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Sexism in the Workplace: How to Deal or Handle it


We live in an era of corporatization and professionalism. Regardless of where your company is situated or headquartered, in one way or the other a company has to deal with discrimination, ageing, stereotyping or sexism.

Even though there are many cultural aspects related to such components. But none of these unwanted behaviours are considered to be good or ethical.

When preconceived ideas and thoughts are projected across a person based on someone’s gender or sexual orientation is termed as sexism. Especially at workplaces, these issues occur when males and females tend to compete for superiority.

It can go about any number of ways depending upon the circumstances and individual attitude. Here are few of the best ways to deal with such behaviours at workplaces.

deal sexism at workplace

Ways to Deal with Sexism at the Office:

Don’t Encourage Sexist Remarks:

People who blurt out any sexist remark are generally considering themselves as funny or amusing. But they always look for a response from you. So the best possible way is to ignore them. Giving attention to their remarks or responding in the positive or negative manner only encourages them to blurt out more remarks.

If your aim is not to encourage these remarks, give them the reaction they most fret and stay silent. When these individuals observe that you are least affected by their comments, they may just stop.

Discuss With the Seniors:

In some exceptional cases, it is difficult to deal with situations anymore. As it makes you feel intimidated, you may have to tackle. In such cases, it is always better to consult your supervisors or people from your upper management.

Very often, it so happens that you do not have the same hold as the seniors in the organization. If the behaviour of people around you gets out of control, it is best to ask your seniors for suggestions on how to deal with such situations.

If they are keen to help, their help and support will help you tackle the situation effectively without displeasing the management. On the contrary, if the management does not seem to support you, you must not try to wage a lone battle. It is best to get out of such sexist firms and organizations.

Evaluate Before You Consult HR:

Most of the times, it is not a great option to report to HR. Very often, the human resource executives in firms or organizations are biased or partial. Taking the issue to the management level will only complicate matters for you. If you are planning to take the matter to the HR Executive, take time to evaluate the HR and his views. Go ahead only if you are sure the HR will support.

If the HR does not support you or actually opposes your views, your professional life may get much more complex. Tackling it would then be really difficult.

Practice What You Preach:

Even sexism can also come back via the lack of sensitivity or by the disrespect of the opposite gender. So next time if someone makes an offensive remark, it is better to turn to the table around him or her.

If you are a strong believer of gender equality at a workplace, make sure you show this in your actions. Do not permit anyone to be extra considerate towards women.

Men and women both shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the balance. You must fight not just against what is wrong but also for what is right.

Women who fight for equality should be willing to take up equal responsibility and work equal hours at a workplace. Do not let anyone treat you as special or weaker.

Be Prepared For It:

Most of the times, such emotional attacks are usually predictable. So always be ready. Very often, the sexist remarks come from weaker men and women who wish for attention and power. If you are emotionally prepared for it, you will know how to counter these wisely without making an issue out of it.

If someone makes a comment today, do not wait for the ideal occasion to point it out to people. Be willing to point out the follies right when such comments are made. Such comments can be tackled rightly at the heat of the moment.

Set Proper Boundaries in Professional Relationships:

In every professional relationship, it is better to set boundaries. It is when you permit people to get too free that they blurt out things that are not to be said. It is thus vital that you set proper boundaries in professional relationships.

Even when you interact with friends in your office, make sure you maintain a safe distance and do not speak of your personal life with them. This distance permits people in the office to behave themselves.

Good Rapport Counts:

Very often, people read between the lines and misunderstand what is said. Some simple statements may be wrongly understood as sexist comments and remarks. This often happens when you do not have a good rapport with the communicator and do not understand what he wishes to convey.

A great idea would be to work on your communication skills and improve it. Make sure you are good with grammar and punctuation. Wrong punctuation can often change the meaning of the sentence. Correct understanding of statements prevents issues from being created.

Reactions Matter:

People have a tendency to base their offensive remarks in the form of humour. It is usually based upon the happenings of the general environment. These people adopt such offensive humour into their lifestyle. So don’t laugh at such humiliations. Your laughs encourage them. It is good to give them a hint that they are often offensive.

You can do this either by minding your business or by reacting with equally sarcastic remarks. Sometimes, silence helps to shut the people up. If that does not happen, a verbal war would be your other option.

Express What You Feel:

It is not easy to take a stand for yourself. Even when you feel you can’t do anything, it is better to express yourself in the impactful words. You do not have to speak up each time you hear something offensive but when you do speak up, be clear and reveal to them how disturbing their words are to you.

Do not use offensive language. It usually worsens the fight without conveying the message. On the contrary, if you tell them clearly that their sexist remarks hurt you; they may be more cautious next time.

Tackle Situations Diplomatically:

If any malicious remarks are expressed within your team, it is always advisable to call it out directly. But such tactics are not a great idea with your superiors or even for the boss. You must know how to tackle such situations tactfully and diplomatically so that it does not have adverse effects on your career or professional life.

Possess Self Worth:

The world is an open market; the best possible way to sell out is to have faith in you. If one is aware of his self-worth, it will automatically dismiss any disrespectful comment towards you. If you are doubtful about your own self-worth, it is really easy for anyone to pass sexist comments and hurt you. You must thus be confident and possess self-worth.

Keep an Open Mind:

Very often, sexism in workplace is also a figment of our imagination. There are men as well as women who are overtly bossy and arrogant but they may be the same to men as well as women at work. You need to have an open mind to identify whether the comments are actually sexist or whether they are just being their arrogant and rude selves. This identification will help you find the right solution to the problem without complicating the situation much.

Lead By Example:

You must remember that what you do to others, you get it yourself. If you wish to work in a firm or organization that does not foster gender bias, you must make sure you also do the same. Never support a person who is wrong just because he or she belongs to your gender. Stick to what is right and pave the way to righteousness. When people around you observe your ways, they will be encouraged to follow the correct path and get rid of any kind of gender bias. You have to pave the way for a gender equal workplace.

Conclusion :

Men and women need to work together in coordination in most professions and organizations. This may however not be true in certain specific professions. For instance, professions in fashion, clothing and beauty are often dominated by women. On the contrary, professions in engineering, aeronautical science, machinery and manual labour are often dominated by men. You may expect gender bias if you are an odd one out in any of these professions. Going out of the flow and doing something different always has such impending challenges and you must know how to cope with them.