I’m pleased to say that this year I’ve secured a summer internship. I am happy to be working this summer for a local tech company I’ve interned with before, and they seem happy to have me on again. I started work this week, and things are going great.
Well, for the most part.
On my first day, my supervisor invited me to lunch with him. There was good food, but afterwards I didn’t get my cash in quick enough, and he footed the bill. I thought that maybe lunch on the intern’s first day was a company thing, and he would seek reimbursement. No big deal. But yesterday as I was eating lunch at my desk, he came back from a fast food place, said cheerily, “I brought you back something,” and put a cookie on my desk.
To be frank, it made me uncomfortable. Something didn’t feel right about my superior buying food for me. The question I wanted to ask, but obviously couldn’t, was “Would you have bought this for me if I were a guy?”
It probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if a similar situation hadn’t occurred at my last internship. My supervisor at that time noticed that I preferred not to accompany him and our coworkers to the coffee shop, so one day he said, “Here, you should come with us more often,” and handed me a gift card for the coffee shop. I accepted it, assuming it contained a token amount. I was shocked when after my first purchase after work, the cashier told me I had $47.29 remaining on the card. I wish now that I had gone back to my supervisor, given him back the card, and told him I couldn’t accept it. Instead, I was embarrassed, so I didn’t say anything and kept using the gift card.
I know my supervisors were trying to do me a favor, but their actions felt patronizing. I like cookies as much as the next person, but accepting gifts from my coworkers makes me feel belittled. They’re saying with their actions, “Even though you’re a competent person we’re glad to have on our team, we’d like to help you out with food, and that’s okay because you’re a girl.”
So in response to my supervisor’s generosity yesterday, I grimaced and said, “Oh, I’d prefer if you didn’t buy food for me.” He said, “Oh, okay,” and the day went on. I’m glad I spoke up for myself, and I’m sure it won’t be a problem with him going forward, but I can’t help but wonder if I handled the situation appropriately. I would love to hear what other people have to say on the matter. Does this kind of thing happen to other female interns?