Are Your Coworkers Making You Cringe?
6 Ways to Bust Sexism at Work

strong woman fight sexism at work

Has your boss ever called you “honey,” “sweetie,” or another silly, sexist nickname? Has a guy interrupted you in a meeting, or tried to take credit for your genius idea? Ever missed the beginning of a meeting because someone asked you to fetch coffee? Sexism sucks, especially in the workplace. If you feel like you’re not being taken seriously at work, it’s time to take action. Here’s how to fight workplace sexism like a boss girl.

Talk to your female coworkers.

Let them know you’ve noticed some sexist behavior, and find out if they’ve had similar experiences. Look for ways you can support each other. When women have each other’s backs, it makes a huge difference — even in the White House. According to this Washington Post article, when President Obama’s top female staffers felt like they were being ignored in meetings, they decided to “amplify” each other. If one woman brought up an idea, other women would repeat it, crediting the first woman, so the guys in the room couldn’t pretend it had been their idea.

Don’t let the guys interrupt.

If you see a male coworker interrupt or talk over a female one, ask her if there was more she wanted to add. “Kristen, what were you about to saying before Mike spoke up? Did you want to finish that thought?”

Shine a light on women who are kicking butt.

If you notice a woman you work with is doing a great job, tell the boss how impressed you are. Point out her accomplishments, so they won’t be overlooked when it’s time for her annual review (or time to promote someone). It’s also worth sharing things that make you look good. If a client sends you an email about how happy they are with your work, thank them, and cc your boss. You’re making the company look good, and that’s the kind of stuff bosses (both male and female) like to hear.

Be your confident self.

If you have something to contribute in a meeting, speak up — and if you know a coworker is full of good ideas, ask her to share her thoughts. A friend told me that while leading brainstorming sessions at work, she noticed that some people stay quiet and simply agree with their supervisor’s suggestions. To make sure everyone’s ideas are heard, she started handing out index cards, and asking everyone to jot down a few quick ideas. She collects the cards and reads them out loud (anonymously) to the group, so everyone’s input gets the same consideration, no matter where they are on the office totem pole.

When coworkers say sexist things, call them out on it.

You can do this in subtle ways, like asking them to repeat what they said or clarify what they meant. Just by calling attention to it, you’ll make them more aware of the language they’re using. If a coworker calls you a nickname like “sweetie,” try turning it into a joke. “You forgot my name, didn’t you? It’s Lisa.” (BTW: If the comments are offensive to the point of creating a hostile work environment, it’s not a joking matter. Talk to someone in Human Resources about what’s happening, even if the comments aren’t directed at you.)

Avoid becoming the office housekeeper.

Yes, someone has to make the coffee, and if you’re an intern or assistant, it might be you — but don’t agree to do it every day forever. If you notice that guys at the same level are never asked to share the “housework,” ask your supervisor about arranging a schedule so office chores like making coffee, getting snacks for a meeting, or picking up a birthday cake are shared equally. Once you’ve advanced beyond the “making coffee” stage, don’t let other people put that on your to-do list. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m in the middle of something, but I am sure one of the assistants can help you.”

Want to do even more to empower yourself and the women you work with? Work on your negotiation skills, because you deserve a raise just as much as the guy in the next cube.

Have you faced sexism at work?

Leave a comment and tell us how you handled it.