Tackling Sexism In The Workplace

Sexism in the workplace is sometimes more subtle and undetectable than most people realize. Many women deal with indirect discrimination on a daily basis. During my 14 years of service in the Army, I remember being expected to tolerate sexist jokes or comments about my appearance. Subtle forms of sexism are just as detrimental as overt harassment and discrimination.

I remember my first encounter with sexism, I was 21 years old, very shy, very naive; a high-ranking officer felt it appropriate to reward a male soldier for his high physical fitness score, which happened to be lower than my score. Long story short, my chain of command told me to let it go and to stop nagging them. I felt totally lost, and did not understand why a soldier whose score was lower was being applauded. The truth is, that male soldier got rewarded because of his gender. I shared this with you ladies because this happens everywhere. Dealing with sexism is very tricky and most certainly not easy. Although companies and organizations have specific policies against sexism, it is still a major problem for women. So what do we do? I say WE, because at this point we (women) must come together and fight back even harder. The following tactics will more then likely make "them" feel uncomfortable:

1. Turn the tables

When a man says something that is sexist, ask him if he would have done or said the same thing if you were a man. For example: " “Do you comment on your male coworkers’ cleavage?”

2. Without bringing up gender, ask your supervisor why you're always targeted certain tasks:

“I know I make great coffee, but I'm confuse as to why my coworkers never get asked to do it?” Simply pointing out what’s going on may be enough to make your supervisor or colleague realize that he isn’t being fair in delegating office tasks.

3. Don’t laugh at the joke:

If men in the office are making sexist jokes, sometimes simply not laughing will be enough to make your position clear. Make eye contact with the jokester and keep a straight face. That moment of discomfort should make him think about what is being said.

4. When someone says something sexist, ask him to repeat it:

When someone makes a sexist comment, try responding by nonchalantly asking him to repeat it. Sometimes having to repeat a comment will make the person realize just how inappropriate it was in the first place. 

5. Ask for an explanation:

Again, having the opposite sex stop for a moment and analyze what they’re saying, can sometimes be enough to make him/them realize that what he/they just said was inappropriate. A simple “Why is that funny?” should do the trick.

8. Keep a log:

When experiencing sexism, overt or subtle, it is a good idea to keep record of it. Keeping track of any sexist situation, discussion, confrontation you have had had with colleagues or supervisors, is a good idea in the event where things escalate and you either need to see HR, or consult an attorney.

Sexism is detrimental to women's emotional and mental well-being. We must continue to stand against it. As women, it is our right to fight and demand respect/fair treatment in the workplace.


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