Sexism is alive and well in the workplace. While sexism is terrible and no one should ever have to work around it (seriously, HR would love to hear your problems) there are small acts of everyday sexism that can be navigated around with communication changes.
Whether you’re trying to get a raise, assert yourself in a meeting, or just function like the rock-star you are, these tips and tricks can help you work around those small acts of sexism that undermine your workplace successes.
You Are The Boss. Own it.
Being polite is a professional must. Professional, polite communication is one of the key plays in effective communication, but going overboard can attach emotion, confuse the person that you are talking to, or waste your time. While it might seem rude not include every nicety in your email, your co-workers are not discussing your lack of appropriateness in an email that so obviously lacked the second please.
Being direct works in a variety of situations where being super sweet might not be the most clear path. Need a raise because you’re great? Do you have a variety of good work behind you? Are you getting higher offers from outside sources, but opening the conversation indirectly (because talking about money is gauche)? That may not get the hint across and weaken your underlying statement.
Clear, super direct pay negotiations can help you beat the pay gap, and give you more control over the situation. Worst case scenario, you get called a bitch. But that’s fine, because you are a rock star. You know how to lay down effective, direct communication in a variety of situations and uses that sniper-like skill to move forward in your career.
One of the biggest mistakes of over-politeness is not in internal affairs, it’s in difficult client situations. Saying no to clients is difficult. And it seems way easier in the moment to technically say no in such a polite way that the client/customer doesn’t fully comprehend the ‘no’. But that leads to problems almost immediately. This also covers times when the client would like you to do something that is not in his best interest. Instead of an ‘of course we could try that’ being explicit about why you think that is not a good idea will be more appreciated in the long-run.
Duel vs. Duet
There is only so far being direct will take you. Besides saying what you mean and not working around what you need to say with unnecessary and potentially confusing politeness, speaking in a manner that commands respect is hard to nail down. Especially since women tend to speak in a collaborative, helpful manner, that can be easily pushed over.
As a female, your speech pattern is more likely to be collaborative. That is a huge strength when leading a team, coming up with new ideas, networking, or in conflict resolution. But when engaging with your male peers, it means you might be unaware of the battle going on.
Introducing more duel-style language in your internal conversations doesn’t mean suddenly being more combative. It means eliminating certain parts of your speech that might give way to others. For example, instead of saying “ while I can see your point, it might be better to do xyz” try instead, “ we should do xyz instead because it ….”. Duel pattern speech doesn’t have time to offer collaboration where none exists. It takes that time to instead move boldly forward. It is a speech pattern that, if in a male dominated field, will also help you speak the same language as your co workers.
But Above All, Remember the Value That You Provide.
It can be rough in the workplace, especially with terrible sexist microaggressions that are hard to pin down. So when you are feeling down because someone just mansplained your job to you incorrectly, or if someone keeps interrupting you in a meeting
- Please feel comfortable to call them out “Brad, may I finish my point?” or
- Remember that the work and input that you provide is valuable. It helps the company move forward. And that means a lot to you, so value yourself like you’d value your best employee.
Speak up, call them out, and help your company excel in the ways that you know you can.
Without ladies like you speaking up, we wouldn’t have all the awesome ladies in tech. They took us to the moon, the computer algorithm, and wireless transmitters (the bangin’ Hedy Lamarr is to thank for that). And you’ve got your own amazing talents to show, so show them off. And do what you can to better communicate with your coworkers. Some miscommunications are sexist and terrible, and some are gendered communication differences.