What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Sexist Remarks?

What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Sexist Remarks?

What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Sexist Remarks?

Sexist Remarks

Some of my male colleagues frequently make sexist remarks about other women in the office. Their comments really offend me, and I don’t like keeping quiet. But I’m not sure of how to confront my colleagues without upsetting them and making the situation worse. How can I respond effectively?

We hear you! The idea of calling out sexist remarks in the workplace can seem incredibly daunting. And the truth is, we’re often far less likely to challenge sexism when we encounter it than we’d hope.

However, confronting sexism head-on may not incur the hostile backlash that you might expect. In a recent study, researchers from Loyola University Chicago found that men who were called out on their use of sexist language responded with greater sensitivity to gender issues and treated the women who confronted them better than those who were not called out did. Research also indicates that directly challenging instances of sexism improves women’s feelings of competence and self-esteem. And substantial scholarship has suggested that speaking up against any sort of bias reduces expressions of that bias in the future.

Confronting these comments may be the wisest choice not only for your conscious, but also for your professional relationships, personal well-being, and the betterment of your work environment.

Of course, your situation is still a delicate one that should be handled carefully. Here’s how savvy, successful women have tackled gender bias against their co-workers:

  • “I have waited to talk to the person privately and said, ‘You may not realize what you’re saying when you say this about a woman.  But, you know, this is how it sounded to me, and I think this is how it’s going to be received.  And so, I would encourage you to rethink it.’”
  • “I called it out in the moment in a meeting, because I just didn’t feel it was right to let it go by with other people present. ‘Well, wait a minute.  I’d like to talk about that further. This is the possible ramification of what you’ve just said.  And I don’t think you intended it that way, but this is how I heard it, and I think this is how it may be received by other people.’”
The approaches outlined above frame the confrontation in a way that suggests both confidence in your colleague’s good intentions and concern for the way that their comments may be received by others, implying that you have their best interests at heart and minimizing any embarrassment on their part. Employing these approaches will help your response be perceived as thoughtful rather than adversarial.

Have a question of your own? Then Ask the New Girls!

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