Even in the 21st century, there’s no need to look further than the Forbes’ Top 100 Innovator’s List (which only includes one woman) to recognize that women face serious disparities in the workplace. From the gender pay gap to a lack of provided maternity leave to consistently being passed over for promotions, microaggressions and overt aggressions against women exist everywhere. As aspiring businesswomen, here’s what we can do to make ourselves heard:
Society often tries to make our voices invisible, promoting those of our male coworkers. Don’t let this rhetoric win. Interject if necessary, stop the people you work with from interrupting you, and don’t be afraid to be demanding. As leaders, we deserve to be listened to, so don’t feel guilty for ensuring that your voice is heard.
Call Men (And Women) Out
Don’t accept small microaggressions because they “come with the job.” If someone shakes the hand of all your male coworkers but ignores yours, extend your hand and let them know. If someone repeatedly addresses you over email as “Mr.” rather than “Ms.”, simply tell them that they got it wrong. Be willing to call your coworkers out in similar ways, making it clear you won’t accept disrespect from anyone.
Be Open to Discussion
Teach those who are ignorant about sexist practices and take time to explain to them why what they’re doing is wrong, as well as how they can fix it. Sit down with your boss, even if it’s scary, and explain to them why you deserve that pay raise--be willing to explain that your gender does play a role in the decision, often through implicit bias. Ask for tampons in the bathrooms to be free, and explain why they’re necessary. Fight for ways in which women can offer feedback on workplace policies. Do whatever you can to break the silence on the gender wage gap. Only then can ignorance be reduced.
At the end of the day, the workplace will contain misogynists. Don’t let them win. If you have a discussion with someone who is uncooperative and they are not changing their practices, go up the chain. If your company has a Human Resources department, report them. Speak to their manager. Their actions should have consequences, and their sexism should not be excused.
The more we refrain from shying away from sexism, but rather confront it, the sooner we can begin to break down gender disparities. As women, it is our responsibility to make a better world for future young girls, and that starts with having the courage to speak up and make a difference. Be the change so that the women who come after you may live in a more equitable world.