Not only in the wake of Susan Fowler’s viral blog post on sexual harassment and sexism at Uber is a post on sexism in the workplace appropriate. And while we’re glad it’s something that’s currently a part of the public conversation, our personal experience tells us that sexism is a daily struggle for women in the workplace.
Whether it’s being paid less while working harder (27% less, to be exact) to get half the respect of your male counterparts, being excluded from a happy hour, or being asked by your boss when you’re planning to have a baby the day you return from your honeymoon – sexism is something women face too often, whether she’s conscious of it or not.
And while you may not actually want to be invited on the company hunting trip, excusing an environment that breeds anything from exclusion to “locker room jokes” to disparate pay to outright sexual harassment is beyond unacceptable. We’ve laughed off the jokes, shrugged off advances and dealt with the unfair promotions – and we’ve looked at our performance and actions to ensure that we’ve not invited any of this behavior or discrimination.
Being a part of changing those environments is daunting, though, as it can affect your job security, upward mobility and relationship with your coworkers. There is (and has to be) a happy medium between asserting yourself as a female employee and ensuring your security at the company. This benefits you, your career and the women who will come after you.
Laugh at your boss when he asks when you’re having a baby, “because, Dave, I have a lot I want to accomplish before I even think about having kids.” Tell your coworkers how fun their last outing seemed and to include you in the next one. Ask your boss why your male coworker was promoted ahead of you, so you can improve your work at the company and your chances of getting promoted next. And, if necessary, document any instances of sexual harassment – we admire a previous colleague who kept a handwritten journal with the date, time and instance of the harassment, which made her feel confident (though she never used it) that she had a carefully documented history of the harassment.
Demonstrate that you’re not there to sit in your cubicle and look pretty. You’re there to work hard and be taken seriously. This doesn’t mean eschew your femininity; rather, we hope you embrace it.