Despite increased awareness, sexism is still a major problem in many workplaces. Whether it comes in the form of gender stereotypes, off-hand derogatory comments around a boardroom table, or blatant harassment, there is no doubt that the issue persists in industries everywhere.
“The majority of men in the U.S. believe that sexism does not exist and does not present obstacles, whereas the vast majority of women keep saying it’s real,” said New York-based speaker, award-winning writer, activist, and author of Rage Becomes Her, Soraya Chemaly.
“We have this ubiquitous male-dominated labour force, and the majority of men are denying what’s in front of their faces,” said Chemaly.
Finding solidarity with other people at work is a good starting place for dealing with sexist behaviour, Chemaly advises.
“Find your people so you don’t experience it in isolation,” she said. “You need people who will actively advocate for you in a closed space. Someone who will say ‘let her finish her sentence’ or ‘She has an excellent idea. Let’s hear it.’”
Having a fair-minded, male ally to advocate on your behalf can be especially advantageous, according to Chemaly.
“If a woman advocates for another woman they tend to have less chance of getting a promotion or a raise whereas a man who advocates on behalf of a female co-worker won’t be punished,” she said.
Many women feel that they have to work harder than men to achieve recognition and earn promotions. In the event that gender bias a serious problem, Chemaly recommends that women come together to pressure the institution to do the work of teaching people about stereotypes.
“Women need to demand institutional accountability,” she said.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue which is often ignored as women don’t know how to deal with it.
“There’s no easy answer. It’s a complex, multi-layered problem,” said Chemaly. “Every single woman in that situation has to address the risk and what it’s worth to her,” she added.
Chemaly is the director of the Women’s Media Centre speech project, an initiative dedicated to expanding women’s civic and political participation.