How to spot sexism at work – and fight it
Being mistreated because of your gender can still happen at work. Sexist practices, remarks and assumptions can seriously undermine the confidence of workers and their opportunities to advance in their careers.
Companies, for example, can divert women into roles requiring stereotypically “feminine” skills, which can hinder their chances for promotion.
Moreover, men often do not want to work under a female boss. A London School of Economics study has shown that men resign from work when women dominate leadership roles.
But women are discriminated against by receiving lower pay than their male peers. In the US, a report by Payscale showed that women still earn US$0.79 for every dollar their male co-workers make.
The same report revealed that women lose their earning power as they age, and women are not promoted as quickly compared to men. Discrimination is also rampant among women of colour.
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So how can you spot sexism at work and confront it? What’s the best way to protect yourself from it and ensure it doesn’t happen to your other female co-workers?
Signs of sexism in the workplace
Women do not receive assignments that challenge their skills. Often, men receive better assignments and women are relegated to mundane, administrative roles, including planning a party or serving a committee.
Men still hold most positions of power in businesses. According to American Progress, women occupy only about 10% of senior management roles in S&P 500 companies. Women receive less desirable work, which means they do not develop skills that allow them to advance to the next level.
Women get devalued in the workplace. It happens when male employees only accept ideas and suggestions from other male employees during meetings. Men will choose not to listen to the views of women just because of their gender. Eventually, the presence of women in the discussion is diminished. What’s more, men frequently interrupt women when they are speaking in meetings.
Women receive unfair performance reviews. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, women have been found to receive less meaningful feedback than men. The feedback they receive is less constructive and likely vague and critical.
Men receive input based on task-oriented objectives such as being competent and analytical, while women receive feedback based on relationship-focused objectives, such as being enthusiastic and compassionate.
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Women experience sexual harassment from colleagues. The last straw of sexist discrimination is sexual harassment. The male boss may attempt to offer women a job benefit in exchange for a sexual favour, or the boss may threaten job security in exchange for a favour.
How to combat sexism in the workplace
Understand that everyone has internalised misogyny. Admitting to yourself that discrimination and backward stereotypes are still rampant can help you confront sexism in your workplace. Those who believe that they are not sexist may likely act in a more sexist manner.
Report cases of sexism to the HR department. If you’ve been a victim of sexism at work, particularly sexual harassment, you should report it to HR so that they may take appropriate actions to alleviate the issue and hold perpetrators to account.
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If you’ve been sexually harassed, find a lawyer. It’s best to fight sexism legally in cases of sexual harassment. Talk to a trusted lawyer and find out the next steps you should take to confront the suspect.
As a manager, make sure your team understands what sexist behaviours are. Your staff should undergo gender-sensitivity training, how to stage a bystander intervention, and how to self-advocate.
Signs of sexism in the workplace can be subtle but recognising these instances can help lessen the challenges faced by those at the receiving end. Employers can help combat sexism by providing help and reducing sexist behaviours in the workplace.