This Is How Women Can Deal With Sexism In The Office

If you’re a woman who happens to be a fan of “Mad Men,” then chances are, you may have found it difficult to watch the hit TV show at times. Don Draper’s philandering ways, and Peggy’s casual misogyny-filled journey in corporate America are understandably the reason.

It’s really a man’s world out there. But as Peggy proved in post-Kennedy America, it doesn’t always have to be that way.

Undermined and ignored for her talents over a new male colleague, Peggy began entertaining offers from other agencies. She ultimately chose to work for Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough.

(via GIPHY)

Sadly, Peggy’s saga ended at the misogynistic culture of McCann-Erickson where she chose to stay for a male colleague.

Sexism can be non-existent if we make it non-existent. Acknowledging that it still exists is one way of nipping it in the bud. Ensuring policies dealing with misogyny in the workplace are strictly implemented is a good start.

Sexism can be non-existent if we make it non-existent.Click To Tweet

Examples of sexism at work

Sexism is no longer overt as before, thanks to laws that protect the interest of women. Yet subtle sexism in the workplace still exists.

Is your workplace a sexist workplace? Do you work with a sexist colleague? If you do, then these issues may be close to home:

Pay disparity

Heard that your male colleague was earning more than you? It’s probably true.

According to the U.S. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women who were full-time employees in 2015 were paid only 80 cents for every dollar men were earning. This equates to a gender pay gap of 20 percent.

“Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio,” the Institute reports.

20 percent is 20 percent. Ever computed how much a 20 percent tip is for your total bill?

Don’t celebrate for that bonus just yet. (via GIPHY)

Depending on where you live, this amount may be a lot or may not be much. But it still pays for something—like a woman’s car fuel or snack.

Women also earn less in specialized fields. “In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men,” the Institute adds.

Gender inequality

Jill Abramson was at the pinnacle of her career, when The New York Times fired her. The Times accused her of “being pushy and mean” to staff.

This happened despite the fact that many people champion her strengths and ability to inspire both men and women as a respected mentor, and a just colleague.

According to Fast Company, Abramson’s colleagues reported that she was let go after clashing with the paper’s leaders over serious pay inequality issues. Her intentions to hire a co-editor to share the position of an incoming male editor was also cited as a reason.

Yet more attention was drawn to her “tantrums” when staff deserved some dressing down.

“The issue lies in the fact that when men display tyrannical behavior, it’s often shrugged off, and when women do so (and often with much less serious behavior) it’s met with indignation. More often than not it’s also met with defamation of her character,” Fast Company reports about the matter.

Fast Company laments that Abramson didn’t receive any thanks for her contribution. It was during Abramson’s tenure that more female editors were installed in the newsroom. The paper also won eight Pulitzer Prizes during her time, according to the website.

Manterrupting and mansplaining

The internet exploded two years ago for all the wrong reasons when Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, kept “manterrupting” the US government’s chief technology officer, Megan Smith, during a panel at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

The panel was about promoting racial and gender diversity in workplaces. Many feminist tech personalities, including Pinterest’s Tracy Chou pointed out Schmidt’s actions on Twitter. Dude was trending.

Good thing that somebody had the guts to call him out. What was embarrassing was the fact that hat person was Google’s own global diversity manager, Judith Williams.

Most men are hardwired to interrupt women, and there’s research to prove it.

Citing a study done by George Washington University, Diversity Inc. reports that “when speaking with a female, participants interrupted more and used more dependent clauses than when speaking with a male.” 20 men and 20 women participated in the study.

Talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel famously satirized these phenomena in a clip with no less than Hillary Clinton being the subject. Watch the video below:

 Office Housework and Babysitting

Were you ever left out of an important meeting to tend to the “herd,” because the boys’ club had bigger fish to fry? When there’s an upcoming office party, are you often placed in charge of planning the menu and decor?

Are you drowning in spreadsheets and paperwork, rather than strategizing about your next move?

“Women are expected to be self-modest, self-effacing team players,” Joan Williams, the co-author of “What Works for Women at Work,” tells Business Insider.

According to Williams, this is why women often end up doing the office housework, i.e. insignificant tasks such as taking notes in meetings or mentoring junior colleagues.

Perhaps, it’s because of our “nurturing” nature, which, if you think about it, shouldn’t be a bad thing right? But then, what if, you also have more important things to do, like building your career.

“Women end up working even longer hours because they have to do the housework, and sometimes it means they cannot get access to higher-value work,” Williams adds.

Educating ourselves more about microaggressions

Microaggressions are “subtle forms of misogyny” that often fly under the radar. According to ATTN, this happens more often to women than we think.   

Victor Eduardo Sojo, a researcher at The Centre for Ethical Leadership at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences in Australia, explains the myriad ways women fall victim to it to ATTN:

“People making sexist jokes, receiving sexist emails that are later construed as jokes, being asked questions about your personal life, particularly aspects of your sexual life or identity, people questioning your gender identity, people might insinuate you are less of a woman if you work in a male dominated area or are more assertive than they expect you to be … I can keep going on here, the point is that there is a diverse and wide range of harmful experiences that women are exposed to at work.”

How to respond to sexist comments at work

According to Forbes columnist Meghan Casserly, research exists that, while women are hell-bent in making sure that their sexist colleague hear it from them, they don’t actually do so in real life. 

Here’s what you can do when you hear a sexist remark:

Don’t laugh at the sexist joke.

Women are somewhat inclined to laugh off a sexist joke or smile politely if it’s not that offensive. Don’t.

(via GIPHY)

In an article, Bustle suggests looking the “jokester in the eye and making an impassive expression.” 

“That moment of discomfort may make him or her take a moment to really think about what’s being said,” the website explains.

You can also ask the jokester “what’s funny?” the site recommends. That would knock some sense into your colleague, and keep him in his place.

Be firm.

It’s difficult not to get intense when your colleague talks about your ass. In an example cited by Casserly, a friend’s friend matter-of-factly told two colleagues that the comments they made were “inappropriate.”

Casserly’s friend recalls:  

She heard a comment in passing, turned to the two guys and said, calmly “inappropriate.” One of them responded, “Really?” “Yes,” she said, and continued on her way.

Jokes were made to elicit a reaction from you, whether to make you mad or not. Don’t give your dumbass colleague the satisfaction.

Stop saying sorry.

Women love to apologize for everything. We’re too damn self-effacing, polite and humble—not that it’s a bad thing. You are not obliged to. Besides, it’s not helping your case.

A new app called “Just Not Sorry” may just be the solution. In an interview with Reuters, the app’s creator, Tami Reiss, says that the app highlights keywords such as “sorry,” “I think” or “I’m no expert” in email.

The app is a Google Chrome extension that could filter words you type in Gmail that “undermine your authority,” Reuters reports. So far, 53,000 users have installed the app on their Google browser.  

Not everyone is a fan of the app, though. Harriet Minter, editor of The Guardian’s Women in Leadership section, says it’s okay to stand by your words. Being polite, she says, doesn’t necessarily mean you are diminishing yourself.

You can also forget about the app and just drop the habit. Stop being unsure of what you’re going to say. It won’t hurt to put it in practice.

In case you felt that it was your fault why you were catcalled today, remember that it’s not about you. There are just some men who are ignorant of how they should behave around women.

Do yourself a favor and stop being passive about these things. Take action.

Share Your Thoughts With Us

Sandy Miguel is an independent website publisher, journalist and photographer from the Philippines. She used to be the managing director of an advertising technology provider where she managed around 50 online contractors at one time. Sandy writes about managing work-related stress, exploring one's options outside the four corners of an office, and work-life balance for Get Over Your Job.