Ramona is an intern at an up-and-coming power electronics startup. On her first day of work, she was shown around a laboratory where she would complete most of her projects. During this time, she was also introduced to nine male interns who would be sharing the same lab space. Since the lab could only accommodate five interns at a time, a vote was held to determine who would work in the lab during the day (e.g. 8am to 4pm) and who would work at night (e.g. 4pm to 12am) during certain days of the week. The morning shift was a popular option for a majority of the interns; Ramona was fortunate to be selected for four (out of five) morning shifts.
Weeks passed. Ramona had been enjoying her work and almost completed one of her projects. However, one day, a fellow intern asked how she was doing. Ramona commented that she was “good but tired.” The intern replied that Ramona had “no reason to be tired because [she was] working mostly day shifts.” Ramona was offended, but chose to ignore his comment.
The next day, she ran into several interns, one of whom was the one she encountered the previous day. At some point in group’s conversation, the same intern made a remark about how Ramona “always got her way [in the workplace] because she was a girl.” Ramona was upset; however, because she did not want to cause a scene, chose again to ignore his remark.
During the following weeks, Ramona tried to avoid the intern who made the inappropriate comments. However, certain settings forced her to interact with him and, in those times, he made a point to make Ramona feel guilty and trivial. Because she did not observe him behave condescendingly towards the other interns, Ramona speculated that her colleague held a prejudice towards female engineers.
How should Ramona respond?
Jocelyn Tan was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.