Myth: Sexism only happens to women in the workplace.
Fact: Sexism happens to all people in the workplace.
Sexism is not actually about a person's sex, rather it is about a power imbalance. Power imbalances can happen to any employee at any company. It can be a male- or female-dominated environment, and sexism can happen discreetly or overtly depending on the environment.
Let’s break down sexism. Sexism starts with how people are perceived based on their gender. This is where many companies and individuals get in trouble. Over-generalizing how a person should look, act, respond or think based on their perceived gender or sexual orientation is wrong. Occupational sexism comes in many shapes and sizes. According to a studying done by LeanIn.com, Sexism in the workplace creates a larger gap the higher up the ladder an employee goes. At an entry level position, 54 percent of employees are men and only 46 percent are women. As an employee climbs the corporate ladder, their likelihood to seeing women closer to the top begins to slim down. At the managerial level, 63 percent of employees are men while only 37 percent are women. As an employee continues to climb to the vice presidential level 71 percent of employees are men and only 29 percent are women. And finally, by the time an employee reaches the C-Suite, they will only see about 19 percent of the employees joining them will be women. Equality for all is a foundational idea on which our country is based. To change these ladder differentials in the workforce, change must come from within. Changed views on occupational sexism can help change a work environment.
In order to combat occupational sexism, it is important to know what to look for. Some examples of occupational sexism are: compensation, mansplaining, work responsibilities, assumed behavior or intelligence, and advancement within the company. Although many of these examples may seem difficult to change, there are ways to combat sexism in the workplace.
Combating sexism in the workplace
Be on the lookout: Sexism in the workplace is very prevalent in our current society. Being on the lookout for potential threats of sexism like vulgar language, sexist comments or inappropriate behavior from one employee to another.
If you see something, say something: Many times reporting sexism in the workplace is difficult—reporting someone or something to HR has a negative connotation amongst employees. Help break the stigma by reporting any behavior that you think is inappropriate. Most states have non-retaliation laws that protect the individual that has reported the incident.
Spot the pattern: when it comes to compensation and advancement, keep your eyes open for a pattern. Is there a certain demographic that is being selected? Is there a certain demographic that is paid more for the same job? Wage gaps are high and closing them is something we need to do together. If you find a pattern, talk to a manager you trust or your HR representative.
Changing sexism in the workplace is up to each and every employee. By working together to spot patterns and inappropriate behavior, we can begin to change the workplace we work in and the society we live in.
Molly partners with entrepreneurial, fast-growing organizations in central Ohio to develop their most important assets—their people. Prior to starting a boutique consulting firm focused on delivering strategic HR and talent management services, Molly started her career in public accounting and corporate finance before moving into the talent management space.
With client experience in industries ranging from technology, advertising, real estate development, non- profit, and financial services Molly has seen the right things to do (and the wrong ones) to retain talent.