Guest blogger Carlynne McDonnell is the author of The Every Woman’s Guide to Equality. She has a Master’s in Public Policy and has been working in the corporate, education and non-profit worlds for over 30 years. She is also founder of the nonprofit Change in Our Lifetime, which is dedicated to achieving equality for women. She has presented workshops and keynotes on women’s equality, leadership development, organizational strategy on the national and local level for women’s organizations, college and universities, and the United States Marine Corps. To learn more, visit http://www.everywomansguidetoequality.com.
Fifty percent of women believe that discrimination has affected their promotions, salary increases and responsibilities. Progress for women is slow and the glass ceiling still exists, even though women have been successful in cracking that ceiling and continue to do so. Workplace issues affect women’s ability to perform and excel. Here are the top three ways women are held back by sexism in the workplace:
Pay inequality. The level of pay imbalance between women and men is less pronounced than in the past, (women earned 50% of what men earned during World War II) but women still continue to earn less across all industries. The Equal Pay Act passed by Congress in 1963 was designed to bring parity to men and women’s pay. It has not been successful.
Discrimination. Discrimination is defined as being overlooked for assignments or promotions without reason (though sometimes those reasons are discriminatory), low pay increases without justification, collegiality issues, and pretty much anything that allows undocumented subjective judgment to be used against female employees. Discrimination will continue until restrictions are in place that prohibit unacceptable behavior. Businesses of all sizes, public and private organizations, and our local, state and federal governments need to adopt a strict no tolerance policy against discrimination and sexism.
Harassment. Sexual harassment or workplace retaliation against women is more covert, less quantifiable than pay inequality. It can take the form of joking, or teasing or outright suggestive behavior. There is a real line between funny comments and inappropriate comments. Any comment at your expense starts to cross that line. Harassment needs to be strictly regulated and managed. Corporate protection is often a woman’s only recourse to inappropriate behavior. Strict corporate rules and regulations are the only way to guarantee that women in the workplace do not suffer from intimidation, fear of retaliation, or more.
How Can You Insure A Rewarding Work Experience?
Read your company’s employee manual. Really read your company’s employee manual for guidelines on how to proceed about unequal pay or inappropriate behavior. Follow your corporate procedures and seek help from your supervisor or in corporate Human Resources.
Talk to your harasser. Try asking your harasser to stop—once. Once is enough. This will give you a good read on the situation and also give the person a chance to stop. Never ignore threats.
Talk to your supervisor. If you feel that you are being passed over or ignored for a promotion, talk to your supervisor and keep going up the chain of command. Ask direct questions like “Why?”
Talk to human resources. If you feel that you are not receiving equal pay for equal work, ask your Human Resources representative for an explanation. If you are being harassed, ask for help. If there is no recourse or help from HR, consult a lawyer.
Keep a written record of conversations or actions—dates, times, names. Keep hard copies of your performance reviews. Respond to any negatives in performance reviews in writing and keep a copy.
Don’t sign your performance review. Don’t sign your performance review or any letter outlining negatives about your performance if you do not agree with what is written. Ask to add your written version to the record.
Don’t bully, intimidate, or play games with people at work—it reflects poorly on yourself and other women.
Know exactly what message you are sending. Is there ever a need to be overly friendly at work? Professional and pleasant, considerate and courteous are great interpersonal skills for work. Many times men misread overly friendly behavior for romantic behavior.
Lead by example. Women always have to prove themselves, twice over. Always keep in mind that you are paving the way for other women. Be the role model, mentor, and trailblazer. Better to be someone with boundaries then someone who is not respected or taken seriously.