Sexism is a subtle and common problem present in most workplaces almost everywhere. How does one deal with it?
But women are expected to not make a fuss and tolerate it. And when someone does protest, things go down the hill very quickly. We’ve all read about Ellen Pao’s situation by now.
However, women can subtly protest against sexism, all the same. When faced with sexists and gender discrimination, try these tips to sort things out.
1. If someone says or does something that is sexist, ask that person, “Would you have said that if I were a guy?” or perhaps, “Do you comment on your male coworkers’ clothes too?” Don’t use a combative tone. Just ask them with a curious expression. And try asking the same in front of others.
2. If a colleague is being sexist, try to have a private conversation with them about it. Keep cool, and try this: “I’m not sure I liked your comments you made about female colleagues. Maybe you were kidding, but I’m not sure its workplace appropriate. I mean, you don’t comment about your male coworkers that way, do you?”
3. Sexist jokes are popular with all. There’s always atleast that one guy cracking them over and over again. But, next time you hear one, don’t laugh. Don’t even smile. Instead, pretend you didn’t understand it, and ask him for an explanation. And jokes are even less funny when they’re explained. This will take away the ‘funnyness’ of the sexist joke very quickly, and make the joker squirm a bit.
4. If your boss- an older male boss- is making sexist remarks or jokes, blame it on the age gap between you two. And tell him so. Try this, “Must be a generational thing.” Say it really cheerfully–you just kind of called your boss old.
5. If you and your male team mates or coworkers are having an argument, and you think they’re going to go the sexist route and call you ‘shrill’ or ‘hysterical,’ you go there first. “Max, you’re getting emotional. Let’s get back to the issue–whether we should go with Vendor X or Vendor Y.” Bet they’d love that.
6. If you’re asked to perform handle tasks that might be categorized as ‘office housework,’ like arranging food for meetings, and fetching coffee, put your foot down- softly. Try this, “You know, Jeff, I’ve taken down notes for the last three meetings. I’d like an opportunity to contribute better in this meeting. Can somebody else do it?” He can’t very well refuse you a chance to speak up during and participate better in a meeting, right? So, give this a shot.
Women are often considered to be selfish and a non-team player when they refuse to do ‘office housework,’ refuse to take sexist remarks lying down, and refuse to put up with any kind of gender discrimination. Speaking against gender discrimination at the workplace can also be detrimental to her career. It’s a very tricky situation, indeed.
None of the tips mentioned above are going to kill patriarchy and bring about equality at the workplace. But, it just might help you keep your job and fight sexism at your workplace.