“Sexism” has become a dirty word that no one wants to address or discuss, even if it is still happening in our world and workplaces. It has become something that many individuals get defensive about if they are called out for being sexist or making sexist comments. Whether it be intentional or not, sexism is still profoundly present in the workplace. In 2020, McKinsey reported that 36% of women had their judgment questioned in their area of expertise. Furthermore, 31% of women needed to provide more evidence of their competence than others did.
But what truly makes up sexism? It is not a buzzword that people simply throw out there. It is an important problem to be discussed, analyzed, and solved. The Council of Europe defines sexism as “[a]ny act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice, or behavior based upon the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior because of their sex, which occurs in the public or private sphere, whether online or offline.”
There are two main types of sexism: hostile and benevolent. Hostile sexism involves negative attitudes toward individuals who violate traditional gender stereotypes. Benevolent sexism involves attitudes toward individuals that appear to be positive, yet, are sexist in terms of viewing women stereotypically and in restricted roles. Under these two types, there is also overt and covert sexism. Overt sexism is blatant, intentional, and obvious, while covert sexism is subtle.
How can we solve the issue?
First, in foremost, other women in the workplace need to be advocates for one another. The louder the voice, the more difficult it will be to ignore. Women in the workplace are not a competition. There should not be gossipy workplace conversations about other women in the office. These types of attitudes only bring more issues to the surface rather than solving the core problem of sexism.
There needs to be honest conversations. If you feel that your colleague or classmate is being sexist, you should politely call them out on it. They may or may not realize that they are actually being sexist. If they are intentionally being sexist and cause you to feel uncomfortable, you should take it up with your direct manager, Human Resources department, professor, or whoever appropriate.
The economic gender gap needs to be eradicated. The World Economic Forum reported that it would take 257 years to close this gap prior to COVID-19. It is quite embarrassing, extremely disheartening, and appalling to know that approximately 50% of the world’s population is still being paid less as a result of their gender. There is no better time than the present time. The gap needs to be closed.
Fortunately, I have not had any issues with sexism in any of the places that I worked or interned. Yet, I definitely have felt covert sexism in business school. Whether it was intentional or not, my male counterparts made me feel as if my opinion did not matter and that they were to be confident, smart individuals. I am not one to back down, especially if I am proud of the work I produce, so I personally blow off anyone who attempted to be overtly sexist. I had the privilege to be on Temple University’s American Marketing Association’s Board of Directors for the 2019-2020 academic year. TU-AMA does an excellent job at shaping women into the natural-born leaders that we are supposed to be. During my leadership, 10 out of the 16 Directors were female. I hope to continue my professional career without experiencing sexism. Yet, unfortunately, it is a situation that is more than likely to occur. The best advice I could give is to stay strong, confident, and bold. Be your best self and support your fellow female counterparts. Be honest and transparent. Make waves in the workplace. If you feel that there is something wrong, speak up. Nothing will move forward if we remain quiet.
Senior Marketing Major