So this morning I'm at a mediation, which is a procedure to try to reach a settlement with the other side in a lawsuit. In a mediation, the parties split up so that the mediator can talk to each side privately in an effort to get the parties to agree on a final settlement number. There is a lot of sitting around and shooting the breeze with your client while the mediator is conferring with the other side. In this particular case, the group shooting the breeze was: me, the cop I'm representing, the adjuster from the pooled risk group who will pay the settlement, the other cop who is a co-defendant, his lawyer, and the adjuster from his pooled risk group. There was a lot of laughing and joking around because the other lawyer, and the adjusters, and the mediator and I work together on lots of other cases. I was the only woman in the room and also a solid fifteen years younger than everyone else.
Not one, not two, not three, but a total of six times in two hours, the men apologized to me for swearing. The mediator said, "You've got be shitting me! Oh, geez, I'm sorry, Happy." The other lawyer said, "I really think so-and-so is -- pardon me, Happy -- a real asshole." At one point one of the adjusters said, "Happy, put your fingers in your ears. Look, I think plaintiff's being a dick." I kept saying, "Hey, this isn't anything I haven't heard before or said myself." But they kept doing it.
I don't think any of them meant anything malicious by it. I don't think they were trying to differentiate me from the others or embarrass me. I think they were probably all raised not to swear in front of women. Except that they were swearing in front of me. I don't mind the swearing but I am not down with the apologizing. Look, if you feel uncomfortable swearing in mixed company, then don't. But if you do swear in mixed company, don't single out the only woman in the room and apologize. And if you do, for the love of God, don't keep doing it over and over again.
This apologizing-for-swearing thing happens to me ALL the time in professional contexts, although today was particularly bad due to the frequency. It's disturbing to me because I want these cops and these adjusters to hire me on a repeat basis to represent them. The best way to get them to hire me on a repeat basis is to (a) do good work and (b) be fun to work with and comfortable to be around. When the mediator or another lawyer singles me out to apologize-for-swearing, then it sends a message to my clients to be less comfortable with me because I am a woman. Now, I don't actually think I'm going to lose business over this but who knows? Why I should be singled out like this? It's not the end of the world, but it's not cute or charming either.