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8 Ways To Handle Sexism In The Workplace

Sexism in the workplace is something a lot of women grapple with every day. For example, they are expected to tolerate sexist jokes and comments, pet names like “sweetheart,” and comments about their appearances. They deal with it because of the fear of being seen as humorless or uncooperative. There are a lot of stereotypes that are cast upon women in and out of the workplace, particularly that of being overly emotional.

When a woman is emotional, people think it’s her fault. However, when a man is emotional, people blame the situation, like, “he’s just having a bad day.” When a woman is assertive, people think she’s a bitch, but when a man is assertive he’s “a boss.” Men are often rewarded for being a “sensitive guy” or a powerful leader whereas women are looked down upon for similar actions.

These stereotypes begin in childhood, as well-meaning adults view boys and girls differently without realizing it. Little by little, the stereotypes take root and live on in the next generation.

These stereotypes are simply frustrating double standards women face. Contrary to popular belief, women are not more emotional than men and a woman being assertive does not mean she’s aggressive. It’s all ficticious.

Unfortunately, women must deal with this crap. However, there are ways to combat them to reduce their impact. The following techniques help either attack the stereotypes head-on or sabotage them in stealth.

Turn The Tables

If someone in the workplace says or does something that is sexist, simply ask that person if he or she would have done or made that same comment if you were a man. It’s as simple as that. It is important to ask these questions in a nonthreatening way, maybe even with a sense of humor. It will make that person take a step back and the point that you’re being treated differently will stand.

Own Your Speaking Voice

Speaking up is not a problem and we need to stop acting like it is. Stop worrying about how people will perceive you or how people would like you to speak. That will do nothing but drive you crazy. So, be confident and voice your opinion on that new project proposal your boss is having a meeting about.

One important thing you can do: Do not apologize before making a statement, asking for a raise, or trying to sound confident. That will do nothing but undermine you.

Ask why you’re being targeted for certain tasks

If you’re always being tasked with domestic duties around your office such as getting coffee, taking notes, and dealing with catering, take a moment to ask your boss “Why?” Don’t jump the gun and accuse them of sexism. Simply ask him or her for a simple explanation on why you’re the one in the office always getting asked to do these tasks. Pointing this out to them may be enough to make your supervisor or colleague realize that he or she isn’t being impartial in distributing office tasks.

Don’t laugh at the joke

Stop laughing sexism off when you’re clearly uncomfortable with what that person said. If people in your office are making sexist jokes, like blaming your behavior on menstruation, sometimes not laughing will be enough to make your position clear. Make eye contact with the jokester and keep an impassive expression. That moment of discomfort and silence may make him or her take a moment to really think about what they just said and realize just how inappropriate it was in the first place.

Have a private sit-down with the person about it

People can’t read minds. Sometimes people do and say things without thinking whether it’s offensive. They won’t know their comments are bothering you unless you say something to them about it. You don’t want to call that person out in a group because some people can get defensive and angry.

If you feel that a colleague is being sexist or disrespectful, pull him or her aside to discuss the matter privately. Stay calm and keep it simple and tell them what made you uncomfortable. Do not force an argument. Just make your position clear.

Keep It Short

When a colleague makes a sexist remark, sometimes the best thing to do is to keep your response short and direct. Just say, “That’s inappropriate” or “That’s not okay” and then move on.

Keep A Log

If you’re experiencing sexism, it’s a good idea to keep a record of it. Keeping a record is especially helpful if you’re subject to forms of sexism that go unspoken. You can keep a document of all these actions so if a discussion needs to happen, you have all your proof lined up to go.

Go To A Supervisor

If sexism is interfering with your ability to do your job it may be a good idea to bring the matter to your boss’ attention. I know sometimes you don’t want to make a big deal out of the situation or cost somebody their job. However, it is a matter that should be taken seriously. Your log will come in handy when reporting to your supervisor so you can clearly tell them what’s been going on.

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About Shekera Clarke

My name is Shekera Clarke. I am currently a senior at the University at Albany majoring in journalism with a business minor. I grew up in Queens, NY. QGTM! My goals upon graduating include either writing for a pop culture magazine/blog or work for ESPN because of my love for sports - whether that's behind the scenes or on air.

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