Office Politics: Sexism or Coincidence?




Okay readers, I could really use your help with this we are talking about sexism. Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with a female coworker of mine that really got me fired up. She felt like our office has a problem with sexism –that our office is a boy’s club. Her evidence? All the directors are men as well as the VP. Earlier this week it was announced that a male colleague was chosen to take on a major project in our department. He has been receiving a lot of recognition for it.  My coworker believes that the men look out for each other in our department. The women in the department get stuck doing more routine and basic work and the men are able to get the interesting and challenging work. My mind was literally racing after she told me this. I’ve been working at this company for six months and didn’t see that coming at all. How could I have missed it?

What is sexism?

I think most of us have all heard of sexism before. Sexism is defined as discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender.

Trying to figure out if sexism exists in a workplace is incredibly challenging . I’ve thought about it a lot. There’s no single test you can run to determine if sexism exists.  To further complicate the matter, workplace sexism can be unintentional. I don’t think that the VP had a meeting with the directors and said let’s promote all the men and make them all managers. But at the same time you have to wonder, why is it that men hold all the director positions?

Is it Sexism?

Part of what makes identifying sexism so difficult is that it is nearly impossible to gather the facts you need to assess the situation. Could there just be circumstances that my coworker isn’t aware of? Perhaps this male coworker asked to take on this special project? Or maybe none of my female colleagues wanted to work on the project? Maybe my coworker is just frustrated in her own career and uses sexism as a scapegoat? I don’t know.

I think personality and age might place a role in our perception of sexism.. though I could be totally wrong about that. Thoughts?  What may appear as sexist to me and my coworker (millennials) may not seem like sexism to my manager and senior manager (both baby boomer females). I get the impression that my coworker has raised the issue to our manager before and expressed concern. From what my coworker has told me, our manager does not believe there is an issue.

I for one have never really felt discriminated against because I was a female. I believe I’m getting paid market rate and have been able to work on my fair share of projects. So far I’ve felt satisfied with my career. I work hard and on a general note, I think I am recognized for that work. I suspect however that the game becomes much more family when you start a family and deal with things like maternity leave and the needs of a young family.

Your Experience?

Have you ever dealt with sexism in the workplace? What made you sure it was going on? How did you address it? Do you feel like sexism is an issue at your workplace?

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  1. This is a really difficult issue. Discrimination is hard to prove unless someone is vocalize the discrimination. In that case it’s pretty easy to prove in today’s world of apps (record them saying it!) and other tools. I think the workplace is changing and I’m seeing more and more women taking leadership roles, but I also am not 100% sure what it’s like once you hit the director level and above. I think it also can vary greatly company-to-company and totally depends on who is in charge and whether or not the company takes a tough stand. The company I work for has taken a strong stance against any sort of discrimination and I think it’s great, but at the same time it could vary slightly between departments.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…3 Ways to Stay Motivated When You Don’t Want to HustleMy Profile

    • My previous employer had a task force to help women thrive and progress into leadership positions. My new employer has no such program and I feel that some of the women in our department feel that we need something similar. I think a lot of it has to do with education. I’m not sure our VP has any idea that this issue has come up in our department before.

  2. Jon Stewart did an incredible segment on sexism Tuesday night, the show Elizabeth Warren was the guest on. I definitely recommend checking it out.

    I’d say it’s not terribly overt any more, but it’s definitely still prevalent.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Success and Failure: What Are You Afraid Of?My Profile

    • Thanks Stefanie. I will definitely have to check this out! It really is difficutlt to identify if sexism exists at your employer. A lot of times it isn’t black and white and like you mentioned it isn’t overt.

  3. I’ve never had to deal with this in the workplace, but I’m sure it still happens in many work environments. It could be tough to identify, because maybe the male who got the promotion has been working hard and truly deserved it. If it’s obvious that the guy is a slacker and still gets promoted, that would be pretty suspect.
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  4. Having worked in financial services for more than 13 years, I am not sure if it is sexism or just the “nature of the beast.” There are certain industries that are heavily male populated, and the problem is that a number of women just get sick of it or leave the work force and it becomes a vicious cycle of remaining a male populated profession. And it is hard to change it when you have men at the top who do not make it a priority to retain women throughout their careers.
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    • It really is a challenge. My last employer actually had a taskforce that was working on retaining women in their company. Now at my current employer, we don’t have any type of initiative. I don’t know if the issue has ever even been brought up or discussed with higher management. Like I mentioned before, I don’t think they necessarily intend to discriminate but there do seem to be some disparities.

  5. My experience is similar to Shannon’s – I worked at a small business that was finance-related. All the salesmen were male, including my three bosses. The women did the “grunt work” as we were support staff. I don’t think they would have ever hired a woman for a sales position there, and my other female coworkers agreed. Our bosses brought in a guest speaker for the sales guys who bashed women in their meeting! We were not in there, but our receptionist overheard it since her desk was on the adjoining wall. Thankfully the one boss we spoke to understood, and we never saw that speaker again. It can be really frustrating though, especially since us women felt like we were patronized because our bosses didn’t take our concerns seriously. We were just being “over-dramatic.”
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    • Wow that is pretty bad to have a speaker who made such inappropriate jokes. I would have been really upset. I just don’t understand how people don’t get those types of things. Isn’t it common sense? Guess not.

  6. I’d love to say I’ve never dealt with sexism at all, let alone in the workplace, but it wouldn’t be true. I’ve had colleagues and bosses – male and female – take men more seriously than they take me when they are saying the exact same thing in the exact same way. I’ve seen people in my department overlooked for a promotion due to their gender (and it’s not always sexism in the favour of men, either). It’s sad and surprising that it’s still happening in 2014, but it is prevalent.
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  7. I really can’t stand that old boys club mentality. I have experienced some forms of sexism and ageism. In my office, the females tend to do a lot of the female duties, like cleaning and office work — because the men just sit back and let it be dirty! I just noticed this recently and it’s really bothered me. Sexism is hard to prove, but it’s good to start noticing patterns.
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  8. You know, I’ve never experienced sexism in the work place. Like you said, without knowing all the facts, it’s hard to determine if this is sexism. Maybe the men in the office were more qualified for the position. Although, with several men in high power positions and very little women, it can be hard to fathom that there wasn’t a woman that was qualified. Tough call!
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  9. Yes, sadly this still exists, especially in the entertainment business. I’ve also struggled with ageism. Even though I’m thirty now, I still look like I’m in my young twenties. Some of the comments I’ve received are ridiculous, but I try my best not too waste too much energy getting upset.
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  10. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with it to a large extent. As a professional woman in a field dominated by men, I do sometimes feel as though my voice does not carry as much weight as a male colleagues. As others have said, unless there is overt examples it can be very difficult to prove. I’m sure it still exists but hopefully is getting than it was years ago.
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