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Sexism in the workplace: 5 baseline strategies to combat it


It’s hard to believe in these supposedly enlightened times, but sexism in the workplace is still a problem. Here are five key strategies to combat sexism that may be happening unconsciously in your workplace.

Most people accept these days that women should be part of the workforce. In many situations, they have to be. It’s not as though all women can sit at home if they have bills to pay. They need to get out and earn money to keep the household running, just like their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, sexism in the workplace still exists. If you’re a woman, it can be very uncomfortable for you to have to deal with it. However, it can make males just as uncomfortable if their coworkers make sexist statements with which they disagree.

5 strategies to sexism in the workplace

Regardless of your gender, you can combat sexism in the workplace whenever you encounter it. We’ll talk about some ways you can do that right now.

Don’t Use Belittling Language

The first thing worth saying is that sexism in the workplace can be hard to combat because it can be deeply ingrained in workplace culture. It’s hard to get someone to change their behavior if they have acted like this for their entire adult life. It’s like appealing a worker’s compensation denial: it’s not easy, but it’s worth doing.

One thing you can do, regardless of gender, is to stop using unacceptable language to address women with whom you work. For instance, you should never call a woman things like “honey,” “baby,” “sweetheart,” and so forth. These pet names would be fine for your significant other, but they are too familiar if you’re addressing a woman with whom you work. Instead, you can learn their name and refer to them by it. That makes it obvious who you’re addressing, and you’re setting an excellent example for your other coworkers. It becomes even more vital that you set a good example if you’re this woman’s direct superior at work and address her correctly and appropriately.

Additional Resource: Learn about remote team management.

Avoid Treating Women in Sexist Ways

Casual sexism also exists in the workplace in how some individuals treat their female coworkers versus how they treat their male ones. For instance, you might be in the habit of asking the women with whom you work to go on a coffee run. Maybe you have a common area where you eat lunch, and you ask the women with whom you work to clean up this area or do the dishes.

It’s not appropriate for you to behave this way. To help combat sexism in the workplace, yYou can pick up your own dishes or go for a coffee run yourself. The only time when it’s suitable for you to ask a woman with whom you work to get coffee or clean up a workspace is if that is expressly part of her job description. If it is part of this woman’s job description to do things like getting coffee, picking up lunch, cleaning up a shared space, and so forth, you can at least be polite when you ask her to do it. Don’t treat her like a servant or underling. She might work for you, but she is still a human being with real feelings.

Call Out Dismissive Behavior or Inappropriate Jokes

People who act inappropriately and display sexism in the workplace often do it because they feel like “everybody does this” or “this is the proper way to behave.” They might genuinely not know any better than to make off-color remarks or jokes that dismiss or belittle the female gender. If you’ve got someone in the office who says these things, it’s critical that you call them out when they say something inappropriate for an office setting, or anywhere else, for that matter. You can point out that their joke wasn’t funny.

When you do so, you send the message that you’re not just going to laugh and go along with what they said. You’re telling them that you’re not on their side when they say inappropriate things. If they persist with this behavior, you can always talk to HR about it, and they can step in.

When you call out a coworker for this behavior, you don’t need to make a big production out of it. You’re not trying to cause a fight. You might choose to pull them aside and talk to them about why these comments or jokes are inappropriate instead of doing it in front of a group of people.

Set Up Sensitivity Training

Individuals with whom you work who don’t seem to know any better than to make off-color comments or jokes about women might need sensitivity training about sexism in the workplace. They might feel like it’s fine to say the things they do because they grew up in an environment where this happened all the time.

You can set up a sensitivity seminar that the whole office or all your workforce can attend. There are tons of organizations that can send someone over who can show your entire staff how they should behave in an office setting. They will run through some scenarios where someone acts inappropriately, and they will show you what you can do about it and other aspects of sexism in the workplace.

Offer Equal Pay for Equal Work

When talking about sexism in the workplace, be aware that goes beyond things like inappropriate comments. You also have to talk about equal pay for equal work. Some businesses will still try to pay a woman less than a man for doing the same job. This is the gender pay gap.

If you know this is happening in your workplace, you can tell the women who it impacts that they can talk to your bosses about it, or they can sue if necessary. Equal pay for equal work is certainly something that should always happen. If a woman at your company can prove that she’s doing the same job, but your bosses are paying her less, this is an example of sexism in the workplace and there is no reason she should have to accept that.

You can do a lot to help your workplace be a place of equal opportunity for everyone. By stepping up and saying something about sexism in the workplace, you make things better for women who are trying to make the money to support themselves and their families.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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