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Addressing Gender Bias at Work

Unconscious bias can be insidiously present amongst some men in the workplace. Inappropriate comments, behaviors, and mindsets against women may be
occurring without the man in question even noticing that he is doing something unseemly. If you want to be a man who empowers women, speak up when you notice this.

Failure to address sexist-based remarks or behaviors, such as not taking women seriously in a work environment, treating them as inferior, or making jokes that are archaic in their regard for women, creates the impression that such behavior is acceptable in a work environment. Be a man who empowers women and champion them as equals (as they obviously should be) rather than standing by quietly while a male acquaintance or friend at work undermines this with unconscious, or maybe even conscious, behavior.

It has been noted by the Harvard Business Review that taking a person aside rather than addressing them in front of a group is more effective in making an impact towards changing problematic behavior. Bring to their attention that the comment they made was sexist, or could have been construed that way.

Robert Silverstone, a Business Leadership site notes that you can say something along the lines of, “I don’t know if you knew this, but the comment you made could be considered inappropriate.” Or you can just say that you want to bring to their attention that a comment they made is harmful to an equal work environment.

The Harvard Business Review also mentions that one should remain respectful and gentle when addressing someone with the intention of bringing their own inappropriate comments to their attention, so as to not put them on the defensive. You don’t want them continuing this behavior out of spite.

Not doing anything about offensive behavior against women in the workplace conveys to women that their integrity is not being valued. Don’t allow this to happen. Keep your friends and peers aware of problematic behavior by bringing it to their attention in a private and helpful manner.

By letting this person know that you noticed, they are less likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

Create the opportunity for a dialogue and lead by example. Don’t just call someone sexist for tasking a female coworker with a menial job. Instead, suggest a female colleague who would be qualified for a task at hand.

Don’t allow offensive conduct to be normalized. Address peers who perpetuate it and check yourself when you feel that you’re employing gender bias.

It takes brave character to address someone else for the sake of correcting problematic behavior, but know that your role in empowering women by calling out those who are doing the exact opposite is noble, necessary, and exemplary.

Featured Image by perzon seo on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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