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Sexism in the Workplace

Workplace sexism may be a more subtle type of sexual harassment, but it is no less hurtful to those impacted. It can impact both men and women and lead to feelings of powerlessness and isolation from one’s colleagues. It can also stunt a person’s growth at a company, while unnecessarily elevating the status of another.

In an indirect way, sexism can also impact the success of a company. A person could be promoted for the wrong reasons and not be able to handle the position as well as another person could have. This could lead to long-term problems for the company, not to mention a reputation of not treating all its employees fairly.

Sexism in the workplace should never be tolerated nor should it ever have to be experienced. Anyone facing sexism at work should contact a skilled sexual harassment lawyer who can help them determine if they have been victimized and how to proceed. A lawyer can guide and instruct their clients on ways to prove sexism, including how to gather evidence.

What is Workplace Sexism?

Workplace sexism is any type of discrimination against another individual due to their sex or gender. It is more subtle than direct harassment because sexism can manifest itself in the form of cultural attitudes and stereotypes that favor one gender over another. While most cases occur wherein men mistreat women, women are also capable of treating men differently than women in the workplace.

Sexism might trigger an employee to make an off-handed comment to someone pertaining to their gender, such as a male coworker commenting on how tired a female coworker is because she takes care of her children at home. It could also present in the form of jokes that are inappropriate in mixed company.

Sexism can go beyond simple innocent inappropriate jokes, however. If an office has a culture of sexism, it could prevent qualified individuals from being promoted or even hired for employment. This not only hurts an individual’s professional career and their perception by others, but it could also have a negative impact on a workplace who might be elevating inferior workers to higher positions. This could quickly affect an organization’s bottom line.

What are Examples of Sexism in the Workplace?

Sexism can be evident in various forms throughout the office. In certain instances, a person may not recognize it as sexism, but they know that they are feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation.

A few common examples of sexism in the workplace include:

  • Insults masked as jokes. This is the most common form of sexism in the office. It happens when someone makes a joke based on one’s gender, although there is real malice behind the words.
  • Devaluing a person’s role or voice. This mostly impacts women, but it can also impact men as well. It takes place when one gender consistently talks over another or does not listen to their opinions as seriously as others.
  • Role stereotyping. This happens when one gender makes assumptions about another. An example of this is when during a work meeting, the male employees assert that the women employees must be the one to take the meeting notes.
  • Preoccupation with physical appearance. This common type of sexism appears when a person’s appearance, body type, size, choice of dress, etc. are the subject of gossip and takes precedence over their abilities.
  • Assuming that caring and careers do not mix. Men and women face this issue when it comes to trying to have a good work/life balance. A woman’s ability as a mother may be questioned when she tries to find balance between work and family, while a man could face ridicule if he takes time off to care for a newborn baby.
  • Unmerited gender labelling. This is when men and women do not subscribe to the stereotype that many associate with them. A woman might hear that she is too bossy or difficult to work with, and a man could be told he is too emotional or soft.

Many workers still endure sexism in an office. The difficulty for certain employees is that there could be a sexist culture that the organization may not know is there. Bringing attention to it could make everyone else more aware of the situation. However, it could also lead to a backlash or retaliatory action taken against the person reporting it, which is also not acceptable.

What is the Impact of Sexism in the Workplace?

There are no positive influences associated with sexism in the workplace. It can lead to disparate treatment of employees in the office. Sexism only rewards one group of individuals based on their sex and not on their abilities.

If a company only plans to recognize and reward one gender, then the other may not work as hard knowing that it will not do them any good or advance their position in the company. In addition, the employees receiving the benefits may also not feel as compelled to work as hard because they know they will be rewarded regardless of their performance.

Women are the more common employees to face sexism on the job, but men can experience sexism as well. Some specific negative aspects women face include:

  • Wage Gap: Generally, women tend to be paid less than men who are in the same positions.
  • Mental Health: The inconsistent treatment that men and women face in the office can have a negative impact on a woman’s mental health.
  • Sexist Environment: If managers promote sexist behaviors, then the comfort level begins to trickle down to other employees who may believe that they can get away with this type of behavior as well.

How can Employers Prevent Sexism From Developing?

No one wants their office to be a place where one sex or group of employees feels underappreciated. In most cases, such situations occur under the surface and may not be detectible to others until it is too late. There are ways for those who are in charge to prevent a sexist culture from taking over. These steps include:

  • Train employees. Providing sexual harassment training to all employees, including managers and supervisors, can go a long way in preventing such behaviors from taking hold in a company. Training can help workers identify the conduct and prevent it from taking place, even if they find themselves guilty of engaging in it.
  • Spread the work. The best way to prevent certain stereotypes from taking hold is by not employing them in the first place. During a meeting, alternate who takes notes. When planning a party, seek volunteers and do not assign. Ensure everyone helps.
  • Performance-based evaluations. Promotions, raises, and all other work benefits should be based on a person’s performance, not their gender. In certain instances, other benefits, such as additional vacation time, can be awarded based on longevity at a company.
  • Detailed policies. The company should develop a policy that details unacceptable behaviors. The policies should be included in an employee handbook or code of conduct. It should be clear what actions are unacceptable and that they will not be tolerated.

Companies should also have a system in place that allows employees to voice concerns or file a complaint about a colleague. This system should offer anonymity for employees who fear retribution and ridicule. The company should also take each complaint seriously and investigate to correct the problem.

What can I Do if I Work in a Sexist Environment?

For those who work in a pervasively sexist work environment, there are options that can be taken to improve their situation. A victim should go to the harasser’s supervisor to complain. If that fails, a company should have a policy to address such behavior. If the victim is unable to identify that policy, the safest bet is to take the matter to the Human Resources (HR) department. HR should investigate the situation and address it.

If the company itself fails to react, there are multiple federal and state agencies that victims can contact to report the company and the conduct. An employee can also retain the services of an experienced sexual harassment lawyer who can help build a case against the company. Filing a lawsuit does not necessarily have to mean the victim is seeking a financial settlement. A lawsuit can also be a means to an end to force changes to take place at the company to prevent future incidents of sexism from taking place.

Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Fight Against Workplace Sexism

If you are uncomfortable at work or fear you are not able to get ahead because of your gender, speak to a lawyer. The Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. will fight for your rights if you are experiencing workplace sexism. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County, as well as in New York.

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