Armstrong & Associates Employment Law Firm

Combating subtle sexism in the workplace

Sexism in the workplace isn’t usually as overt today as it was in past decades, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Today, less than half of working women feel they are treated equally to their male counterparts. From getting interrupted in meetings to a male colleague taking credit for their ideas, women are exposed to microforms of sexism daily.

While these common offenses may not seem harmful on their own, they can compound the more significant issues women face in the workplace. Here are just a few ways you can help combat subtle sexism at work:

Remember it’s likely not just you

When women encounter subtle sexism in the office, it often feels more comfortable to dismiss seemingly minor offenses than speak up or call attention to it. However, if you notice the problem, there’s a very good chance other colleagues are seeing it too – especially your female colleagues. While you are free to battle subtle sexism on your own, having a group of comrades who can help you employ different tactics for fighting it can help immensely.

Amplify women’s voices

In meetings dominated by male colleagues, it’s still all too common for a female colleague’s contributions to get interrupted or go unnoticed entirely. Even worse, a male colleague might repeat a female colleague’s comments and receive wider recognition or credit for their idea.

To ensure women’s voices are heard in meetings, you can try the “amplification strategy” introduced by women working in the Obama administration. The idea of this strategy is that if a woman’s contribution goes unnoticed in a meeting, repeat the comment until it gets recognition.

Enlist a coworker for support

If you can find a colleague who is willing to help you point out when subtle sexism is occurring in your workplace, it can help ensure that no one will write off your concerns as being too sensitive. You can ask a male or female coworker to have your back in meetings and speak up if someone interrupts you or takes credit for your ideas. In return, you can do the same for your female coworkers.

For true gender equality at work, workers must address sexism at both the macro and micro levels. If you see subtle sexism in your office, be sure to support your colleagues by amplifying their voices and call out bad behavior.


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