of womanhood, which you shouldn't have to leave at the restroom door simply because you're on the job.
2. They don't blow you off when you point out examples of sexism
I know plenty of wonderful feminist men who recognize that sexism is a major problem in our culture. Even so, this doesn't mean they understand how degrading it is to experience blatant sexism or be catcalled on the way to work. Some men argue that street harassment a compliment or not worth getting worked up about, but ladies know the pain of overt sexism and public humiliation at the hands of catcallers all too well.
3. They also know what soft sexism is and that it's very much alive and well
Yes, it's a thing, and it might even happen more than you realize. A long time ago, I was hired to replace a woman who loved cooking for the office twice a week. She was promoted to a role that afforded her little time to whip up treats for everyone on a regular basis, so I was expected to assume her tradition of making food for my colleagues. People regularly complained that I didn't cook as much as my predecessor, an expectation I found discreetly sexist. I lost that job, but if I'd had female friends to vent to at the company, perhaps I could have lasted a little longer.
4. They can be your lunch, coffee, or networking buddies
Every day, I take a walking break with a few of my awesome female colleagues so we can catch up on each other's work and personal lives. They're also my go-to lunch buddies, and we like attending networking events as a group as well.
If you share similar interests beyond favorite lunch venues, this can even lead to afterhours hang-outs. Recently, I've gotten close with one of my colleagues who lives just a few miles away, so we like to grab coffee on Saturdays, go to concerts, and enjoy pizza and drinks after especially tiring weeks. It's always a blast with her because we understand each other's work days well but have also developed a real friendship unrelated to our professional lives.
Of course, you can totally do all of this with guy coworkers, but people sometimes make silly assumptions about female and male coworkers who interact a lot. It's stupid, but I think we can all agree that high school doesn't end when you get your diploma. That's why you should be armed with trustworthy, reliable female friends who will have your back during crazy work times, listen when you need to vent, and happily join you on a stroll to Starbucks for an afternoon boost.