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Sexism in the Workplace: What We Can Do About It

We think that in this century, gender bias has already taken a backseat. But lo and behold, statistics prove otherwise.

It's 2021, and gender discrimination remains alive and well.

A study among internal medicine hospitalists published in February 2021 revealed that gender discrimination and sexual harassment are common among females. Reports regarding inappropriate touch, sexual remarks, gestures, and suggestive looks by patients were being more common in female hospitalists, including being referred to with inappropriate forms of endearment such as “honey”, “dear” or sweetheart.

Almost 100% of these female hospitalists are being mistaken by patients as non-physician healthcare providers, compared with 29% of males. More female hospitalists also report that gender negatively impacted their career opportunities, reality is usually seen in a hospital environment where maternity leaves and absences are a huge deal.

What can we do to address the problem? Survey has it that 72% of victims of sexual discrimination choose to keep silent in fear of their employers. Yes, you cannot fire your boss, or take over the company to reorganize it – but you can do something.

  • Know your rights.

The first thing is first: you have to know where you stand. Go over your employee handbook or company manual and refresh yourself with what you are entitled to if in case you have forgotten. Enough knowledge will give you more motivation to go for what you deserve.

  • Be firm, and use your voice.

Inform your direct supervisor and in a firm manner, address the person who is responsible for the discriminatory act. The ability to confront the person responsible will show that you are serious in your intent, you are drawing boundaries, and that you deserve respect.

  • Keep a record of the details of events.

Make a report containing even the smallest details of the discriminatory act. Like they always used to say: if it is not written, it did not happen. So, make it a habit to document everything. Carefully note the time, place, and people involved. Note and explain how it has affected your functionality in performing your job.

  • Keep in a safe place any object used to harass you, just in case. And if all else fails, seek legal action through an employment attorney.

If the harassment at the workplace proved to be at its worst, it is best to keep things that can be used as evidence. And if the discrimination has kept you from getting the best opportunities fit for you, it may be best to seek help through an employment attorney.

If you are a manager, you have a lot more on your plate. Here are some tips if you happen to be a manager or supervisor:

  • Uphold a non-discriminatory culture in your workplace.

Workplace culture is everything. Establish first and foremost that you have absolutely zero tolerance for any act of discrimination and be steadfast in upholding that.

  • You can give flexible arrangements or schedules for your pregnant employees.

Show support to your pregnant employees by allowing flexibility in their schedules as they comply with their prenatal appointments. This is particularly important especially if they have medical conditions related to their pregnancy. Always remember, the better you take care of your employees, the better they will take care of your clients.

  • Make sure they are informed of their employee rights and benefits.

Employees will appreciate it the most if they are not just left to read their employee handbook, but if the handbook is also explained to them through a short seminar or discussion. It also allows your employees to ask questions and clarifications. Be sure to be truly clear on how these rights and benefits are stated in the company handbook. The goal is for your employee to understand these and trust that the company has their best interests in mind.

  • Normalize breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding in the workplace should not be taboo! Instead, you can put up breastfeeding nooks to help support your breastfeeding employees and perhaps provide counseling sessions for mothers on how to become successful in their breastfeeding journey. This kind of support from the workplace can be a life changer!

  • Keep the lines open.

Always make sure you are willing to listen to your employees and be open to the employees about the kind of assistance a discriminated employee might need.

  • Educate.

Make time to conduct onsite training sessions about gender discrimination. Some people may have become discriminatory even without noticing it. Thus, there is a need to educate about gender discrimination, its impacts, consequences, and how to avoid it. Add in more tips on what they should do if they feel discriminated against and what are the necessary steps to take.

Sexism in the workplace should not be taken lightly. If left unaddressed, this can lead further to high levels of workplace toxicity and dissatisfaction. The performance will be compromised, and this can eventually lead to a company’s downfall.

The ultimate goal is to make sure that the workplace is a safe haven. There should be cooperation between managers and staff to make it work. Sexism thrives if victims continue to be silent and passive about it and if managers keep a blind eye against it. A mentally fitter and more compassionate work environment will attract and retain the best and most talented employees!

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