With the #MeToo and Times Up movements dominating recent headlines, there is a far greater awareness of gender equality in the workplace than ever before. However, sexism is regrettably still alive and well in many industries. Women in business still struggle to reach the senior ranks and are often overlooked for promotions.
“You have to hustle twice as hard to prove that you can play with the big boys,” commented Betsy Clement, VP at New Orleans-based brokerage, Gillis, Ellis & Baker, adding that she still sometimes hears comments eluding to “the weaker sex.”
Toronto-based insurance executive and sales coach, Darlene Diplock feels that a double standard still exists in the way that assertiveness is viewed differently in men and women. While a man standing up for his opinions is admired, a woman is sometimes criticized or insulted. “It was just months ago that someone said to me, ‘Oh, is it that time of the month?’” said Diplock.
“I’ve even been told some time years ago that I should be home raising my kids instead of trying to play in a man’s world,” she added.
Comments verging on a sexual nature were once commonplace and sadly still occur. Clement was once told by a potential client that she should wear higher heels at their next meeting. “That was the last time I met with him,” she added.
According to Julia Chung, CEO at Surrey, B.C.-based companies, Admin Slayer and Spring Financial Planning, the best strategy for dealing with sexism in the workplace is to use gender-based assumptions to her advantage.
“A couple of times when people have said ‘Oh is Julia going to take the notes?’ I’ve said ‘Yes, and I’m going to lead the meeting. Now follow me,” said Chung. By turning the assumption on its head, Chung was able to take control of the situation.
Early in her career as a stockbroker Chung was told by another broker that clients would never trust her as they want to look across the table and see someone who looks like them.
Her advice: “Don’t believe everything you’re told. Don’t make allowances for people. You don’t have to hold yourself back.”