From comments: being lady-tracked
Terri’s post on grooming has a few stories of women whose bosses or mentors have genuinely believed that they were aiming for management or secretarial roles rather than where they were really headed.
Eventually it became clear that he thought that the career path I wanted was that of the three women who were in technological management at my company: middle managers. (The three women shared an office; each of the male managers got an office to himself.) He honestly could not understand me when I explained to him that my career goal was to be software architect or systems architect, not management. The three female managers wore sportcoats and high heels and makeup and never got to touch technology, and he thought that’s what I wanted
That reminds me of my boss trying to steer me into a secretary/PR role by offering me more and more secretarial/PR tasks, and he was acting like he was doing me a favour and helping me reach my career goals. When I realized what was happening, I purposely ignored those tasks and kept myself busy with development.
I suspect this is common enough to deserve a post of its own: have you ever been ‘assisted’ by someone who genuinely believed that you wanted out of a geeky career? Or have you had push-back even when you made it clear that the geeky career was what you wanted?
I also think for some women who do want to become managers and so on, this also plays into the “girl stuff” dilemma, that by doing what a female-coded thing, even if it’s what you really want, you worry that you are playing into the oppression of women.