A new year is approaching, which causes many people to look back at the current year and take stock of what happened and what everyone can learn from it. This usually ends up being a list of smaller, more personal things. You discovered part of yourself while on vacation or achieved a valued promotion at work. But 2017 ended up being a different kind of year than most because of the groundbreaking global movements that occurred throughout the year.
For women, in particular, there was an increased involvement seen in the feminist movement. Women began to go to marches and protests and then, at the end of the year, they began to call out men who had harassed them. Whereas, before the end of this year, women felt pushed into silence, they have now decided to be the voice of a generation. Sexual predators had skeletons ripped from their closets, and the world began to take notice of the sexism and harassment women put up in the workplace.
While each workplace is different, sexism can infiltrate any business — but particularly the ones that have been predominately run by men. The tech industry, specifically, has been one of the hardest for women to break into because technology has been a male-focused career for so long.
Women today should know not only what they’ll be facing when entering the tech workspace, but also how they may be able to handle and overcome it.
Don’t Be Silenced
When there’s discrimination of any kind in any place, there’s always going to be pressure to keep quiet about it. This is especially true when it’s the workplace because frequently the perpetrators are concerned that if their actions come to light, they won’t be able to keep their jobs or their lifestyles. They may be blacklisted from an industry as a whole, depending on how much word spreads and how much publicity a case gets.
One reason why women choose to stay silent is that they feel like they’re alone, and if they’re alone, no one will believe them. The truth shows that reality is precisely the opposite. In fact, 66 percent of women have been excluded from events in the tech workplace because of their gender, and of those women, nearly 40 percent felt like their physical safety would be threatened if they spoke out.
Women who face sexism in the workplace aren’t alone in their experiences — even though they may feel like it.
Get The Support You Need
Once a woman has come to the point where she realizes she can’t keep silent about what she’s endured any longer, she has to know who she can talk to. The first option is always the HR department of your workplace. If you don’t have an HR representative you can speak with, talk with your manager or the business owner. Managers, and HR employees, in particular, want to make a safe work environment every day, and will be able to help you should you need it.
However, sometimes the HR department doesn’t seem approachable. There’s a stigma about it that’s created because most people only interact with HR when they’re hired, fired or laid-off. The main goal of HR is to work with its people to make sure they create a safe and enjoyable workspace for everyone who works with their company. Even if you have doubts about what help they can offer, always try to communicate with them or your manager if you’re facing sexism on the clock.
Leave Your Options Open
It’s important to remember that while you have every right to call out other employees for their discriminatory behavior, it’s good to not immediately burn bridges. In a best-case-scenario world, HR or your manager will work out any disputes, and your coworker will amend their behavior. This means you’ll stay at your current job, so it’s not recommended you take the torch to any relationships until you’re ready to leave the job you have. Hostile or uncomfortable work environments are never fun.
On the other hand, it would be unwise to walk into a situation where you file a sexual harassment charge against a coworker or professional superior without considering other job options. Depending on the severity of the sexism you’ve faced, look into other job opportunities and keep in mind that your boss will be called as a reference. Keep as level-headed and professional as possible during the process of addressing the situation and keep an open mind, knowing that you don’t have to be stuck in your job forever.
Working in a safe environment isn’t beyond the realm of possibility for women. It may seem that way because of the recent news stories with all the men in positions of power being taken down because they sexually harassed or assaulted women, but don’t let that prevent you from chasing a career you love. If you dream of working in the tech industry, it’s possible to enter it and climb the corporate ladder to the job you want to settle into, even if sectors of the industry are host to sexism. Keep in mind that every workplace is different.
The best way to deal with sexism in the work environment is to know your options and how to proceed after a colleague has made you uncomfortable. Speak with your HR representative or manager about what happened. If you’ve experienced sexual harassment, it’s likely that other women in the office have, too, so you won’t be alone. And if the people you approach at work won’t solve the situation, you can take it a step further.
Hire an attorney if you need to lodge a formal complaint against a coworker. It’s sad, but sometimes the only way to get people to listen is to get an attorney involved. No matter how you handle a situation, know that it’s nothing you as a person deserved or asked for. Unfortunately, sexism is still rampant, especially in certain industries such as the tech industry. But knowing how to handle it means women will be one step closer to ending it for all the women who come after them.