The Pros and Cons of Being a Woman Who Drinks With Her Colleagues

The situation for women in male-dominated industries, like finance or computer programming, might be more severe. "Women entering in male-dominated industries may face more pressure to drink," Corinne Reczek, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Cincinnati says, though she points out that few empirical studies back this up. Keyes says that there are, however, several studies that have found women in predominantly male environments—like medical and law schools—tend to have higher rates of binge drinking.

"I work at a tech company and though there's definitely fewer women, my coworkers treat me as a member of the team (and I'm happy that they do) and one of the things that comes with that is going out for happy hour/drinks," one Jezebel commenter notes. But she adds that making the effort to just show up at an event, and not drink, worked for her.

That approach may not work for everyone. Leah Epstein, who runs a website called Drinking Diaries with Caren Gerzberg, says that it's hard to be a non-drinking woman in a drinking environment. "All of a sudden everybody can look silly and stupid because of your not drinking. And you can perceived as being uptight and rejected," she says.

But on the flip side, women face another challenge: Not drinking what's perceived to be "too much."

My same friend at the consulting firm told me that one of her male co-workers has shunned her because of a night of heavy drinking with her work team. "I think he thinks I'm crazy now," she says.

She also recounts times when she has been drinking a similar amount to her male counterparts and left on her own to go home, only to incite call after call from male co-workers asking where she went and how she plans to get home. "They don't ever worry about the guys," she says.

Overbearing worry is one of the lighter offenses women encounter when drinking like "one of the guys." Epstein says that in her personal experience, mixed-gender drinking situations easily cross become sexual for women, in ways that don't necessarily affect men. "A woman drinking with a group of men in a work-related situation could cross into flirtation and the sexual. She might be stigmatized," she says.

For women, drinking or not drinking at work can often create difficult situations. But even though women have to deal with more than a few stereotypes when alcohol is involved in professional settings, there are ways to cope. Women who don't drink, much like the men mentioned in the New York Times piece, can find other ways to bond with co-workers and close deals sans liquor. Think weekday lunches and coffee meet-ups. Others go to drinking events and order a soft drink.

And as for women who do drink at work, it can be beneficial for their careers. As drinking becomes much more commonplace for women , it offers the same benefits to women as it does to men. Take editor Jane Friedman's account in the book Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up:

One time, not long after I'd received a promotion at work, I was forced to sit at the CEO's table during a formal dinner. Had I been sober, I would've been so critically self-aware that I wouldn't have spoken a word. But with a few drinks in me, I became a better listener and empathizer. When the CEO made an offhand comment, I caught a sudden glimpse of the man behind the label, and for a moment I felt a kinship. I made a small comment to him, a subtle wink at what I'd glimpsed—and his eyes lit up. Because drinking helped unchain me from thoughts of poor little me and inspired grander idealism, I allowed the possibility of something in common with a CEO. And there was—of course there was!"
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Alexandra Chang is a staff writer at Wired. She has also written for The Bold Italic, Macworld, and All Things Digital.  

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