In this day and age, thankfully, professional women can be just as ambitious as a man. Fathers can be stay-at-home parents, and mothers can be CEOs of their companies. But regardless, it still stays a man’s world, and women in power have to deal with sexism on a daily basis no matter their title. And whether their owners of a company or employees in a firm, they need to learn how to deal with these problems in order to stay sane in a toxic workplace.
What Is Sexism?
People must know the definition of the word before deciding to deal with it on a personal or social level. Sexism comes in all shapes and forms, and while some can be identified instantly, other types go unseen sometimes by both parties.
The more serious form of sexism is called overt sexism. This is the form of sexism that reaches headlines, raises awareness, and opens lawsuits. It is the part that deals with the gender pay gap, sexual harassment, and it is the most damaging type of sexism.
Casual sexism, on the other hand, mostly goes unnoticed, sometimes even by the victim. It happens every day, and it’s the form of sexism this article will be about. It can happen in the form of “mansplaining,” putting a man’s needs ahead of a women’s, looking down on female employees, sexist jokes, and so on. Women face these “harmless” things every day, and while not everyone needs to go to war against these forms of sexism, they need to learn how to make themselves seen, how to be taken seriously, and how to fend for themselves.
Take Yourself Seriously & Make Yourself Seen
The first step in having the upper hand is taking yourself seriously and knowing your worth and limits. Unfortunately, office environments are still mostly reliant on men and manpower. Therefore a lot of women try to “act like men” to stay ahead of the curve. They soon become one of the boys, join in on office humor, and try to hide their femininity.
Thankfully today, people are beginning to realize that feminine does not equal weak or fragile and is, in fact, an asset when it comes to running a company or being an employee on higher levels. So if a woman is in a man-dominated workplace where this information isn’t acknowledged, it’s their job to take themselves seriously and therefore to show everyone that they as individuals are valued.
Being yourself is the first place to start, and showing yourself as a work-asset and a valuable individual will help shed the fact that men only see the word “woman” when they look at a female employee. From now on, they will see “ambitious,” “motivated,” “smart,” “capable” when they look at you and will be your allies without you having to shed even a bit of your femininity.
Never Lose Sight of Your Goal
Taking a step back from the office environment and toxicity of a workplace, a woman as an individual person has to keep in mind why they’re there to keep themselves motivated when wanting to quit. Learn to pick your fights, and know your limits. Because once someone crosses it, you have to have a plan, whether it’s taking action in the workplace or quitting.
A goal is there to set priority and help a person understand the importance of their job. If it’s just a stepping stone on the road to a better place, maybe it’s worth staying there for the time being. People need to differentiate between a life-changing opportunity, a ladder to climb, and just another office to be listed on their CVs. And while no one needs to know the reason you’re there, this will help you stay sane and stay on top of every obstacle that comes your way.
Finding allies is true in every scenario. We need human contact in any place of business or learning, as it helps us stay sane and makes our everyday life a little more colorful. But most women know that having allies in the workplace is more than having water-cooler conversations after the lunch break, just as they know self-defense when walking to their cars and carry pepper spray. It’s not a fun topic to consider, but it’s an aspect of the lives of half the population of the world.
Therefore having allies in the company will be constant feedback that can determine whether sexism is only happening to one person or if it’s a legitimate problem that affects the entire company. Speak to other women in the office and ask them about their experiences? Are they uncomfortable, scared, or alienated? This can help people handle situations on an individual level, it can help stay sane, and it can reveal if there’s a problem in the overall company culture. Men can also make you feel overly sensitive, to a point where you think it’s an actual problem you have. Having a second opinion can help take a step back and evaluate whether it’s a problem you have to deal with or just another form of sexism in the workplace.
Having friends and allies will also raise your chances greatly when stepping forward, as you’ll have a number of women (or men) by your side when taking the problem to a higher authority. And as everyone knows, when bringing up a problem like this, numbers speak louder than words, and few people are capable of ignoring an army.
Point It Out
Sadly, sexism is a huge part of our culture, and it’s embedded deep inside a person from a very young age. Therefore, when facing sexism in the workplace, the first thing people need to consider is that the abusive party is not always doing it consciously or maliciously.
Taking this into consideration, the first step is talking to the person acting abusive and letting them see their actions as something that is making you uncomfortable or is the reason you’re scared of something. This can be a very awkward conversation, especially if it’s someone of higher rank or your boss.
Careful wording is key, as you need to be careful not to accuse them of something they haven’t done. The key is identifying exactly what their actions were and letting them know clearly why and how it’s making you uncomfortable. Most of the time, people will see this and will be grateful that you pointed it out, acting more cautiously in the future. Women need to understand that older generations taught this behavior to their superiors and peers today. Try to keep in mind that most people have good in them and don’t act with malice; therefore, letting them know that this is a problem can help them grow and learn and possibly shed this toxic behavior for good.
If the situation goes on after letting the abusive party know that he/she made you uncomfortable with their actions or words, it’s time to go to HR. It’s what they’re there for. And having spoken to them beforehand will give you a leg to stand on when bringing the problem up with the right people.
But HR doesn’t have to be the last resort, as they will not turn away any such problem – if the HR department works as it should. Bringing up even the slightest problem with HR can help raise morale, as they’re there to help and consult. If you’re in a position that involves you in annual meetings, it doesn’t hurt to bring these up there too. It also helps to have a palpable solution ready to be presented alongside the problem itself. For example, companies like Nike have implemented a women’s panel/organization to avoid miscommunication and bias. Some other companies go a different way by adding training and mentorship programs for women improving the office culture.
Speaking up is a very overwhelming process, especially if you feel at fault. A lot of toxic workplaces can have people believe that it is their sensitivity or some other personal trait that has led them to treat them differently. Therefore, people who are abused in any shape and form tend to speak on behalf of the abuser and blame themselves. But after crossing a line, women (or men) need to have the strength to research, gather allies, and present the problem with a come-what-may attitude because a toxic and sexist workplace can have serious consequences. Speaking up regarding “casual sexism” creates a “he said she said” scenario; therefore, it’s important to have palpable evidence and an “army” to back up your claims and go against this behavior.
Sexism in the workplace is something that is influencing a lot of people to this day, as women are motivated to become more than their great-grandmothers. And it’s not about men feeling threatened. It’s about introducing feminine energies into a workplace that was once ruled only by men. Women need to make themselves seen and show people that femininity, sensitivity, and empathy, even childbearing, isn’t a “setback” but an asset that hasn’t been used in the past.
If you know your worth, your strengths and weaknesses, your boundaries, and plans, if those are crossed, you and everyone around you will take you more seriously. It’s about being professional in the office, and yes, learning how to be a strong leader by learning from our fathers and grandfathers, but adding a little feminine spice.