If you feel that you have been the victim of sexism at your job, chances are you are right. Sexist language and behavior are obvious, especially while at work. Receiving unwanted sexual attention, comments about your physical appearance, suggestive looks or gestures, and language that favors or discriminates against one gender in particular are forms of sexism, which is subject to disciplinary action in the workplace. Here are some ways to avoid sexism and handle if it if happens at work.
Avoid Problem People
You should never feel as though you have to escape and hide from someone who demonstrates a sexist attitude toward you. However, realistically at work, there may be individuals who are more suggestive than offensive. Some may mistake friendliness for flirty behavior. If you are shy about speaking up and work with someone who has difficulty recognizing boundaries without actually crossing them, it may be easier to avoid the person when possible, especially someone who works in another department. If given the opportunity to work with that individual on a special project, politely decline.
Clarify the Situation
On the other hand, you may be ready to point out a coworker’s potentially sexist comment. If someone compliments your appearance, and this makes you feel uncomfortable, you could say casually but clearly that your looks have nothing to do with your job performance. In response to stereotypical comments about a particular gender, speak up and indicate that is just one view, and that humans are basically similar in most respects.
Employees who continue to make inappropriate comments related to gender attitudes may need to be told directly that the comment is sexist. Some individuals might need to be told more than once or by several coworkers. After a few reminders that their sexism is showing and is unacceptable on the job, if the behavior continues, it is time to go to the next level of accountability.
Report Sexist Behavior
Talk to your supervisor about the coworker’s problem behavior. Your supervisor should be familiar with gender discrimination law and be willing to discuss the matter with the employee who continues to make sexist statements, tell inappropriate jokes, or discriminate for or against a certain gender at the company. The employee will likely be warned first, and then reprimanded if the behavior continues. Penalties up to and including dismissal are possible.
Protect yourself against sexism in the workplace. Decide whether to avoid or confront unethical and possibly illicit behavior from sexist colleagues.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan